Alternative & Specialized Search Engines

Introduction

Google is the world's most popular search engine with over 90% of the world's searches made on the platform. The market share by other well-known search engines such as Bing, Yahoo, Baidu, Yandex, DuckDuckGo, and Ask are tiny in comparison, but still account for millions of searches every day.

There are plenty of sites around that give lists of the best search engines to ensure anonymous searches and avoid things like the UKUSA Agreement (5 Eyes, 9 Eyes, and 14 Eyes) and other intelligence gathering organizations. Top of the most recommended search engines on these are usually DuckDuckGo, Startpage, Searx, Qwant, Swisscows, MetaGer, Mojeek, and Brave Search.

Most major search engines enable you to refine the results by them using operators such as those for Google and Bing. Google also offers an Advanced Search page. Sometimes though, even these tricks are not enough and this page looks at search engines that are designed to find smaller, personal sites and includes some unusual or specialized search engines.

This is not a comprehensive list of all the search engines, but it does include those that I found useful or interesting.


Small, Personal, Non-commercial Web

The two most popular hosting sites for the small web revival appear to be Neocities and Nekoweb. Both have their own searches available.

Wiby

These search engines were the main reason for writing this page. The best I have found so far is Wiby

Marginalia

Marginalia is an independent DIY search engine that focuses on non-commercial content, and attempts to show you sites you perhaps weren't aware of. The results are determined by up-ranking web sites that are text-heavy, and downranking ones that are highly visual, loaded with modern web cruft, and SEO-optimized. This makes it a great tool for finding websites that the other search engines would not display. It also makes it one of my favourite search engines.

Mojeek

Mojeek is an independent search engine in that it uses its own database of websites. It doesn't necessarily find sites on the small web, but they are certainly different from the results obtained using Google or Bing.

Newgle

Newgle is a search engine that does not include results from .COM, .NET, and .ORG domains. This sounds like a good idea but I found Newgle disappointing. Rather than returning the results from the small web, it returned the sort of sites Google would but not those from .COM, .NET, and .ORG domains.

Searchmysite

Searchmysite is a small search engine of the small web user-submitted sites.

VHSearch

VHSearch is based on a filtered Google search to only return results from Neocities.


The Old Web

Towards the end of the 1990s and early 2000s, there were many free website hosts around including 50Megs, Angelfire, AOL Hometown, Bravepages, FortuneCity, Freeserve, Freeservers, Lycos Tripod, Neocities, Xoom, Yahoo and many more. Many involved in the small, personal, non-commercial web revival like looking through old sites out of interest, or for inspiration and material but unfortunately many of the sites were never indexed by the Internet Archive and once the servers were shut down, were deleted for ever. Some though still have copies available in some form, either on the original servers, mirrors of them, or on the Internet Archive.

Geocities.ws

Geocities.ws has attempted to archive or mirror whatever is left of the old Geocities sites. The archive can be searched using the form on their homepage and if an old site belonging to you is still there, they will enable the editing of it. The site also has an archive of FortuneCity sites.

Internet Archive

Since 1996, the Internet Archive has been collecting and saving webpages and other material. It now has 835 billion web pages that can be accessed through the Wayback Machine.

Old'aVista

Old'aVista was written by Eric Mackrodt in the style of the old AltaVista search engine which ran from 1995 to 2013. The search engine uses the Internet Archive to bring results from many of the old hosting services. Eric explains why he made the utility at Why Make This Site? and in his YouTube video.

Oocities

Oocities is another archive of old Geocities sites.

Restorativland

Restorativland is an ambitious project aiming to "excavate shut down, abandoned web ruins and restore them to surfable, visually accessible, searchable, remixable condition." The sites they are attempting to restore are AOL Hometown, Fortune City, Geocities, Geocities Japan, and Myspace Music.

The Old Net

The Old Net understands about the old web and offers a search portal to the Internet Archive as well as lists of available sites from many of the old hosting providers.

Google and Bing

Both Google and Bing can use the site: keyword to only return results from certain sites. Both also use the OR operator to allow multiple sites to be searched. The usual form of writing this is:

site:yoursite.com search-term(s)

To search multiple sites then what works for both Google and Bing is to use multiple site: keywords, separated by OR, with all of it inside parentheses, such as:

(site:site1.com OR site:site2.com OR site:site3.com) search-term(s)

For example, to search all the old web sites I know still work for the word "pokemon", I used:

(site:50megs.com OR site:tripod.com OR site:angelfire.com OR site:geocities.ws OR site:freeservers.com OR site:oocities.org OR site:oocities.com OR restorativland.org) pokemon

There are limits to how long a query to the search engines can be. I could not find any definite information but Google appears to be limited to 32 words or 2,048 characters.


Search Engine Lists

Search Engine Links

Search Engine Links is an interesting site as it attempts to list search engines and directories by country. It is not entirely successful as many of the links, whatever they were originally like, now go to news or magazine type sites but there are some interesting finds on the site. I could not find any listing for small web, non-commercial site search engines but did come across some interesting things in the Subjects section such as the Calvin & Hobbes search engine and watched a wedding live from the Elvis Wedding Chapel, Las Vegas, Nevada coutesy of Earth Cam in the Webcams sub-category.

Search engines with their own indexes

Search engines with their own indexes by Rohan "Seirdy" Kumar is a great article about little known and unusual search engines.

Wikipedia

Of course, the Wikipedia page List of search engines lists lots of them.


Audio and Image Search

FindSounds

FindSounds searches the web for audio files. It is very good at doing what it does, but makes no assertions at all about the licensing or use of the files it finds.

Openverse

Openverse searches for media in the public domain or with creative commons licesning. Even the type of CC license can be filtered.

Picryl

Picryl describes itself as "The World's Largest Public Domain Media Search Engine" and it really is good.

TinEye

TinEye is a brilliant reverse image search engine. Simply give it an image to search for and it will search through its collection of 66.8 billion images in seconds to match it. The results can be sorted in a variety of ways.


Forums and Message Boards

Boardreader

Boardreader searches forums and message boards for its results.


Program Code Search

Searchcode

Searchcode is a search engine to find code from a variety of languages on websites.


The Internet of Things

These search engines are scary, they find absolutely anything connected to the internet, even though they really should not be. One of the oldest, Shodan, was in 2013, dubbed "The scariest search engine on the Internet". This is no longer true because as the article "Still the Scariest Search Engine on the Internet?" points out, now there are many more of this type of search engine. The security blog OSINT ME lists around a dozen of them on "20+ links for IoT and webcam search engines"

If you want to create an account with Shodan, then OSINT ME lists around 100 search queries that should return interesting results.

Shodan uses an API and security researcher Samy Younsi lists three utilities make make use of the API on "3 scary tools that use Shodan search engine".


Webcam Search Engines

The security site OSINT ME provides a list of around a dozen webcam search engines.