The Event for Search Engine Marketing & Optimization

Search Engine Watch

2002 Search Engine Watch Awards

By Danny Sullivan, Editor, Jan. 28, 2003

The Search Engine Watch Awards recognize outstanding achievements in web searching. The winners for accomplishments during 2002 are below:

Outstanding Search Service
Winner: Google
Second Place: AllTheWeb

Best Meta Search Engine
Winner: Vivisimo & Copernic
Honorable Mentions:
Ez2www, Kartoo & SurfWax

Best News Search Engine
Winner: Google News
Second Place: Yahoo News
Honorable Mentions:
AllTheWeb News, AltaVista News & Daypop

Best Image Search Engine
Winner: Google Images
Second Place:
AllTheWeb Images & AltaVista Images

Best Shopping Search Engine
Yahoo Shopping & DealTime
Honorable Mentions:
mySimon, PriceGrabber,

Best Design
Winner: Google
Second Place: AllTheWeb
Honorable Mention: Teoma

Most Webmaster Friendly Search Engine
Winner: Google
Second Place: AllTheWeb & Yahoo
Honorable Mention: MSN

Best Paid Placement Service
Winners: Google AdWords & Overture
Honorable Mention
: FindWhat

Best European Paid Placement Service
Winners: Espotting & Google 
Second Place: Overture

Best Paid Inclusion Service
Winners: Inktomi & Fast
Second Place: Yahoo Express

Best Search Feature
Google Spell Checking
Second Place:
AllTheWeb Page Customization
Honorable Mentions:
Google Dictionary Links & AllTheWeb Skins

Best Specialty Search Engine
Winners: Scirus & Google Groups
Second Place: Internet Archive
Honorable Mentions: 
The Internet Movie Database
Singingfish Audio Video Search

Special Recognition

How The Winners Were Selected

In January 2003, Search Engine Watch members were invited to nominate search engines in various categories for the Search Engine Watch awards. Winners of the nomination round were then voted on by readers of Search Engine Watch's various newsletters. An example of the voting form can be found here.

The votes and suggestions were used by Search Engine Watch editor Danny Sullivan and associate editor Chris Sherman in making the final decisions about award winners. More details are below about each of the award categories and winners.

Please note that in most categories, people were allowed to name both a "winner" and a second place "runner-up." In the summary below, we'll often refer to how the voting went for the "winner" of a category versus the "second place" vote.

Yes, we know, it makes things confusing. However, we also found that by letting people make two choices, it was easier to see the strength of some second-tier services that might otherwise have been drowned out.

Outstanding Search Service

This category recognizes outstanding performance in helping Internet users locate general information from across the World Wide Web.

Winner: Google

It's a hat trick for Google, as it wins this category for the third year in a row. It was the clear choice in the popular voting, winning 65 percent of the 556 valid votes received for a winner in this category. Search Engine Watch's editors also agreed with the voting. Google stands out again in our view as the top choice for Outstanding Search Service.

Interestingly, new features and advances were not a factor in Google's win this time. Unlike 2001, Google actually made few changes in 2002 to its default web search, beyond continued expansion of its index and increasing the freshness of its listings. Instead, Google wins for its dependability in providing excellent search results, which is the most important feature of all.

Many of the comments received through voting attest to Google's consistency being a factor in its popularity:

  • Google - because it always has an answer.
  • Google is consistently good, and for some reason I trust it.
  • I enjoy the ease of use of Google's search results. I also enjoy the quality of the search of Google. I prefer Google because I know what I need is in there
  • Still the most relevant matches and fastest response times.
  • Fast, clean and always comes up with the right stuff. If Google doesn't know about it, it doesn't tangibly exist.
  • Google is part of my life.

It's no wonder that throughout 2002, reports of people using "google" as a synonym for "search" continued to roll in. The American Dialect Society even recently named "google" second place for 2002 "Word Of The Year," and it was the unanimous choice of the society for the "Most Useful Word" for 2002.

Xeroxing a copy; Rollerblading down the street; FedExing a package -- all are examples where companies providing excellent products and services have seen their names transformed by the public into ways of describing those products and services, regardless of the actual manufacturer.

While such transformations give trademark lawyers at those companies fits, they also remain the highest compliment that consumers can give to products. The transformation of Google's name underscores the excellence in search that the company has consistently provided since it began.

