Web Search Engines & Directories, Page 2

Microsoft’s Bing, Google, Yahoo, Ask.com, Business.com … if you’re looking for information on the Web, there are a number of search engines from to choose. They are all different, yet they have inherent similarities.

The following Quick Reference provides an overview of some of the more popular public Web Search Engines and Directories, including details on their history, information on how they work and tips for using each.

Page 1 (Bing, Google, Yahoo, Microsoft Live)
Current Page (AltaVista, Ask.com, AOL Search)
Page 3 (Business.com, Dogpile, Cuil)


Meaning a view from above, AltaVista was developed when scientists at Digital Equipment Corp’s (DEC) Research Lab devised a way to store every word of every HTML page on the Internet in a fast, searchable index. Following its initial launch in 1995 AltaVista grew to add multilingual search capabilities, multimedia search, translation & language recognition and other search features.

In 1998, when DEC was acquired by Compaq, it also acquired the AltaVista search engine, and in the next year AltaVista set up as a separate, publicly traded company which partnered with MSN (replacing Inktomi) as MSN’s search service. In 1999 the majority share of AltaVista was purchased by CMGI, INC. and AltaVista launched many new features including Open Directory, a news database, AltaVista Shopping.com, and a new relevancy ranking algorithm. AltaVista was also replaced by Inktomi to power MSN Search, and in 2000 new multimedia and MP3, audio, image and video search was launched. Later, in 2003 Overture completed its purchase of both AltaVista and AllTheWeb and then Overture was purchased in a cash-and-stock deal valued at $1.6 billion by Yahoo.

AltaVista Tips:

AltaVista offers simple search and advanced search options.

  • You can use the site’s preference setting to search in one of 25 languages.
  • Suggestions for misspelled words are offered on results pages for several languages.
  • AltaVista supports phrase searching.
  • Advanced searching lets you specify a document modification date.
  • Accepts natural language questions as search queries.
  • AltaVista Search Page


Ask.com was first launched in 1997, but founded in 1996 in Berkeley, Calif. by David Warthen, CTO and veteran software developer, and Garrett Gruener. Originally Ask.com was called Ask Jeeves and was designed to enable users to provide direct answers to questions, but also supported keyword searching as well. From 1997 to 2000, Ask.com launched a kids version (AJKids) and also launched several international versions of the popular question-based search engine. In 2000, a related search feature and an online shopping advisor channel was added to Ask Jeeves. One of the major technology changes took place over the next two years when Ask Jeeves acquired Teoma Technologies and then integrated the Teoma algorithmic search technology into Ask Jeeves.

Later local search and a personal search engine, called MyStuff, was added. Ask Jeeves also acquied Bloglines and rolled out more international sites. In 2005, Ask Jeevesbecame a wholly owned business of IAC Search & Media and in February 2006, Ask Jeeves was re-launched as Ask.com. Other recently added features and technologies include Ask mobile, Ask3D a new algorithmic content-matching and ranking technology, Ask Mobile GPS, and the Ask.com Blog and Feed Search were also launched. IAC Search & Media also owns Excite, iwon, evite and several Web properties.

Ask.com Tips:

  • Ask search technology responds to questions, phrases, or single word searches.
  • When it notes a misspelled term, Ask.com will automatically suggest a correct spelling.
  • Related searches provide related topics or suggestions for your search.
  • The order of words used in a search is relevant so good word order (natural language) is important.
  • Ask.com Search Page

AOL Search

The AOL search engine has it roots firmly implanted in Web crawling technologies and companies. In its early years,from 1995 to 1999, AOL bought and sold WebCrawler, it launched NetFind, acquired Netscape, and used Excite and Inktomi. In 1999m howeverm AOL relaunched its own search engine under its current name of AOL Search, which used both Open Directory and Inktomi results.

In May 2002, Google won AOL’s paid search listings from Overture and since then AOL Search has often been called ” a Google with an AOL feel”. In the mid2000s, AOL launched several services including AOL Shopping (currently powered by PriceGrabber), Snapshots Search that offers direct answers in search results, Local search, video search, podcast search, news, and AOL Yellow Pages. Today the search engine is branded “AOL Search with Google”.

AOL Search Tips

  • AOL video search results include multimedia streams and files such as Real Media, Windows Media, QuickTime, MP3 and Flash.
  • imiliar to Google search, AOL’s advanced search lets you specify a language or domain to search within, specify a numeric range, choose SafeSearch, or specifiy a type of format (PDF, Word, Excel, and so on).
  • AOL Search page

Page 1 (Bing, Google, Yahoo, Microsoft Live)
Current Page (AltaVista, Ask.com, AOL Search)
Page 3 (Business.com, Dogpile, Cuil)

Based in Nova Scotia, Vangie Beal is has been writing about technology for more than a decade. She is a frequent contributor to EcommerceGuide and managing editor at Webopedia. You can tweet her online @AuroraGG.

This article was originally published on June 19, 2009

Vangie Beal
Vangie Beal is a freelance business and technology writer covering Internet technologies and online business since the late '90s.

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