Engines which work on top of search engines has been a growing area ever since Web Search went mainstream.
Most meta-search engines use content from the top engines – Google, Yahoo or Live Search and many also refer to content specific sources such as Flickr, PicSearch for image search. Infact, DogPile was one of the first search engines to offer keyword targeted advertising, via keyword targeted banners; before Yahoo Search Marketing (Goto.com) or Google AdWords existed.
The question here is – are meta search engines of any value today when search itself seems a saturated market. Here are my reasons:
Knowing the Difference
No search engine is perfect. While it is true that many queries can be answered in a succinct line or two, in-depth details on any topic from relevant sources takes research and research entails reference to more than one source.
Search Engines as the Rudimentary OS on the Web
From the desktop perspective, an Operating System is defined as “the software that manages the sharing of the resources of a computer (Web) and provides programmers (Users) with an interface used to access those resources.” The definition does neatly fit into what the Search Engines are doing on the net today. Meta Search engines are essentially applications that sit on top of this OS for the Web, applying and integrating still more innovations on to those engines.
Looking from this perspective, the present day mainstream engines are performing the rudimentary operations of Operating Systems. Just like the OS is not about a bunch a device drivers, meta search engines have their utility.
TestBed for Innovation
The Web is a massive set of data. The single largest repository (in loose terms) of content. The time that it takes to start on a venture as scalable as the Web is also a prime factor why there have been brilliant ideas in the waiting to take off for quite some time now. Trawling content on the web is a mammoth task. And it is that task which is really an issue with newer web search technologies (no wonder up-coming engines have been so long in incubation period). Meta-search engines are testbeds of innovation. Successful strategies will span out and scale out in future.
Why Re-invent the Wheel
The fact that Yahoo, Google Live and Ask.com account for 99% of Web search goes to say that they are doing more than a commendable job of indexing content on the Web. So why re-invent the wheel?
If I were to start a search engine based around a new technology, why not use the top 50 results from these engines and then in course of time scale up. To that extent, new engines using the results trawled by the biggies is effectively a good way to save a lot of computing and intellectual effort.
These are but a few of the reasons why I believe Meta search engines are as important as from-the-ground-up engines.