Searchme Bings Better than Bing

Searchme.com has gone offline, and are offering their IP for sale.

Searchme.com vs. BingI intended to write about how Bing influences the SEO spectrum this week, but instead, I will write about another search engine I accidentally stumbled upon during some random research. Why do I choose something not many Internet users know about instead of a popular topic? Because the “little people” do not have $100 million USD to pump in a PR campaign to promote something that, aside from being a noisy name and containing some apparent structure, is nothing but hype.

I will, of course, publish my take on Bing and SEO, but not today. Today I invite you to discover what a modern search engine should really look like.

Visual Is Good

Searchme is a visual search engine, beautifully executed, although they pretty much spoil it by displaying ads by Google on the results page.

Click on the image to enlarge.

Click on the image to enlarge.

The results are usually relevant — for example, searching for mystery novels will give Amazon’s Mystery and Thrillers on the forth position, and some other related and relevant results following, but…

Searching for “sitepoint blogs” comes with an unexpected surprise:

Click on the image to enlarge.

Click on the image to enlarge.

How could this happen? The content on the page listed by Searchme scrapes original content from SitePoint, this is how. But the more important question is: what types of content filters are used by Searchme (note that I set the preferences to filter out adult content) and how is the company going to address this issue?

On one hand, being able to see a screenshot of a page before clicking on a link is positive: we will no longer waste time wondering whether the content we expect is there. The way Searchme displays these screenshots is pretty relevant too. Note in the image below that Searchme generates screenshots that highlight the keywords on the site and that these screenshots are accompanied by relevant snippet of content.

Searchme.com content display, detailed view.

Social Is Good, Too

Another thing I like about Searchme is the “share” feature, which allows sharing the search results via Twitter, Facebook or email. What is very interesting here is that when you click the share button you will not send to your network the bulk search results, but the one that appears in the foreground, with the other results stretching on the right and left, as per the standard Searchme display mode.

Preferences Are Good As Well

Searchme’s preferences allow users to choose whether they want to view adult content or not (although, as I already proved above this feature doesn’t work properly); and offers other choices like the ability to toggle between two different backgrounds for the search engine (night theme and day theme), open links in the same window or a new one, turn media autoplay on or off, and finally chose display mode between Searchme full and Searchme lite.

Stacks Are Great

I simply love this feature: Searchme allows you to save the most relevant results of your choice in a visual gallery. You can create as many stacks as you want, name them and categorize them, and of course, share these with your friends, add them to a blog, and etc:


Searchme View in searchme: full | lite
Searchme.com — the Brand

Not the best brand name; actually, it is so bad that I almost didn’t click on their link when I first saw it. My first reaction was: oh, no, not another Google killer wannabe! I imagined a cheap attempt to create a meta search engine that returns screenshots of the given query, followed by some snippets of text — pretty much like the Searchme Lite version, that doesn’t impress at all, and it doesn’t even represent Searchme’s main strength.

Click on the image to enlarge.

Click on the image to enlarge.

What were they thinking when choosing this name? That people will fall in love with it and suddenly go “searchmeing” instead of “googling”? Is it as obvious for you as it is for me why Searchme is not a good name for a search engine? The call to action, “search me” reminds me of a situation where an innocent person is accused of stealing something and encouraging his/her accuser: “Search me, you’ll see that I don’t have it.”

One main rule of branding is to choose a name that is memorable, and can “differentiate your cow from all of the other cattle on the range. Even if all the cattle on the range look pretty much alike” (Al Ries and Laura Ries; “The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding”). Some companies live under the impression that the quality they offer is enough to make a brand stand out, but quality alone is not what makes a brand. I could go on forever explaining why Searchme is a bad brand name, but right now I don’t think it is very important. The important factor is the technology used by this search engine to display search results. The brand name may change: after all, what is Bing if not MSN and Live rebranded?

Conclusion

Whenever a new search engine emerges we expect something fresh and revolutionary. Searchme is far from being perfect now, but it is a startup, and we have to give all startups the chance to learn and to grow. But, in its current form, Searchme almost convinced me to make the switch. Searchme full (and not Searchme lite) is what the search engine of the future should offer: relevant results in a visually appealing form, with sharing functionality, added interface flexibility and the option to save results in collections! Can you think of anything else?