Second Place: AllTheWeb (FAST)

While Google was the clear choice to win the category of Outstanding Search Service for 2002, FAST's AllTheWeb site was a close second, in the minds of Search Engine Watch's editors. The service continued to improve its relevancy and coverage of the web in 2002. In addition, it offers some features that we especially like.

In particular, we especially enjoy AllTheWeb's Query Rewriting, which automatically detects common phrases and transforms your query to look for them rather than individual words. It's easy to override this action, if you choose -- but more likely than not, you'll like query rewriting working quietly behind the scenes.

Query rewriting, when it occurs, is shown on the right-hand of AllTheWeb's search results page under the heading "About Your Query." In the same area appears another feature we like, "Related Queries," which suggests searches that may be related to your original request.

Related query functionality can be a great way for AllTheWeb users to better locate what they seek. Indeed, every major search engine but Google offers such a feature, so this stands out as a feature Google ought to be considering.

The right-hand side of AllTheWeb's search results page is very busy working for you in other ways. Search for "madonna," for example, and you'll be told that multimedia search results such as videos and images are also available.

Finally, AllTheWeb's Page Customization feature lets you control your experience on the search engine to a greater degree than any other rival. In fact, you can even skin AllTheWeb to have a look and feel that you like.

We stopped short of letting tie with Google to win the Outstanding Search Service category this year primary because it hadn't bundled great features, relevancy, freshness and comprehensiveness throughout the entirety of 2002, in the way Google had. However, if Google and AllTheWeb both stay on course, then it may be dead heat in 2003.

In the popular voting, AllTheWeb had the second highest number of votes for a "winner" in this category after Google, 13 percent. In addition to letting voters select a "winning" search engine, we also allowed them to explicitly choose a "second place" search engine. AllTheWeb was the top choice here, picking up 35 percent of the 295 non-Google votes for a second-place winner (what's non-Google vote mean? See note below.). Some comments from voters include:

  • Google still rules, but the runner up [AllTheWeb] is gaining.
  • Best interface...easiest to use
  • Big, fresh, variety of options and better relevance than Google
  • Both Teoma and AllTheWeb have created fantastic systems and deserve some recognition.

Other Notable Results

As mentioned, we allowed people to vote for both a "winner" and a "second place" search engine in this category. Essentially, this let people indicate which search engine they use as a "first choice" and a "second choice," for when their first choice lets them down. Here's a summary of those votes, for all the finalists:

"Winner" or First Choice Search Engine Vote

Google 65%
AllTheWeb 13%
Teoma 7%
Yahoo 7%
AltaVista 6%
MSN 1%
Lycos 1%

"Second Place" or Second Choice Search Engine Vote

AllTheWeb 29%*
Yahoo 19%
Google 19%
AltaVista 13%
Lycos 8%
Teoma 8%
MSN 5%

How to use this information? We think that both Google and AllTheWeb are excellent search options that you'd consider for your first choice. However, if either lets you down, try one of the other search engines that polled highly as a first or second choice option. You might be pleasantly surprised at the quality of results.

* We hear you saying, "But you said AllTheWeb had 35 percent of the second place vote. Yes, when all votes for Google as a second place search engine were removed. In other words, there were 362 total votes for a second place search engine. Google had 67 of these. If you remove them -- which we did since Google won first place -- then AllTheWeb had 35 percent of the remaining 295 votes. However, we have kept Google in the chart above, so you can see where it stood as a second place choice in perspective to the others.

Best Meta Search Engine

This category recognizes outstanding performance in helping Internet users "meta search" or gather results from many web search engines by using one single service. For examples, see the Metacrawlers area within Search Engine Watch.

Winners: Vivisimo & Copernic

Vivisimo was our meta search winner last year, and once again, we think its best in its class for 2002. It queries many major search engines, provides autocategorization of results (which won an honorable mention as Best Search Feature last year) and provides results in an easy-to-view format that nonetheless provides non-intrusive access to those who want its advanced features. 

We like the addition of options to open results in a new window or especially to "preview" a page by having it appear embedded within the search results list. Finally, we are heartened to see that although Vivisimo now carries paid listings, when performing a default web search, it segregates these from the editorial results it gathers from other search engines and clearly labels them (this fails to happen when doing an advanced search, a problem we suspect is an oversight and that we hope will soon be rectified).

A new winner this year is Copernic, popular meta search software that runs on your computer desktop, either as a standalone application or within your browser. It provides all the benefits of a good meta search engine with the additional features of allowing search result sorting, link verification, saving searches and more. Both free and paid versions of the software are offered.

