Alternative search engine approaches in the last ten years

A radical new approach for an alternative search engine can include elements from social search, social bookmarking, semantic search, graph search and social networking, if they are being combined in a new, innovative approach.

The term social search rather stands for search in social networks today. A couple of years ago, this term referred to a search engine that generated results through social mechanisms. This idea emerged around 2005, and in the following years a couple of start-ups like Sproose, Mahalo, Scour, Wink or also Wikia Search had been launched. None of these attempts were successful, as the result scope was insufficient and the ranking algorithm was neither transparent nor based on search words, but based on webpages.

On the other hand, social bookmarking applications were search word based. Even at the turn of the millennium there was the idea to share the browser’s own bookmarks with others. In 2003, Delicious supplicated these first approaches with the allocation of search terms to the bookmarks, which was followed by Digg (2004) and Reddit (2005). Delicious was bought in 2005 by Yahoo and sold again in 2011, in which process most users were lost. Digg ceased to operate at the end of 2012. Thus only Reddit remained successful. Reddit succeeded in establishing a loyal community and in giving the right incentives, based on transparency and clear rules.

A couple of years ago, Semantic Search and Web 3.0 were very popular, with its probably most prominent representative Wolfram Alpha, whose results are based on questions and logic. Wolfram Alpha received extensive positive publicity and was also able to build a loyal community; however, it never managed even remotely to compete with Google. Meanwhile, semantic search has partly become a feature of the big search engines; Google as well as Bing understand simple questions.

Facebook Graph Search was introduced in 2013 and attempts to respond to enquiries with unstructured Facebook contents. Here the logic follows the path or rather graph of the connections between users. However, this hasn’t developed into a real alternative to Google.
Aardvark had put a similar approach into the focus of its application and was after all successful enough to be bought by Google in 2011, before it was terminated in 2011.

Google itself had made the fourth attempt with Google+ to combine its machine and Adword operated search with social networking. Despite Google’s virtual monopoly, huge effort and the integration in the search, this attempt hasn’t been successful so far. This is not surprising, as Google’s business model is not compatible with a vibrant community in the field of search engines.

A successful link between social networking and searchable content is represented by ResearchGate. Here the contents or specialist publications are brought in by the users, and these contents then form a searchable data pool. Even though ResearchGate is not a search engine in its narrower sense, its two success factors are interesting – the initial data pool and the dissemination by e-mail.

A new approach for an alternative search engine therefore has to have a transparent ranking algorithm, be search word based, have clear rules, be able to keep motivating the community and have an initial datapool that is sufficient for initial user experiences. PLIDS has followed that path.

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