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  • mathieuf

    Check out http://www.kartoo.com/. I am used to the older interface which presented what they now call K.network, the third presentation option. The first option is similar to what SearchMe does. I like the K.network as I can dig into and refine the search results visually.

  • Tony

    SpaceTime3D at http://www.spacetime.com is the originator of Visual Search on the internet. With SpaceTime3D you can search Google, Images from Flick, Wikipedia and more using a visual interface. SpaceTime3D also features the SpaceTime Browser which allows end users to download a PC application (http://www.spacetime3d.com) that featured Visual Shopping(e-bay), Visual Search (Google, Yahoo!, 3D Tabbed Browsing, Visual Video Search (YouTube, 3D RSS and much more. These are two great products that promote Visual Search. Searchme started as a failed startup called Kavam that Sequoia Capital sunk millions into. When Sequoia saw SpaceTime they initially agreed to invest in it after all their partners saw it and loved it. At the last minute, in a very risky move, they decided to copy SpaceTime instead and invested nearly $30 million to compete with it. The problem with Searchme is that you don’t know what the quality of your search results are. With SpaceTime3D, you get to visualize quality searches from Google, Wikipedia and more that you know and trust.

  • http://www.ewriting.pamil-visions.com/ Mihaela Lica

    Yes, I know KartOO: far too crowded, the search results display is pretty messy and the relevancy is pretty low as well.

  • http://www.ewriting.pamil-visions.com/ Mihaela Lica

    Hi Tony, sorry to hear about the problems you had with them, if they are true. I am not in the position to double check the information you gave me right now, although after searching for Kavam a few questions did arise. I see that Kavam – the domains .net and .com were indeed registered by searchme. Some of the questions are: why did they sunk the brand – which was obviously a better choice than “searchme” (aside the crawling problems many website owners reported) and why the lack of transparency in these issues? Trust me, I will look into this. In the meanwhile, whether they copied something or not is irrelevant, because the end product they present is far superior (visually and functionally) to anything I saw before, although the quality of the search results is still questionable.

    But Bing had the same issues regarding adult content (fortunately fixed) and as for relevancy, I am sure Searchme will find a way to refine results. As I see, they depend on keywords like any other search engine… :)

  • Opinion

    In my opinion the Qwiji search bings better than both of the above. http://www.qwiji.com/

  • Gabe

    This is really cool. I’d never seen it before. Relevancy seems pretty decent to me at first glance, but I bet it takes time to get used to actually being able to *see* all results instead of just skimming over them in list view? Dunno… it’s interesting! I like the streaming video results they have mixed in. Think I’ll have fun playing around with this one.

  • Tony

    Hi,

    Actually, Searchme really isn’t that superior. In fact, all the screenshots of the web pages are fuzzy and out of focus. In other words, you can’t read anything on the pages you see. If you go to http://www.spacetime.com, you can actually read the text on the pages.

    Tony

  • http://www.ewriting.pamil-visions.com/ Mihaela Lica

    @Tony, I didn’t refer to what you can read on the screenshot, I refer to the stacks, the preferences, the way you can embed stacks in your blogs, and the sharing functionality. I will test spacetime too, when I have the chance, but just pulling results from Google and Wikipedia is not enough to make the headlines. Now, if you could prove all you’ve mentioned in your first comment, that would make an interesting headline.

    @Opinion, I am sorry, but the search engine you present is not that interesting in my opinion. It takes ages to load for one, and the way the results are presented are not that visually appealing. This is just my point of view. I am sure other users will have other opinions. :)

  • KCChiefs

    Sitepoint, personally, I find much better IT news elsewhere. I see SitePoint is up to their usual M$ (love when you people do that) bashing. A brand new Search Engine comes out, what do you do?! Well: this search engine is better, so I won’t talk about what Bing offers…SitePoint is a joke. This site has no credibility in the industry.

  • http://www.fastliondesign.com FastLionDesign

    Two good articles about search engines that mention Searchme are:

    Searchme: A New Visual Search Engine
    kara.allthingsd.com/20080311/searchme-a-new-visual-search-engine/
    NOTE: allthingsd.com is the tech site for the Wall Street Journal.

    New search engines aspire to supplement Google
    http://www.cnn.com/2009/TECH/05/12/future.search.engine/index.html?iref=newssearch

    The CNN article also mentions Kosmix, which gives you an entire page of text, images and videos on one topic. Kosmix is worth checking out. Duckduckgo looks like just another search engine to me. WolframAlpha is brilliant but is for geeks only.