Possible Winners Lose For Poor Disclosure Of Paid Listings

In the popular voting, Vivisimo gained 11 percent of 358 votes for winner of this category, placing it third, while Copernic gained 10 percent and was placed fourth.

Why didn't first ranked Infospace-owned Dogpile, with 18 percent of the vote, win? Popular voting is used as one factor in the final selection made by Search Engine Watch's editors, but it is not the only factor.

We decided that Dogpile (and some other meta search engines) would be ineligible to win because we feel they do a poor job of delineating and disclosing paid listings from editorial matches.

Say you do a search for "cars" at Dogpile. The top of the page will have five paid listings from Overture, and while these are labeled as being from Overture, a searcher unfamiliar with Overture won't realize that they are paid listings. The next ten results, "Dogpile Picks," are really what appear to be an undisclosed mixture of paid listings from Google and Overture. Next comes ten editorial links from Google, followed by more undisclosed paid listings from FindWhat and LookSmart. This means of the 35 major links on the page, 25 of them or 71 percent are paid.

Failure to delineate and disclose paid listings goes against US Federal Trade Commission recommendations issued to search engines last year. Major search engines formerly not in compliance quickly made changes once the recommendations were issued. Sadly, many meta search engines have not.

Dogpile might contend that it provides disclosure via the "About Results" page, which can be reached from links at the bottom of its home and search results pages. However, when it comes to paid listings, the FTC is very clear that disclosure should be made on the search results page itself.

Along with ruling out Dogpile, we also ruled out possible awards for the other Infospace-owned meta search engines: MetaCrawler (which earned 7 percent of the winner vote), Excite (6 percent of the vote) and WebCrawler (6 percent of the vote).

Infospace was not the only company affected by our decision, which is the same as we made last year. Past Search Engine Watch award winner Ixquick (8 percent of the vote) was ruled out, as was Mamma (3 percent of the vote).

It's important to stress that there is nothing wrong with paid listings. Indeed, paid listings can even in the right instance be more relevant than unpaid editorial results. However, we feel there is a consumer interest in clearly disclosing when listings are paid.

Honorable Mentions:
Ez2www, Kartoo & SurfWax

We didn't believe that any other meta search services stood out enough to receive a second place award, but there were three services that we felt deserved honorable mention recognition. Here's a rundown on all of those we awarded honorable mention status to.

Ez2www gained only 2 percent of the winner vote, but it deserves a closer look by many. It hits many of the major search engines, provides access to invisible web information, has topical clustered results links, page preview options and other features. Sponsored links also appear to be separated and clearly labeled. This is definitely a service to try and watch.

Kartoo provides a graphical look at meta search results, eschewing the traditional list format to instead map your matches via colorful balls and visual word links. It's definitely not for a mass audience and drew only 3 percent of the winner vote. Most will probably be confused by it, but a few may love the interface. We felt it deserved an honorable mention this year.

SurfWax gained the second highest number of "winner" votes, 15 percent of them, a high turnout helped by what were clearly loyal users lending the service their support by voting.

These users were especially enamored with a variety of unique features that SurfWax provides, and we'd encourage you to learn more about them by visiting SurfWax or reading this past SearchDay review of SurfWax

We feel the service may be too complicated for the typical user. We also think the mixture of search engines isn't tightly focused enough on web search, with matches from specialty sites such as SearchEdu and CNN blended in with Yahoo, MSN and other general search engine listings. For these reasons, we recognize SurfWax with an honorable mention rather than a second place award.

Also Consider

The services below didn't earn an honorable mention, but you may wish to try them, as well:

HotBot under went a major change in mid-December 2002, allowing access to four of the web's major crawlers. Since the change happened so late in the year, we didn't feel the service was eligible as a finalist in any Search Engine Watch awards categories. It's also not quite a meta crawler, in that you can't search all four of the crawlers at once. That's certainly a feature we hope will come. In the meantime, the site is well worth trying.

Fazzle provides a variety of sorting options, ability to email results, has an option to preview matches and other features. The service is a bit heavy on paid listings, which are mixed in with editorial results rather than being segregated. They are, however, noted as "sponsored" in most cases. deserves a close look by those who like Dogpile-style meta search results, where instead of listings being mixed together, results from each search engine are appended one right after the other. The service does not currently carry paid listings.

qbSearch is a past honorable mention winner which provides Dogpile-style results. At least one paid listing search engine is queried by default, but you can easily select or deselect the engines you want. However, we did find that support for some search engines was intermittent or not working at all.

