Early Search Engines: Where Are They Now?

the first search engines

In the (not so long ago) early days of the Internet, new search engines were a dime a dozen, seemingly popping into existence with a loud splash and then very quietly fading into obscurity once more. Very few search engines actually made it through the dot-com boom/crash times to the present day, but that doesn't mean they don't deserve their own page in history. In this image gallery, we're going to take a walk down memory lane to see just a few of the Web's earliest search engines, ranging from quite useful to incredibly niche-focused.

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What We Like

  • Extremely fast search results.

  • Sprawling and web comprehensive.

What We Don't Like

  • Ads are prevalent, though distinguishable from organic content.

Started in 1998 by Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Google is now the most widely used, popular search engine on the Internet today. From quite austere beginnings to the world's most used search engines in a short span of time, Google is one of the very few search engines from the early days of the World Wide Web that actually made it through. 

Learn more about Google:

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What We Like

  • Narrow your search results with categories.

  • Clean search results pages without ad clutter.

What We Don't Like

  • Home page is a visually busy news and content site these days.

Yahoo! has gone through many, many iterations since it first got going in the early 1990's, and as of this writing, shows no signs of stopping. From web portal to search engine to peripheral services, Yahoo has kept a large, loyal user base through decades of Web history.

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What We Like

  • Customizable downloadable search bar.

  • Home page has customizable widgets for content you choose.

What We Don't Like

  • Site is painful to look at; dated and overwhelming with links and content.

Surprisingly still around today—and looking much like it did in 2005—Excite.com is one of the web's oldest surviving portal/search engines. Talk about throwback; Excite is one of the only web portals that still offers a downloadable toolbar for easy access, as well as the ability to customize the look and feel of what searches want their Excite to look like. 

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Ask Jeeves


What We Like

  • Clean and simple home page.

  • Search results aren't cluttered with ads.

  • Video search.

What We Don't Like

  • No category searches like images, news, or shopping.

AskJeeves.com, now just Ask.com, has been around in various forms since the late 1990's. Searchers seemed to be devoted to the butler who would go and gather search engine results based on natural language search technology, a concept that at the time it was introduced was considered absolutely revolutionary. 

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What We Like

  • Spare and clean search results pages.

  • Readily available localization setting.

What We Don't Like

  • Lycos isn't primarily a search engine company any longer.

Lycos has been around a long time in Internet years; and has evolved from providing its own search results to piggybacking on Ask.com.

Lycos Home Page

The Lycos home page offers you quite a few options. The main search bar is centered at the top of the page. Underneath the search bar there's weather, Lycos Mail, Lycos market headlines, Lycos latest news headlines, Lycos video, Lycos slideshows, you get the picture.

Lycos Video Search Lycos has partnered with Blinkx to power their video search results; so now, when searching for video on Lycos, you'll notice the Blinkx icon.

Lycos Search

Here are some tips to remember when using Lycos Search. They should get you pretty far in your Lycos searching efforts.

Be specific as humanly possible. Lycos doesn’t return results that are as relevant as you might expect from other search engines, but the more specific and concise you are, the better results you will receive.

Use Advanced Search. Lycos’ advanced search options are actually very well-designed, and will (hopefully) help your Lycos search results stack up to the way you want them to. Lycos also supports Boolean search operators, which will help to narrow down your searches.

Lycos Features

Probably the top reason to recommend Lycos would not necessarily be for its search results, but for its fun features. Here's just a few Lycos search fun sites:

  • Lycos Entertainment: Lots of good stuff here, including Gamesville, Lycos Television and Lycos Video.


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What We Like

  • Focused on picture searches.

  • Home page displays popular images that change as background.

What We Don't Like

  • Some searches resulted in no hits, even though Google's image search delivers images for the same search.

Picsearch is a search engine dedicated solely to finding images — photos, clip art, black and white content — on the Web.

Picsearch only provides thumbnail copies of the original images — if you click on the image link, you'll be taken to the originating site, from which you'll need to obtain permission in order to use that image.

