Lycos still has a spark

Lycos, an early search engine and portal that seemed washed out a few years ago after buyouts and decline, may still have some life. There has been talk of a new “proprietary search product” in the coming year.

Remember Lycos? It’s planning a new search engine for launch in 2013 by Martin Bryant, The Next Web (Dec 27)

Its look today is  family friendly, even kid friendly. Personalize it, play games, check the weather – it seems like a nice, friendly place – complete with dog for logo (replacing the spider of years ago). Yahoo provides the web search results.

CEO Rob Balazy would only hint at what is to come in 2013  — “we have a vision to merge the notion of a search-type activity with a curated content experience.”

Lycos web search

Lycos web search results – Dec 2012

Lycos owns Tripod, another blast from the past, a space for people – novices – to build their websites at very low cost. This has been dressed up with Zeeblio, a front end to help in creating the site – proof that not everyone is leaping to wordpress.

Lycos is currently owned by Ybrant Digital, an Indian company  with offices in 20 countries.

Safe Searching with Ixquick

For fully private searching, head to Ixquick and its sister site, Startpage. These do not record IP address or track search queries. The only cookie it uses is to save search preferences you set up.

Ixquick used to search several engines at one time. These are no longer shown as choices but stars on results indicate Blekko, Gigablast, Yahoo as current sources. Some grouping is still available by selecting Power Refinement on the Settings page – it “enables clustering of shown web results”.

Startpage forwards your query to Google – without your IP number – and returns results free of the personalization that Google applies.

“Search Suggestions” is an option on the Settings page for both. Ixquick doesn’t use a log of user queries as other engines do, but picks from broad resources on the web such as dictionaries or common pages.

Other security features include secure socket layer, and not passing  search terms to websites.

Usage of Startpage climbed to 2 million queries a day in mid-2012.

Not the Google We Used to Love

When Google Taketh Away by Terry Ballard, Searchers (Nov)

Google has discontinued many excellent services and by the end of this year will end iGoogle. Terry Ballard lists the main ones.

I’m not sure that Google Dictionary is entirely dead – dictionary still shows under ‘more search tools’ in the left pane. Though certainly the feature to click on a search term to get meanings is long gone. The article also says that Google Translate has been deprecated – oh I hope not.

Of note – A form of Google Dictionary survives as an addon for Chrome.

Add to this list the removal or weakening of many search features.

Searching news archives is almost a hopeless task. Archivesearch defaults to Advanced News Search – https://news.google.ca/news/advanced_news_search?as_drrb=a and its minimal search form. And good luck finding that – a link to Advanced Search for news is nowhere to be found on the news search page or results page.

The Timeline was an excellent search aid for web searches and news searches – only an unsatisfactory remnant of that continues in date ranges (incomplete ones) in the news archive.

Google doesn’t have quite the same star power as a set of tools for searchers that it once had – but no competitor is picking up the slack.

Google Personal Portal being closed

Google To Discontinue iGoogle, Once Google’s Fastest Growing Product, Barry Schwartz, Search Engine Land (Jul 3)

Google is closing the personal portal iGoogle – where users could set up special feeds, information sources, stock market etc. Services don’t last very long on the web.

“Why? Google said since the web and mobile are changing, and “with modern apps that run on platforms like Chrome and Android, the need for iGoogle has eroded over time.” Google is giving iGoogle users 16 months to learn to use something else.”

Rubbish. This was just after Google redesigned it for a more stream lined look.

Clusty goes Yippy

Clusty, a metasearch engine that clusters results into folders, is under new ownership (though you wouldn’t know it from the website). Vivisimo, which developed Clusty as a showcase for its technology for automatically categorizing results, has sold it to Yippy.

Yippy is a happy looking, kid-appealing portal-styled place which asks you to register to use its wares.

Yippy home page

From Yippy Acquires Clutsy new release – ” Yippy, formerly known as Cinnabar Ventures, Inc., is a Fort Myers, Fla.-based company that develops technologies and application services environments for both consumer and commercial market segments in the cloud computing sector.”

Not much to go by.

Yippy describes itself as ” the world’s first fully-functioning virtual computer that operates on a cloud-based worldwide LAN. Yippy is simply hardware mated to dynamic software set through a worldwide LAN using a virtual, ubiquitously connected web-based operating system. Tapping into the Yippy OS means virtually any computer, whether it is a PDA, notebook or desktop, can be accessed as if from a computer terminal. ” [From FAQ]

Highly technical language for a site designed to appeal to the under-12 crowd.

Future – “During the course of 2010, Yippy will present its web-based OS to include social networking, full user interaction, customization, Microsoft Office-type applications including word processing and spreadsheet programs (i.e., Yippy users will be able to open a spreadsheet program through Yippy, create a document online, and save it to their Yippy storage bucket), tabbed browsing, customizable icons for favorites, web sharing and much more.”

This will be a download that parents can install to create a controlled environment where even (it is stated in the FAQ) Google can be blocked. (And Bing and Ask are safer and better?)

For now, the web Yippy provides a range of tools for the signed-in member – email, conferencing and chat, news, games, favorites / bookmarks. There is also Tools – which includes classified ads. It also blocks 4.8 million sites. If Yippy really wants to be a safe place, it should provide directory of hand-picked sites approved for children.

The passerby can use the web search component without being a member. Results, however, show inside the Yippy frame making it less useful for the searcher.

