Google, Bing and Yahoo. Somebody who's never seen a computer might think that's the cast of a 1930s comedy. But we know them as the three big players in the search engine marketplace.

It takes a brave company to set up in business against them, but that's what several intriguing start-ups are doing. The nature of the computing industry is one of giants regularly toppling. Remember Wang, DEC, or even Sun? So why not Google, Microsoft or Yahoo?

Here are three new search engines worth examining, either to use as tools in your workflow or to start considering as targets for search engine optimisation (SEO) techniques for your business. Just do everybody a favour and never mention Cuil.


Blekko brings a couple of new tricks to the search party but the main one is the concept of slashtags. These are qualifying words that are added to search phrases after a slash (/) to refine the query.

For example, if I wanted to search for articles about Google Docs sorted by date, I'd type Google Docs /date. If I wanted to search for pages discussing Google Docs in the context of handheld computers like cell phones, I could type Google Docs /gadgets.

Lots of slashtags are already defined but users can make their own, a process involving associating sites with the slashtag so Blekko can get a flavour of the type of content required.

A surprising number of seemingly obvious slashtags have not yet been defined - I tried to search for mentions of myself relating to some Kindle eBooks I've recently written, for example, but there isn't yet a /kindle slashtag.

Blekko's search results aren't too great. Courtesy of a little vanity searching using my own name (surely the standard method of testing a search engine), adding the /date slashtag, revealed that Blekko didn't recognise 'Keir Thomas' as a individual's name, and returned separate results for 'Keir' and for 'Thomas'. Surely being able to spot names is the kind of thing they teach at Search Engine school?

Blekko's other big trick is that users can mark results as spam and have them instantly removed from the list, after which they'll never appear again in search results for that user.

Additionally, and usefully for businesses, anybody at all can also see SEO data for a site by clicking the SEO link beneath each search results. Unfortunately, this too was less than perfect. When viewing the data for a site I run, Blekko claimed that the site is 'co-hosted with' several other sites I'd never heard of. This is no doubt based on the fact they have in the past shared the site's IP address courtesy of virtual hosting by my ISP. However, it's plain misleading.

Blekko is interesting but the beta tag under its logo does actually mean something this time: Blekko really is a pre-release-quality search engine. However, it can only get better as time goes on. Some of its tools are actually pretty neat and are things Google can't easily emulate.


  1. Sites to try if you're fed up with Google
  2. Qyo
  3. DuckDuckGo