    Personally, I love the approach of Searchme. I mentioned it here on Sitepoint in posts on “Microsoft’s New Search Engine: Bing” (May 30 and June 4 2009) because I have doubts that the plain text search results of Google will be enough for websurfers in the future. Searchme looks more like the future of search. The allthingsd.com article mentions that Google has a project similar to Searchme in the works.

  • Anonymous

    This visual search is too slow. I like being able to skim read down the page looking for things that jump out at me. The way these results are presented biases sites that visually catch your attention rather than sites that have great content. Better than Bing, Yahoo or Google? I doubt it unless you are looking for visual content.

  • http://www.ewriting.pamil-visions.com/ Mihaela Lica

    @KCChiefs – I am not a news columnist, FYI. My colleague Craig already covered the over-hyped Bing. I am a search engine expert and a search engine beta tester – and I expressed at the beginning of the article that I will cover Bing next week. But, while Microsoft pumps 100 million USD to convince people like you that Bing is worthwhile, Searchme, which is a new search engine as well.Searchme is more quiet and made something different. From this perspective, and while I am sure you can find better IT news even in your local newspaper for that matter, I think SitePoint offers better news than many IT publications, because we are not biased by hype.

  • Rob

    I do not use Searchme frequently, but I like the awesome visual display of the search results. It always makes me vain to search there for my login name “rj3sp” :-). I even use the mobile version of Searchme on my Nokia smartphone

  • http://www.ewriting.pamil-visions.com/ Mihaela Lica

    @Anonymous – I said it is better because it presents things in a different way. The search results are definitely not better, but Searchme is a beta and it has time to grow. Also, Searchme Lite delivers results pretty much like Bing, Yahoo and Google, with the only difference that it displays a small screenshot of the listed site on the left.

  • http://www.ewriting.pamil-visions.com/ Mihaela Lica

    @FastLionDesign – thank you very much for those two links.

  • http://successcreeations.com/blog/ ChrisCree

    I like that the images SearchMe presents are live and not stored. Searching my name brought up my Twitter profile and my latest Tweet was at the top of the page.

    Though I wonder how scaleable that will be long term. Seems like it would take a ton of server resources to generate all those screen shots in real time like that, especially if search volume goes up dramatically.

  • http://www.ewriting.pamil-visions.com/ Mihaela Lica

    Excellent point, Chris. If they are smart they might get popular, although I see that the public has the tendency to reject everything that is not signed Google or Microsoft (how lame!).

  • Laura

    I’m not an expert on search engines by any means, but I’ve used both Searchme and Bing.com.

    Searchme does provide an elegant visual alternative to text-based searches, and Mihaela does an excellent job of describing that here.

    Bing seems to work fine, but it didn’t excite me. I didn’t really see anything new there.

    It’s probably too early to tell if either of these search engines (or any other search engine) will be able to topple Google as the leader.

  • http://charlessweeney.com Charles Sweeney

    Very poor. Slow. Full of ads. Totally irrelevant for me. Why it merits a mention is beyond me.

  • hnajera74

    Hi there, good article..i knew searchme and is pretty awesome…

    i’m building a new search site too.. http://www.vizoor.com

    what do you think of the brand?, layout?, etc..

    your feedback is welcome..

  • http://www.ewriting.pamil-visions.com/ Mihaela Lica

    @Charles Sweeney – because it is very different, Charles. Because, if refined, it could change the way we “see” search. Because it allows us to share the search results faster, in a visually appealing form. I actually wrote all these things in the article. I am glad you took the time to test it though.

  • http://charlessweeney.com Charles Sweeney

    My pleasure, Mihaela.

    Thank you for writing the article.

    I’m an old-fashioned guy. For me, the most “visually appealing” form for search results is plain old words!!!

    That’s why I still use Google. That said, if they try to go anymore “web 2.0″ (like the mess that Bing is) then I shall despair!!

    There’s two schools of thought here…design amd function. You (and most others around here it would seem) are with the former, I’m with the latter!

    Seriously. I made a search for a term that my customers would search on. The result was meaningless, some kind of image with sponsored ads under it. Completely useless. The homepage itself was heavy with ads (none on Google). Cheap, tacky flashing ads, at that. It was also very slow to load.

    I can’t think why anyone would use it. That said, complete uselessness didn’t stop Twitter from becoming popular!

    Best wishes.

