A meta-search, or metasearch, engine is a tool that submits a search query to several search engines simultaneously and then aggregates the results into a single search-engine results page.
In the early days of the web, there were dozens of search engines and directories, and they all produced fairly different results. When searching for information, most savvy web users would query multiple search engines to ensure they were capturing the most relevant results. Metasearch engines first appeared in the mid-1990s and offered the potential to save a web user some time by querying multiple search engines and directories simultaneously.
More recently, results for everyday queries have grown more homogenous across leading search engines such as Google and Bing. However, for specialized searches, or to find information that is proving to be hard-to-find, using a metasearch engine is a good option.
Some of the best metasearch engines include:
- Ixquick: Billing itself as “the world's most private search engine”, Ixquick queries 14 different resources every time a search is made.
- Dogpile: Query Dogpile and you'll see results from the top search engines on the web such as Google and Yahoo!.
- Mamma: This metasearch tool works much the same as Dogpile and Ixquick, searches leading search engines, and provides results scored for relevancy while eliminating duplicate results.
- Yippy: The metasearch engine formerly known as Clusty, Yippy searches a variety of sources, and then groups results by category, allowing you to view the results that fit into the category most-directly related to the topic you're searching for.
- Search.com: Owned by CBS Interactive, and related to SavvySearch, it's not easy to learn much about what goes on behind the curtain at Search.com, but it offers a streamlined metasearch experience and solid results.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are there any disadvantages to using a metasearch engine?
If you commonly use advanced search strategies and syntax, you may get mixed results from metasearch engines. Because different search engines interpret advanced search syntax in different ways, many metasearch engines only allow simple search terms or limit the advanced search options which can be used. In addition, it is not unusual for a metasearch engine to only pick up the first ten or twenty results from each search engine queried. So the results you receive from a metasearch engine may not be as targeted and often do not include all of the results you would find by searching a single search engine with an advanced query string.
What was the first metasearch engine?
The first metasearch engine was created in 1996 by Daniel Dreilinger, then a computer science student at Colorado State University. It was called SavvySearch, and queried 20 search engines and directories simultaneously. Shortly after SavvySearch was born competitors such as MetaCrawler and Ixquick began to appear.