Wednesday, May 6, 2009

A change of search

Like most people, the default search engine I use is Google.

I can't remember when exactly I started to use Google on a consistent basis, but it was almost certainly during my years in university in the early 2000s. Before Google, my preferred search engines were Infoseek and Altavista.

It requires an investment of conscious effort to experiment with new technologies and tools, particularly after we are already comfortable with using something else consistently. But sometimes it's well worth the effort. For instance, I made the switch from Internet Explorer to Firefox and then to Opera a few years ago and I have never looked back. This was before tabbed browsing was the norm among browsers. In contrast, changing search engines isn't a big deal really. I can think of bigger changes people make, like switching OS (e.g. Windows to Mac OS) or office suites (e.g. Microsoft Office to Open Office).

I have a professional as well as personal interest in new technologies because part of my job involves looking at how new tools can improve the productivity and efficiency of how people work, perhaps even in revolutionary new ways. Second Life, Facebook and Twitter are just some examples of the new collaborative technologies that have achieved mainstream status in the last few years.

So what's today's post about?

I've been looking at and thinking about the next generation of search engines, and I believe that it's time to start experimenting with them. There have been some spectacular flameouts (such as Cuil) in the last few years, with an allegedly new Google-slayer proclaimed practically every few months, but it appears that some of the more recent arrivals have started appearing to be more than just hype.

So, starting from today, I'm going to make a choice. I'll start all new Internet searches on Kosmix and Wolfram|Alpha (after it launches later this month) instead of Google. Twine may be a possible third option.

Of course, I'll probably still use Google a lot, but diversifying my search options will allow me to get a feel of how useful these new search technologies are, and whether I should incorporate them into my life and my work.

It's actually not a huge change for me. Wikipedia is already my first point of reference for a lot of things, and I formerly used Pubmed a lot in my previous department, so this is just a continuation of the trend in diversifying my search options for information.  

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