Finding images is simple — just navigate to the home page and type in a query. Popular searches are rotated on the home page; these usually pertain to movies, celebrities, or current news events.

Search results are organized in a table layout; below each thumbnail is the size, height, and width of the originating picture, along with source information. The site also gives you more search suggestions at the top of the search results page, as well as a text link you can use to report any offensive images (family filters are great but there's no way that they can catch everything).

You have a few advanced search options available to you; just click on the Advanced Search text link above the main search query bar. You can limit your search to images, animations, black and white photos, etc.

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AltaVista has been full assimilated by Yahoo!. It's domain redirects you to a Yahoo search page.

AltaVista is a crawler-based search engine, meaning that it sends out software programs called spiders, or crawlers, to search the Web and index websites.

AltaVista One of the Oldest Search Engines

AltaVista has the honor of being one of the oldest search engines on the Web since it started way back (this is a long time in Internet years) in 1995 with the Internet's first Web index. Just as a quick age comparison, Google started in 1998, and Yahoo started out as an Internet guide in 1994.

Here are some other "firsts" and notable highlights of AltaVista, straight from the About Us page:

  • Delivers Internet's first Web index (1995)
  • First multilingual search capabilities on the Internet
  • First Internet search engine to launch Image, Audio, and Video search capabilities
  • Most advanced Internet search features and capabilities: multimedia search, translation & language recognition, and specialty search
  • Awarded 61 search-related patents, more than any other Internet search company

AltaVista Search Home Page

The AltaVista home page is sleekly elegant. There is a search bar smack in the center, with various tabbed search options, including Images, MP3/Audio, News, and Video. Search filters are available immediately; you can choose to limit your search just to the United States (default), or you can go worldwide. You can also return results in all languages (default), or choose to go with just English or Spanish language results.

Searching with AltaVista

A casual search for first-grade math returned results that were exactly like what I got in Yahoo for first-grade math. Again, that's because AltaVista's search results are all powered by Yahoo. The search results page is as streamlined as the home page, a refreshing contrast to some other search tools that inundate the searcher with ads as soon as they land on the results page.

What I liked best about AltaVista's results were the "Related Searches" at the top of my search results page. There were a lot better searches than I had originally come up with, including first-grade math worksheets.

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As of January 2009, A9 has been updated to a product search site within Amazon.com.

A9.com was a sleekly elegant search engine put together by Amazon and powered in part by both Google and A9.com itself - when you execute a search, at the bottom of the page in tiny little print you'll see this statement: "Search results enhanced by Google. Results also provided by a9.com and Alexa."

A9.com Home Page Search Options

Right off the bat, you'll notice you have quite a few search options offered to you in the form of check boxes. Web and Images are checked by default, but you also have Movies, Your Bookmarks, Books, Blog Search, Wikipedia, Yellow Pages, Your History, Reference, and Your Diary. In addition to all that, there is a drop-down menu titled "More Choices" that gives you, well, more choices. Some of these include the New York Times, PubMed, NASA, and Flickr.

Click any of these boxes, and your search results will reflect your new options. For instance, my search query "search engine" got me a results page with the main Web results on the far left, Images in the middle, and Movie results (provided by the Internet Movie Database) on the far right. I tried another search, unchecking the boxes on the search results page and checking others, and instantly my search results changed with new columns appearing right in front of me. 

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What We Like

  • Can mark articles found.

  • Easily search for similar articles to ones found.

What We Don't Like

  • Site is quite outdated in appearance.

  • Small font size makes the site text headache inducing.

As of February 2009, MagPortal no longer provides magazine search, and instead has evolved into a service that provides "headline feeds with full-text article search (that) allow your site users to find magazine articles on topics tailored for your website".

MagPortal was a great research tool that enabled the user to find magazine articles on the Web from a variety of different publications. You could use the MagPortal search engine to research a particular query or browse the MagPortal categories to get a feel for a particular subject. MagPortal indexed a long list of magazines, and most of the content from these magazines were all available within MagPortal (sometimes certain date issues might be missing or publishers might not make all articles available online).

