Kartoo, one of the first of the visual search engines, with it's particular mapping technique would appear to have died. It underwent a fairly radical change a few months ago, but the homepage is now blank and their blog isn't available either.
If it has gone, it's a real shame, since it's one that I always used to point people towards.
Visual search is a fairly straightforward concept these days, but having discussed Google and Bing I found another offering - Spacetime 3D via the always useful AltSearchEngines site. Type in your search and get a series of results - enlarged thumbshots of webpages that you can scroll through:
I've been playing around with an engine called Middlespot recently. It's a visual search engine as you can see:
It has some nice functionality - showing you your results (obviously) and allowing you to resize the thumbnail if you want to see the page better, choosing a related search based on the thumbnail that you're looking at: You can also create and save your own 'workpads' of selected sites, and the site explains how these work: "You can rename them to better reflect what they contain, leave a comment
describing the contents of the workpad, open the entire workpad in the middlespot.com interface,
and add any url you want. Your collected result is stored as a screenshot that you can uniquely
annotate with your own comments. The number of workpads you can create is infinite."
There are also search options for images, news, Amazon and Twitter as well. These were fine, but it was the web option that I found particularly interesting. Results can sometimes be slow, but that didn't always happen - apparently it's just two guys creating this, so I'm happy to provide considerable slack on this. Worth looking at.
I took a look at webKruz the other day, and finally got around to writing about it. webKruz is a visual search engine - run your search and it will produce a tag cloud, arrange results into categories and then display sites as thumbnails that you can scroll across the screen. Looks like this:
You can hover over a page to get the basic details of title and summary, and a nice feature is that the page will 'unroll' so that you can see the entire thing, rather than just the small section in the thumbnail.
I'm not entirely sure exactly how it creates its different categories, but they are really quite intelligent. A search for country search engines results in categories called web search, country specific search engines, internet search, and search engine lists. I'd have liked to have seen help screens that work (just leads to an error message), and more detail about the engine itself, but overall this is quite impressive. Great if you want some help breaking a subject down, and/or if you want some visual content on the page to look at.
Viewzi. This is a search engine that utilises the Google database to produce results in a visual format with a thumbshot of the page that you'll be going to, with a flip tiles option to see the summary of the page in a text format. You can hide results, add them to your Favorites list and so on.
However, that's the default option. If you prefer you can view them in an 'Exalead' type format with the thumbshots on the left and text summary on the right (searching both Yahoo and Google), a Google Timeline view, site information view, photo tag cloud, newspaper style 3 column approach, filmstrip style video approach from searching YouTube, Photo strip view from Flickr and SmugMug content, 4 sources view from GYMA, weather view, Amazon book view, songs, album covers, shopping, recipe, celebrity photos and TechCrunch content.
It's a huge resource full of content and if you like viewing material in a visual format this engine should be right at the top of your list!
Go along to walk2web and pop in a URL. Walk2Web will give you a thumbnail, an aural overview/summary based on the content of the page, visual links from the site to other places, any comments on it, send an email to a friend about it and so on. Not much good for searching content, but an interesting way of showing more content about a specific site.
I don't think that I've mentioned the TouchGraph Google browser before. Basically it's a Java application that loads into the browser window - you type in a keyword or a URL and it runs a search and then comes back with a visual listing of different sites and how they're related to each other. The result looks something like this:
Link: Cluuz. is a visual search engine that provides results in a variety of different ways - via networking chart with links between concepts, in clusters or lists. It comes up with some very odd stuff - it was really keen to associate my name with the term 'young person excluded' for some reason I couldn't fathom. It's using the Yahoo and MSN databases from what I can tell, but not doing a great job of it - paying rather too much attention to photograph sharing sites for example. May be of interest if you like your results in a visual format.
It seems to be the month of visual search engines, and searchCrystal is the latest in the line. Now, I know that I've been less than charming towards these things, but by the law of averages one of them has to come along that I quite like, and I think this is it.
It's a meta search engine, and searches GYMA and (interestingly) Exalead. That's in the web search area. It also searches images (which oddly is the default - if you're trying it for yourself do remember to change this or you don't get what you expect), blogs, video, news, Wikipedia and a few others besides. Imagine a series of concentric circles, put results from search engines into different sections and the more times a particular site is found the closer to the 'bulls eye' it gets. Now add in some little coloured icons to illustrate which search engines have found which sites, and you're almost there.
You can change the format of results into the normal linear display, or onto a spiral and you can also change the size of the font, which I think is really necessary, since it's rather a small, cramped screen, and it's really very difficult to read. To be honest, it's not a search engine that I'm going to use, since I don't like this sort of display. However, it's by far and away the best of this type that has come to my attention, and they also provide a handy little widget so you can try it yourself. It should be embedded below.
Link: walk2web - Walk. Explore. Have Fun ;). This isn't a search engine as such. What it does is allow you to type in a URL and it will then display links from it. You can move along the links, see more of them, reposition the map on the screen. Much fun.