googleThere is a reason why Google is No.1 in the search business: anytime you ask anyone about their choice in search engines, you’ll probably discover that they don’t even see it as a choice anymore, so monolithic is Google’s influence on its customer base. And while the Google vs. Bing contest is avidly watched as ever, another more interesting contest is being fought in the microscopic minority of the search market share left over after the majors are through with it. This is the crowded part of the search engine market with hundreds of innovative new search engine providers chasing after the crumbs of the Internet user market, no more than one in 10,000, left over after the big boys have finished.

In the credulous times of the early Internet, Ask Jeeves was a very popular search engine that claimed that you could type in your search in natural human English. They call it Natural Language Processing these days, and they still haven’t bested that challenge yet. Google’s attempt in this area at one time was to eschew computers altogether, and put people in charge; and it was called Google Answers. It wasn’t free either – you posted your questions, and real people, if they knew what the answers were, offered to help, for the right price. Of course that program was a miserable flop. The search engine ChaCha, with the insight that the main problem with Google Answers was that you had to pay, picks up where Google left off, and gives you ChaCha Guide. You get a real person to hand-hold you through your search, for free. Their tagline is ” Real people answering your questions! Crazy, huh?”. And it’s so crazy it makes sense.

Quintura is a search engine that tries to offer you possible searches related to your search – in a cloud of related keywords you can take ideas from. Useful related keywords are certainly things Google never helps you with. All you get with Google is your standard list of search results. Google has always been a pure search engine; it won’t give you any recommendations, it will only help you find a thing you have in mind already. And then there is the intelligent search engine. Enter, the market, for the recommendation engine, where when you try to search for, say the movie Titanic, you’ll get asked if you like tragic romantic movies and get offered a few suggestions. This of course uses algorithms like you see on Pandora, the music finder website. But it uses that and wider context.

And there are other more specialized search engines too; if you want to search for pictures, far better than the Google images, is Like. And how about search engines like Speeglebot and Nayio that are speech and voice enabled? The sky is the limit for innovation in search engines; and when the sky is Google, innovators re really motivated to do things better.