  • Red

    Bad article.

    No it doesn’t. I hate this ‘Lets all get on the Microsoft hating’ bandwagon. Everytime micrsoft comes with something new for their search engine, all the so-called experts write negative things about it probably without even actually trying it. Bing has gotten a 2% increase in share in the last week according to Comscore. Lets hope it continues, as I am sure most people would want a landscape with several big search engines as opposed to one company completely dominating the scene.

    Also, this is a family-friendly site, wo why is there are an obscene image captured?

  • Robin Easton

    I think you did a very objective review here and I really value that because it makes me feel I can trust your opinion on things that I am trying to learn about. You were willing to share both the pros and cons. Not many are good at giving an objective review. It reflects highly on you and makes me want to learn even more. It is also good to know that there is someone out there I can trust.

    Also I loved your reasoning on the name. That made me laugh right out loud. Instead of saying “Try Googling it” We would have to say, “Try Searchmeing it” OR “Try Searchming it.” LOLOL!!! Someone slipped up there. Big time. I love that you have a sense of humor as well the solid knowledge. Thank you so much!!!

  • http://www.simplewebgears.com Darren884

    You know as a long time supporter of Sitepoint I would think you guys would be more professional than to post biased opinions, especially in your article titles, but I guess I am wrong.

  • Anonymous

    How many search results can you see at a time – two or three.
    So searching through them is a slow slow process. Pretty to look at, but pretty slow to use. So it has a big usability problem, unless the site you want is among the first three – five it returns. IMHO

  • http://www.sky-web.net/ Dr John

    How many search results can you see at a time – two or three.
    So searching through them is a slow process. Pretty to look at, but pretty slow to use. So it has a big usability problem, unless the site you want is among the first three – five it returns. IMHO

    I tried the spacetime search mentioned elsewhere, and the entire PC ground to a halt as it composed the images for the results.

    There is another engine which adds a small thumnail next to the standard list of returns which is much faster to use (but it’s name escapes me, and I’m using a borrowed PC so it isn’t bookmerked, sorry. Any know it?)

  • john

    man, space time is buggy!

  • http://www.ewriting.pamil-visions.com/ Mihaela Lica

    @Charles Sweeney – I am very much with you on the Twitter thing,I guess I am pretty old fashioned myself. :) But really Charles, with Google’s technology, Searcheme could be huge, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that.

    @Red – my article is not bad for the reasons you imply, Red. Just because you don’t like Searchme you shouldn’t assume that any article that doesn’t paint Bing in golden colors is bad. FYI, I read the press and the percentage of bad Bing reviews is very low. I don’t understand what gave you the impression in my article that I am a Microsoft hater. The title? Well, then that was a good title: it made you read some of the article and express an opinion. About the obscene image: it is there so that no one from searchme could come back and say “we do not have pornography issues, you are wrong.” This can help them fix the issue and it also shows the readers one of Searchme’s worst problems. FYI, Bing had a similar issue shortly after launch too, but they fixed it.

    @Darren884 – catchy headline indeed. :) As for “biased opinion” – nothing in my article is biased. It’s a search engine review, no more, no less. The only reason I compared it with Bing in the title is because, like many others, I expected Bing to be a bit more than a pretty face.

    @Robin – I am glad you liked the article. I guess you are one of the very few. :)

    @Dr John – you are right, it is rather slow to use, and the search results are obviously lacking the quality offered by the major players. But the search results quality issue is faced by all small search engines trying to compete with Google, Bing, Yahoo! and etc. As you note, my focus was on the features that are not offered by the big players: the splendid visual interface, the social/ share function and the stacks. These are features not so difficult to implement and in my opinion, the modern search engine should be able to offer them. I was expecting Bing to do it, that’s all.

  • mathieuf

    @mihaela lica – You received a lot of flack for this article. But I liked it as well. It exposed a lot of other search engines, and a lot of opinions. Search engine makers, take note! As a customer, I have different requirements if I want a quick answer or am doing deeper research, if I want more visual results or more text results, if I’m on a fast connection or not. There are a lot of tools available to me, only some of which have been mentioned above.

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  • http://www.ewriting.pamil-visions.com/ Mihaela Lica

    @mathieuf – Thank you very much. It feels good to know that at least one reader appreciates the effort. :)

  • http://blogtopshare.blogspot.com donkissotes

    I will try..
    nc article

    th u v much

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