MagPortal Magazine Article Search

Here's an example of a search: web search on MagPortal brought back a lot of great articles; in a generic search engine, this same search would have had me combing through a lot of dross to get to the gold. Search results have a link to the originating magazine or site, with a short annotation of the link below. To the left, you'll see the name of the actual magazine or site, with the date the article was written and the author's name.


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As of January 2009, Podzinger has evolved into a marketing and search engine optimization network, and no longer provides audio and video search.

Podzinger was an audio and video search engine, powered by "30 years of speech recognition research from BBN Technologies." Podzinger is unique in that it actually peeks inside the spoken words of the medium itself to find what you're looking for — and then your search terms are highlighted in the search results. It's easy to use, and while it does not retrieve a ton of results (still in beta), and the search results are difficult to narrow down — yet I still see that there's a lot of potential with Podzinger.

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As of April 2010, Spock is no longer in business.

Spock was a uniquely formatted search engine that focuses only on people and information about people.

How is Spock unique?

Spock is one of the more interesting people search engines I've run across in a long time, and here's why:

  • You can search by the person's name, by tags, or by general topic. For instance: Hilary Clinton, Democrat, and internet celebrity. No matter what you search for, your results will ONLY return information specifically related to a person or people.
  • You can add tags to a person's profile, including your own.Remember tags? Once you register as a Spock user (free), you can add tags to a profile, including your own, in order to make that profile more complete. You can also vote tags up or down, depending on how relevant you think they are to that person's information.
  • Spock pulls in results from actual relevant Web sources. Many so-called free people search engines these days are nothing more than spam-filled ad factories - and they don't give you anything even remotely relevant to what you're looking for. Spock is different; it pulls in information from legitimate sources that don't charge for that information (Wikipediasocial networking sites, etc). This makes Spock's information much more interesting and relevant.

How do I use Spock to find someone?

Spock is simple to use. Just type in someone's name, or a people group characteristic (Portland lounge singers, New York cat lovers, etc.), and away you go. For the most part, celebrities and public personas are going to have more information available to them than the average Joe, simply because there is more easily accessible information available to compile. However, Spock is still a great people search engine to use as a good beginning point in your search to find someone (if for nothing else that it tends to give direct links to their information at various spots on the Web).

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As of November 2015, LJSeek no longer exists.

LjSeek.com was a search engine dedicated to only sifting through the LiveJournal blogging community. If you're a dedicated LiveJournal user or just looking for information, you'll find that LjSeek comes in handy.

How To Use LjSeek

Using LjSeek is simple, and pretty much like any other search engine, only in LjSeek, you're ONLY searching the LiveJournal blog community. Navigate to the main LjSeek and type in what you're looking for; whether that's someone's name, a key phrase, a particular topic, etc. If you're looking for an exact phrase, you can check the "exact phrase" checkbox; you can also use the dropdown menu to sort results by time and relevance (default), relevance only, and a few other options.

In addition, you should check LjSeek's Advanced Search page; at this point in time there's not really a lot of options here, but you do have the ability to limit your searches to specific journals or friends.

Why Should I Use LjSeek.com?

LjSeek.com is a very, very targeted niche search engine. It's a great tool to dig through the Live Journal community — I'd love to see some more features in the future, such as a way to save searches, more advanced search options, and better search parameters/filters.

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As of April 2008, it looks like Daypop is no longer in business.

Daypop was a current event search engine. It crawls sites that are updated frequently in order to bring searchers the latest news; included in its index are newspapers, blogs, online magazines-any site that is updated on a regular basis will make it into Daypop's index. You can use this tool to search a small slice of the Web for news and information.

How To Search

Searching Daypop is very easy — just navigate to the home page and type in your keyword or phrase. There is a drop-down menu right next to the main search query bar that you can use to further narrow down your search; you can narrow the search parameters to just News and Weblogs, RSS News Headlines, etc.

Daypop can bring back some good results-if you know exactly what you're looking for. I would suggest that you browse through the search tips order to get a feel of how it works and what kind of searches work the best.

