Most of us are familiar with search engines. We may use Google, Yahoo, AltaVista or any of the others. In fact, there are more than 400 search engines available free of charge on the web. So, does the world need other one?
The answer is "perhaps." In fact, the new ANSWERS.COM is quite different from the other search engines I have seen. It operates more like a dictionary or encyclopedia than does a traditional search engine.
If you use Google or most any of its many competitors to search for a word or phrase, you will be rewarded with pages and pages of links to information on other web sites. However, the new Answers.com will provide a quick definition or two.
Answers.com is a part of GuruNet. CEO Bob Rosenschein says, "Sometimes people want information very quickly and that's not Google's strength. We are not competing head to head with any of the search engines. We complement or supplement their offerings. Google is in a league of its own."
The key difference between GuruNet's Answers.com and a search engine like Google is that Answers.com offers an array of editorially produced reference materials, while search engines list Web pages their algorithms deem relevant to the search term.
A search on Google for Shirley Chisholm--the former New York City representative in the House of Representatives who was the first black woman to serve in Congress--turned up a news headline about her death New Year's Day and links to 90,000 Web pages. On Answers.com, the results page displayed four different brief biographies, along with links to Google results and other Web resources.
GuruNet boasts about 100 different information sources populating its results, including search engines, encyclopedias, almanacs, image databases and dictionaries.
I tried Answers.com and found it to be easy to use and it quickly returned accurate results. In most of my searches, it returned just one result and that typically had the information I was seeking. Again, it is more like an encyclopedia that extracts information from the web more than it is a search engine.
Is Answers.com a replacement for Google? Not in my mind. I see the two as very different tools, each fulfilling a different need. Depending upon the task at hand, I might prefer one over the other.
Answers.com is available to everyone free of charge; it is supported by advertising. The ads did not seem very intrusive during my testing.