Turbo10 provides results clustering and access to invisible web resources, but it is lean on the general search side, only querying three major search engines.

ProFusion is another meta search site that provides access to invisible web information. For instance, try a search on "anthrax," and when the results page loads, you'll see options to "Find results in: Headline News, Health Discussions, Health News, Health Publications, Health Tips, Medical Terms" appearing right under the search box. Click on them to meta search against different specialty resources. Unfortunately, the service doesn't hit many different general search engines by default, and paid listings are mixed in with regular results and not disclosed.

Best News Search Engine

This category recognizes outstanding performance in helping Internet users locate news from across the web. For examples, see the News Search Engines area within Search Engine Watch.

Winner: Google News  

Google News underwent a major upgrade this year, providing the ability to keyword search across an expanded range of news content, as well as the ability to browse headlines generated through an automated process. The combination was a big hit with our readers. Google News won 41 percent of the 409 votes for a winner in this category. We agree -- Google News is a winner.

Second Place: Yahoo News

Last year's winner Yahoo slips to second place because its keyword search facility doesn't cover the range of content that Google News provides. Yahoo's editors still work wonders when it comes to custom headline browsing, however. Yahoo News was second to Google in votes for category winner, polling 24 percent. In the vote for a second place winner, Yahoo was the top choice, getting 50 percent of the 158 non-Google votes.

Honorable Mentions:
AllTheWeb News, AltaVista News & Daypop

AllTheWeb News polled well with readers, coming in third behind Google and Yahoo with 19 percent of the "winner" vote and next behind Yahoo with 16 percent of the "second place" vote. It's well worth visiting for keyword-based news searching if Google News lets you down and worthy of an honorable mention this year. One hope for 2003. We'd like to see AllTheWeb provide a dedicated address for its news search service similar to what others do, such as

AltaVista News was fourth in the voting for a winner, gaining 10 percent. However, this was far above all the other remaining finalists. AltaVista News also was just behind AllTheWeb in the second place vote, getting 15 percent. We think it remains a quality news search site and also well deserving of an honorable mention.

AltaVista's news search service is backed by Moreover, a past Search Engine Watch award winner  and the service that we use for news headlines sent out via our free SearchDay newsletter. Some voters asked why Moreover wasn't included among the finalists. The answer is simple. Moreover these days is firmly in the business of providing news search solutions to enterprise and portal partners, rather than providing a consumer-facing news search site.

Daypop, an honorable mention winner last year, once again is recognized this way. The service is especially known and loved for its strong weblog support. In the second place voting, Daypop was fourth, with 12 percent of the vote.

Best Image Search Engine

This category recognizes outstanding performance in helping Internet users locate images from across the web.

Winner: Google Images

Last year's winner Google again takes the
award in 2002. In this category, we relied
strongly on reader opinion, and Google was
the clear leader. Google Images gained 60
percent of the 391 votes received
for winner of this category.

Second Place:
AllTheWeb Images & AltaVista Images

When we asked people who should be the winner for this category, AllTheWeb was the choice behind Google, gaining 20 percent of the "winner" vote. AltaVista came third, with 16 percent of the vote.

Things were reversed when we explicitly asked people who should win second place. In that voting, AltaVista got 44 percent of the 122 valid, non-Google "second place" votes, followed by AllTheWeb with 37 percent of the vote.

Got your head spinning? Us to. Depending on how you slice it, both services can be seen as second place winners. Both are excellent alternatives to Google for your image searching needs, so we decided both were entitled to win second place in this category.

Best Shopping Search Engine

This category recognizes outstanding performance in helping Internet users shop for products from across the web.

Winners: Yahoo Shopping & DealTime

In the popular voting, Yahoo Shopping was the top choice, gaining 37 percent of the 272 "winner" votes for this category and well above the other finalists. Based on the strength of this turnout, we chose it as a winner for 2002.

Yahoo Shopping, however, doesn't include products and services from merchants that it does not have a financial agreement with. Because of this, we also wanted to recognize a shopping service that does take in feeds regardless of financial arrangements.

The service we selected as a joint winner is DealTime, which does include both paid and unpaid content. It was second in the winner voting behind Yahoo, gaining 27 percent of the vote. We also think it's a top choice for anyone wishing to perform shopping search, and it's described more fully in this recent SearchDay review.