If you really want to get detailed in your search, then you'll want to check out advanced search page. This offers a long list of customizable options for the searcher, including time range, language, pages from specific countries, etc.

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As of November 2015, Babelgum is no longer in operation. Try 15 Ways to Watch TV and Movies Online instead.

Babelgum was a fantastic source for free, high-quality, and independently made videos, music, and films.

What can I find to watch or listen to at Babelgum?

Babelgum is a bit different from other movie sites, mostly because it's full of independently made content that you might not be familiar with. Therefore, the easiest way to find something you might be interested in is to browse the Babelgum Channels, then drill down into the sub-categories: Film, Music, Nature, etc.

You can also check out what Babelgum calls Passions: Indie Film, Underwater, and Indie Music; check out the Babelgum Most Popular, browse the Branded Channels (channels that are sponsored by a specific brand), or see what's shaking at the Competition, an ongoing series of music or film contests.

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As of April 2010, Turbo10 is no longer offering Deep Web search services.

Turbo10 was a search engine that trawls the Invisible, or Deep Web for results. Turbo10 connects you to deeper, more quality information from niche-specific search engines, and enables the searcher to access databases (such as government, business and university databases). Basically, Turbo10 has cut out some of the middleman work you would have to do to get to these resources on your own.

Deep Web Search with Turbo10

The Turbo10 home page is simple and easy to use. The search query box is directly in the middle, with a drop down menu titled "Turbo10 Collections" to the right (we'll get back to that in a minute).

To search over 800 Deep Net engines (that's What Turbo10 claims to search, anyway - I could find no verification of this claim), all you need to do is enter a query into the search box. Here's my example: I typed in the word "gazelle grazing habits", and got some pretty respectable results, including a page from the Encyclopedia Britannica, and oddly enough a link to a Yahoo Search results page for "gazelle grazing habits." Okay, so the results need to be tweaked a bit to return only relevant pages, not more results pages, but still, I found some good information.

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BoardTracker is no longer in service.

BoardTracker was a search engine dedicated to only sifting through forums and online message boards. It's a highly targeted search engine and brought back relatively good results.

How To Use BoardTracker

You can simply navigate to the main BoardTracker home page and type in a term. To the right of the main search bar is a drop-down menu of categories; you have the option to narrow your search using this menu, or you can browse the categories directly below the search bar as well. In addition, you can also check out BoardTracker's Advanced Search options.

Searches are relatively good; for example, my search for Bill Gates predictably returned quite a few results. Each result has the icon of whatever particular message board or forum that result is from (if it has one), date the message was originally posted, how many replies it's had, how many views, the poster's name or nickname, and a very brief annotation. I think a big improvement here would be to have the actual board or forum name very prominent in the search results as well.

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AllTheWeb closed in 2011.

Like Alta Vista, AllTheWeb also had its results powered by Yahoo.

AlltheWeb offers the standard search tools: images, news, directory, people, etc. In addition, users have the capability to search for both audio and video files, as well as the opportunity to search in 36 different languages if they so desire. Their advanced search filters are easy to use and return pretty good results. One other thing: AllTheWeb is Opera compliant; a nice characteristic for webmasters trying to overcome accessibility issues.

AlltheWeb Search Home Page

AllTheWeb's home page is nicely streamlined. The main search query bar is smack dab in the middle, with tabbed search options to the top including Web, News, Pictures, Audio, and Video.

AlltheWeb Search

Searching with AlltheWeb is pretty easy. You just type in a query and go. Remember, AlltheWeb's results are powered by Yahoo, so whatever results you get at AlltheWeb, you would also receive at Yahoo. This brings up the question of why search at AlltheWeb when you can just search at Yahoo? Well, I think it's just a matter of personal preference. AlltheWeb is very streamlined, offering absolutely nothing but search, and it's a nice alternative to Yahoo's somewhat busy main search page. Really, it's just a matter of personal preference.

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As of 2007, WiseNut is no longer in business as a search engine.