Lets hope that Clusty.com continues at the clusty.com domain for searchers to use because going through Yippy is not an attractive option. The worry is that Vivisimo will no longer have an interest in improving the technology to demonstrate the capabilities of its enterprise search products.

What are the chances of success? Controlled communities don’t have a wide appeal – ask AOL. Yippy will have no interest in meta-search technology. Vivismo has left the public web search space. All round – I don’t think the signs are good.

Added: Vivisimo sells Clusty for $5.6 million, Pittsburg Business Times (May 17)

Yippy plans to increase use of Clusty – “Under Vivisimo the search product had limited use, Granville said, but he intends to kick it up to 3.3 million users in the next 18 months, or one percent of the U.S. search market.”. I presume that is the anticipated growth of the Yippy community.

A telling statement – ““In a time with Google under fire, we intend to use those business practices against them as a company to drive conservative, right-of-center eyeballs to our environment,” Granville (CEO) said.

MSN Portal

MSN Introduces Dramatically Improved Redesign, Portal Drives Nearly 50% Of Bing Queries by Greg Sterling, Search Engine Land (Nov 4)
MSN has revamped its portal – proving that portals aren’t dead. Preview it here.
“Microsoft has introduced a dramatic new look and feel for the MSN portal. The redesign simplifies and cleans up most elements on the site. Among other things, it makes video more central, incorporates Facebook and Twitter, creates a dedicated new local area and emphasizes search.”
Windows Live network is on the home page too.
Also – Microsoft Gives MSN an Overdue Face-lift By Peter Burrows , Business Week (Nov 4)
“Heartened by the reception for new search engine Bing, Microsoft has simplified MSN’s home page to play up search with the detail of a local paper”
Points out that the history of the MSN portal has been dismal – something put on a computer at purchase and not changed. This new version has been created partly to push search traffic to Bing.
“Now, for the first time in a decade, Microsoft is giving MSN a face-lift. On Nov. 4 some of the millions of users of the MSN home page will see a less cluttered site that for the first time lets users access Twitter and Facebook feeds without having to leave the page. A section called MSN Local Edition provides news of local doings such as concerts, restaurant reviews, and weather and traffic reports which vary based on the user’s location.”
This new version is only for the US portal – msn.com. Canadians were introduced to a revised portal after the Microsoft split from Bell Sympatico. It is more crowded than the US but is an improvement over the old. There is a video tour.

Sympatico and MSN split

Bell, Microsoft to end online partnership by Simon Avery, Globe and Mail (Aug 28)
Sympatico.msn.ca is closing as Microsoft and Bell end their deal. Instead we have sympatico.ca and msn.ca – good.
“Microsoft Corp. and BCE Inc.’s Bell Canada will close their Web portal, sympatico.MSN.ca, on Tuesday and refresh their own sites: MSN.ca and sympatico.ca.
Both companies said the split will give them greater flexibility to pursue their own online strategies. The formula for making money online is now driven by advertising, they noted, making it vastly different than it was in 2004.”

Yahoo Home Pages

Yahoo to streamline redesigned home page by Stephen Shankland, Webware (Mar 17)
New home page coming –
“The new home page, code-named Metro and due to launch later this year, will let users customize what they see and install a range of applications. But upon beginning “bucket testing” last September, in which different subsets of Yahoo users are involuntarily presented with variations of the new home page, Yahoo found out it was making it too difficult for people to continue with their accustomed practice of dropping by the page to scan for changes,… ”
But what about the MyYahoo page –
“Another complication: Yahoo already has a customizable home page, My Yahoo. The company has a plan for keeping the two properties relevant, though: as Yahoo.com becomes more flexible, the Internet company will reposition My Yahoo for sophisticated users who demand even more customization such as themes and movable modules, ….

Yahoo’s Open Strategy

Yahoo puts meat on Open Strategy bones by Stephen Shankland, Webware (Dec 15)
For a couple of years, analysts have talked about Yahoo’s social aims and strengths. It may be that Yahoo has now truly “flipped the switch” to promote and exploit social connections and online applications.
“The company has been working mostly behind the scenes to build what it calls the Yahoo Open Strategy, but now the strategy’s changes will become evident to U.S. users of some of Yahoo’s main properties such as Yahoo Mail, My Yahoo, and Yahoo’s music and TV sites. In addition, the company will begin previewing a new Yahoo Toolbar later this week. ”
Biggest changes are to Yahoo Mail:
“Yahoo Mail, which according to ComScore has about 275 million active users each month, gets some significant changes, with more to come. First is a new welcome page that now spotlights messages from people in a person’s Yahoo social network and invitations from others to join their networks. And the in-box page now includes a new “from connections” button that shows e-mail only from those social connections. ”
Also,
+ Changes in customizing the home page
+ browser toolbar will show contacts
+ media properties will spotlight ratings or activities by contacts
See another short summary of the changes at Yahoo Enhances Open Strategy: Mail, My Yahoo, Toolbar & More by Barry Schwartz, Search Engine Land (Dec

Yahoo’s Front Page

Changing That Home Page? Take Baby Steps by Miguel Helft, New York Times (Oct 18)
Yahoo is slowly changing its main page and asking users how they feel about it every step along the way.
“Users will be able to customize the new home page, which eventually will include more content from other popular Web sites; applications allowing people to track their activities on places like eBay, Netflix or Facebook; and social networking features.