Honorable Mentions:
mySimon, PriceGrabber,

We didn't feel that any of the other shopping search
finalists received enough votes to make them
second place winners in this category. However,
we did feel several of them did deserve 
honorable mentions

mySimon is one of the original shopping search engines and attracted loyalty in our poll, coming in third for the "winner" vote with 12 percent. In the voting for a second place shopping search engine, it gained the most of the 61 non-Yahoo, non-DealTime votes, 34 percent.

PriceGrabber was another strong alternative choice, gaining 11 percent of the votes for a "winner" in this category, just behind mySimon. It also gained 18 percent of the second place votes. polled only fifth in the votes for a category winner, gaining 9 percent of the vote. However, as a second choice pick, it was right behind mySimon, with 31 percent of the second place votes.

What About Google's Froogle?

Several people asked why the new Google shopping search engine, Froogle, wasn't one of the finalist choices. As was the case stated earlier for HotBot, we felt the late launch date of Froogle -- just two weeks before the year ended -- didn't make it eligible to receive an award for 2002. We're certain that next year, Froogle will be a strong contender. To learn more about the service, see this recent SearchDay review of Froogle.

Best Design

This category recognizes the web-wide search engine deemed to have the most pleasing design.

Winner: Google

Last year's winner Google should remain secure that its simplistic design works. It was again a hit in our polling, with Google getting 48 percent of the 471 votes received for a winner in this category. Several comments praised Google's "clean and simple" look. Going with our readers, Google is again named the winner for Best Design.

Interestingly, Google's Spartan layout originally came out of cofounder Sergey Brin's inability to do complicated HTML. He went with a simple design because it was easy to make and provided the basics of what users needed. Google's design skills have grown since its early days, but keeping the design to the usable essentials remains a priority, as covered more in this recent SearchDay article.

Second Place: AllTheWeb

In voting for a winner of this category, AllTheWeb came second to Google, with 17 percent of the vote and was well above the remaining finalists. When we asked people for an explicit second place winner, AllTheWeb was on top, gaining 23 percent of the 204 non-Google votes. Based on reader votes, AllTheWeb wins for second place.

Honorable Mention: Teoma

Teoma emerged from "beta" in 2002 with a new look that had slight evolutions to make it even cleaner as the year progressed. The changes gained favor with our readers. In voting for a second place winner, Teoma came in just behind AllTheWeb, with 20 percent of the vote. We felt this showing deserved an honorable mention.

Other Notable Results

Yahoo, AltaVista and Ask Jeeves all had changes made to their look and feels in 2002 that seem to have registered with readers. Yahoo followed Teoma in the voting for second place, gaining 16 percent; AltaVista came next with 14 percent and Ask Jeeves, 12 percent.

Most Webmaster Friendly Search Engine

The idea behind this category is to allow readers to vote for the search engine that they felt sent them the most traffic. In particular, the category is meant to recognize the search engine sending the most "free" traffic to webmasters, especially without them having to spend massive amounts of time on optimization efforts.

Winner: Google

As was the case last year, Google was again the top choice of our readers, and we go with them in making it the winner for this category. Google gained 58 percent of the 297 votes in this category. 

Google's strong showing is even more impressive for a year where some concerns about getting listed with Google were raised. While there are indeed listing issues that Google may wish to address, the search engine clearly is doing well by many, many web site owners. Some comments from the voting:

  • After my personal site went up, it was up on Google in a week.
  • By a mile! The other search engines added together don't send as much traffic as Google does.
  • Good Content = Good Placement - it is that simple
  • Google indexed my site the same week
  • When I make a new page, Google has it in its search results in only a few days. Much faster than anybody else.

Second Place: AllTheWeb & Yahoo

AllTheWeb came in second behind Google for voting on a winner for this category, gaining 19 percent. However, it was Yahoo that polled the best when we explicitly asked who should receive the second place award, gaining 32 percent of the 141 non-Google votes. We've decided that both deserve to win second place, based on these votes.

Comments suggest that webmasters like Yahoo both because of the traffic it can send and perhaps because the switch in October 2002 to using Google's results makes it easier for sites to gain traffic via Yahoo:

  • Yahoo generates a good amount of traffic.
  • One of my pages is in the Yahoo directory, which causes huge traffic
  • Yahoo only gets my vote for runner up because they use Google results.