WiseNut was a no-frills general search engine owned by LookSmart. WiseNut offers a good, solid general search experience; they don't have a lot in the way of fancy-schmancy search stuff, but what they do have seems to be relatively well-done.

How To use WiseNut

Searching in WiseNut is simple, just type in your query into the main search bar and away you go. My query for "snow" brought back search results with text links and annotations, as well as clustered results at the top of the search results page - or WiseGuide categories.

What is WiseGuide?

WiseGuide is basically search suggestions that are related to what you're searching for - it's a great way to narrow down or broaden your search. For instance, in my search for "snow", an extremely general search term, my WiseGuide search suggestions were much more helpful.


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As of December 2011, Kartoo is no longer in service.

Kartoo was a visual meta search engine, "with visual display interfaces. When you do a search and click on OK, Kartoo launches the query to a set of search engines, gathers the results, compiles them and represents them in a series of interactive maps through a proprietary algorithm."

More simply put, Kartoo puts its results on an interactive, visual map for you to play with. Kartoo is a metacrawler/metasearch engine, which means that it does not come up with its own results, but aggregates the results of many other search engines.

How does Kartoo work?

Here's how it works (you'll need a Flash Player in order to run this site the way it was designed to look, but there is also an HTML version available):

  • Type your query in the Kartoo search box.
  • Select your language from the flags beneath the search box.
  • Your search results are compiled. You will see a screen with three columns: the first column contains all the topics Kartoo found that have anything to do with your search query. My search query was "silver charms", and so my topics ran the gamut from "wholesale sterling silver jewelry" to "antique silver charms." The second column contains the actual map generated by your search results; as you mouse over, the links between the various map locations will light up, showing their relationship to each other.Also, when you hover over one particular site, the information for that site will show up in the far left column. Lastly, the third column gives you the option to print, send, or save the search results map, with the additional options of adding a site or adding a topic.
  • If you click on any of your search results, they will open in a new window.
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As of October 2012, Quintura is no longer in service.

Quintura was a search engine much like Kartoo or Ujiko in that it presents information in a visual manner, rather than a straight text presentation. With Quintura, you search within a "tag cloud"; a collection of terms, usually related to each other in some way either by context or links.

How does Quintura work?

Initially, Quintura works just like any other search engine: you type in a search term. However, that's where Quintura starts getting different. Your search term generates other related search terms that are then represented all together in one big tag cloud, and then your actual search results from the Web are presented below the tag cloud area.

If you hover your mouse over any of these search terms, your search results will change. When you click on a tag within the tag cloud, that particular term is added to your original query; kind of a baked in effect, I suppose. If you see a term you don't want to be included in the tag cloud, just click on the X next to it and it's gone.


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As of October 2012, Foodieview is no longer in service.

FoodieView was a recipe search engine searching over 175,000 recipes from all different kinds of sources, including (but not limited to) the following:

and much, much more. FoodieView is a targeted recipe search engine with a lot of really interesting features; it's also extremely easy to find good recipes on FoodieView that are actually relevant to what your search query is, which, if you've ever tried to find a recipe using certain ingredients on one of the bigger search engines, you'll agree with me when I say that it can be a huge time-waster. FoodieView just makes the task of searching for recipes easier, and as a busy mom with three kids this couldn't be more welcome.

FoodieView Recipe Search Home Page

You have quite a few search options on the FoodieView home page. The main search query box is right in the middle, and then you have the option to browse by category, search in your Recipe Box (more about that in a second), look at restaurants, product reviews, cooking resources, or read the FoodieView Blog, which is full of search questions that FoodieView readers have sent in.

Why Should I Use FoodieView Recipe Search?

A few reasons:

  • It's easy. You can find recipes on here quickly, with little fuss or sorting. The FoodieView search features (Narrow By, category:) are easily implemented to make your search that much more effective.
  • Great features. The Recipe Box tool is really, really practical and fun. All your recipes in one place from multiple different recipe sites.
  • Relevant results. I found that I got really great results with FoodieView. If I wanted a recipe with plums and chicken, well, I got recipes with plums and chicken. There's no sorting through endless unrelated results here.

