Oct 08

Can Meta Search Engines Gain A Substantial Foothold In The Search Engine Arena

Most meta-search engines use similar technology and there are few differences from one to the next. Infospace, the company that currently owns some of the largest and most comprehensive meta-searches, operates four separate meta-search engines that are basically the same with only small differences in their technology.

Infospace and its related Meta searches take up around 1% of the search market, and bring in over $250 million in market revenue as of 2005 (Yahoo! Finance). There are numerous, tiny little start-ups and individuals bidding for the remaining search traffic.

Despite the competition, there are several small meta-search engines that make a large profit, like mamma.com: According to Yahoo! Finance, Mamma receives less than .1% of the searches, yet maintains a current market value of about $30 million dollars. Even a small meta-search engine like Juxt2.com, which was down for a year and operating totally illegally (scraping content from Yahoo! and Google without permission), when it was running, sold for over $100k on eBay. Thus the Meta search engine market is ripe for people to enter and exit.

The search engines do not generally view meta-searches as competition. This is seen in their partnership agreements with many smaler meta-search engines like mamma.com, metacrawler.com and donkeydo.com.

But before the meta-search engines can operate, they first require the consent of the search engine from which they want to get their information. It is common knowledge that having legal permission to meta-search the major search engines and directories is important enough to have market value all by itself.

Here are a couple examples of meta-search engines that required only a minimal commitment of time and energy:

Myriad Pro meta-search is a completely free meta-search engine programmed by an S.E.O. consultant in twenty hours by his own estimates (the source will be released as open source very soon), Myriad Pro search has several advanced features not even found in commercial Meta search engines.

As a result, Myriad maxes out every day with the number of allowed searches for a non-commercial search and is in the process of being mirrored all over the world as a free meta-search engine.

Helios is a powerful meta-search engine script that has the ability to plug in to multiple information sources (search engines, directories, etc.). It was designed in under a year by a computer science academic. It works extremely well and the entire code is open source, meaning anyone can take it and build commercial applications on it.

Relatively easy to program and requiring a minimal commitment compared to the regular search engines, perhaps meta- search engines have a chance in an online arena increasingly populated by users who want a more targeted search engine experience without the bias of any of the major search engines.

Do I think they’ll ever gain a major piece of the search engine pie? Alas, I don’t, but I wish them the best of luck.


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