All in all, a great little recipe search engine that is now one of my favorite "must-have" sites.

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This site now redirects to Startpage.com, a new search engine.

Ixquick is a metasearch engine, meaning that it pulls results from many different search engines and directories and presents them all in one simple search results page. Ixquick's ease of use, relevant results, and extra features all make it one metasearch engine that I highly recommend. In addition, Ixquick has added several intriguing privacy features: "No IP addresses are stored, no personal data is gathered or passed on to third parties, and no identifying cookies are placed on your browser. Ixquick also offers secure SSL encryption, a proxy option that allows anonymous web surfing, full third-party certification, and numerous other privacy features."

The ads are clearly separated from the actual search results, and there are quite a few search extras, which I'll go through one by one.

  • Related Searches: At the top of your search results. Mine were "cheese making", "eggs", and "history of cheese."
  • Search Engines: You'll see a list of search engines that Ixquick pulled results from at the top of the page; you have the option of clicking any one of these to disallow them in your next search.
  • Icons - Stars, Checks, and X's: The Star icons indicate that a search engine chose that particular result as one of its ten best results. If you have five stars next to a particular search result, than that means that five different search engines agreed that on that particular result. The Check icon helps you to find results that are similar, and the X icon enables you to remove results that are not what you are looking for (this helps you to virtually "train" Ixquick to search the way you would like it to).
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Mahalo is no longer a search engine. It is now part of Inside.com, a network of email newsletters.

Mahalo is a human powered search directory that uses actual human editors to compile results alongside Google-powered results. This search tool used to be quite active when it first debuted in 2007, but looks to be inactive at the time of this writing.

Similar Web search directories and/or search engines that have used human power to compile results at one time or another in their history are Yahoo, the Open DirectoryAsk.comAnswers.com, and quite a few others; with varying degrees of success.

How is Mahalo organized?

From the Mahalo home page, you are given a couple search options. You can search by Category, narrowing down your search query simply by winnowing down topic by topic what you're looking for (this is also a good way to just browse the extensive Mahalo directory), or, you can just type in your topic into the search box.

Categories range from News to Books and Authors, and have a wealth of information hierarchically arranged under each.

How does Mahalo work?

Mahalo works pretty much like any other search engine or Web search directory out there: you type in a query, and if the Mahalo editors have compiled an entry for your particular search result, you're going to get a variety of results from video to direct answers to Fast Facts (a quick compilation of the most pertinent information for that query).

As previously stated, all your Mahalo results are quite nicely arranged all on one page. This is what makes Mahalo so addictive, because the Mahalo editors do a fantastic job of compiling the most relevant results for you, and you as the searcher get to reap the benefits of this practice.

For instance: say you are looking for information on a medical issue. If you use Google or Yahoo or Ask, you're going to get the standard page of search results, all of which you can visit individually and evaluate whether or not those links serve your purpose. Nothing wrong with that.

However, if you use Mahalo to search for this same query, you're going to get one page of results, all of which have been vetted and summarized for you in one convenient location. With just a quick glance at the page, you can get more information that you can actually use: quickly, accurately, and with a minimum of fuss.

This is not necessarily going to happen for every single search you type into Mahalo because search engine indexes are obviously so much bigger than this human powered search directory, but it's sure a great shortcut for the topics they do cover and will cover in the future.

Now, if your search does not have a Mahalo entry attached to it yet, then you will receive the standard Google search results for your query. More and more Mahalo results are compiled every day, and you can even send in a request for a page you'd like the Mahalo folks to tackle for you - this is just one of the special features that sets Mahalo apart from the rest.

What do Mahalo search results look like?

Basically, you get one page with relevant results for the topic that you are looking for; JUST one page with many links and summaries, rather than thousands of links that might not actually be relevant to what you're searching for.

For instance, a search for cheese came back with Wikipedia info, recipes, blogs, and news. You're also given some fast facts about cheese, the chance to email this search results page to someone else, and a direct link to your results.