As for AllTheWeb, comments didn't reveal why site owners liked it. We suspect that this is probably due to AllTheWeb having increased its coverage of the web in 2002, which means more web pages were included in its listings.

Honorable Mention: MSN

MSN was just behind Yahoo in the voting for second place in this category, getting 26 percent of the vote. We felt it warranted an honorable mention. We suspect MSN's good showing is due to the amount of traffic the service can send to a site, as one comment indicated: "We get a large number of leads from MSN, almost neck and neck with Google."

Best Paid Placement Service

This category recognizes the best paid program providing guaranteed placement in search engine results.

Winners: Google AdWords & Overture

Google's AdWords program and Overture are excellent ways for search engine marketers to obtain traffic. Both have extensive networks with great reach. Both have unique features that endear them to advertisers, as well as have features that some advertisers hate. 

So in awarding a winner in this category, we'd really look strongly at voting to make our choice. That voting favors Google, which gained 52 percent of the 199 "winner" votes, compared to Overture's 41 percent.

Despite the gap, we feel Overture deserves to win, as well. The main reason is that the gap is so small -- only 22 votes between them -- that we aren't confident enough to name Google the sole winner.

In contrast, Google's wins other categories has been far more dramatic -- a 288 vote lead for Outstanding Search Service, a 70 vote lead for Best News Search, a 156 vote lead for Best Image Search and a 147 vote lead for Best Design, for example.

So, both companies -- which are fiercely competitive in this space -- win for 2002. For Overture, it's a repeat win, having won last year when this category was added for the first time. For Google, it's a sign that its cost-per-click program has gained wide acceptance. Last year, Google was a distance second behind Overture in the popular voting. This year, it pulled ahead.

Honorable Mention: FindWhat

This category was fought by three finalists. For reasons explained above, we felt two of them deserved to share first place. That didn't mean we felt FindWhat, the remaining finalist, should automatically get second place. Instead, FindWhat polled far behind the two leaders, so we thought it only merited honorable mention status.

In the voting for a winner, FindWhat gained only 7 percent of the vote. In the voting for the second place award, it did better, with 25 percent of the 111 total votes received. However, that was behind the 42 percent that Google received and the 41 percent that Overture had.

While not our second place winner, FindWhat is an important alternative to Google and Overture and certainly should be considered by any advertiser. It can be especially helpful as an inexpensive way to gain traffic via its many meta search partners.

Best European Paid Placement Service

This category recognizes the best paid program providing guaranteed placement in search engine results in Europe.

Winners: Espotting & Google AdWords 

In this category, both Espotting and Google AdWords share victory as winners. Espotting had a slight edge in the popular vote, pulling 40 percent of the 131 votes cast. However, Google was barely behind with 35 percent of the votes -- just a 7 vote margin. It was so close that we felt both deserved to win.

Espotting has an network that covers placing its paid listings on search engines in many countries in Europe, including various Yahoo web sites. As for Google, it operates a variety of its own sites that target different countries and makes it exceedingly easy to target ads by country or language. Both are excellent choices for advertisers to consider, who are interested in Europe.

Second Place: Overture

In the voting for a winner of this category, Overture was third ranked, getting 24 percent of the vote. When we asked people to pick a second place search engine, it came out on top, with 40 percent of the 70 second place votes received. Given this, we feel a second place award is well deserved.

Indeed, while Overture gains a second place, it remains one of the top choices for any advertiser targeting the three European countries it services: the UK, France and Germany.

Best Paid Inclusion Service

This category recognizes the best paid program providing inclusion in a search engine's listings. Unlike paid placement, inclusion typically does not guarantee placement. Nevertheless, it can be a valuable way for site owners to increase the representation of their sites in listings and gain traffic.

Winners: Inktomi & FAST

As was the case for Best Paid Placement Service, the voting was very close here -- so close that we decided to have joint winners, based on what our readers said. Inktomi polled slightly higher, with 34 percent of the 198 "winner" votes received. FAST gained 27 percent of the vote -- only 15 total votes behind Inktomi.

Second Place: Yahoo Express

In the voting for a winner of this category, Yahoo was third ranked, getting 19 percent of the vote. When we asked people to pick a second place program, it came out on top, with 44 percent of the 50 second place non-Inktomi and non-FAST votes. Given this, we feel a second place award is deserved.

Best Search Feature

This category recognizes the best feature offered by a search engine to help users locate information. Several features top ranked in the nomination round were listed on the voting form, but voters could also "write-in" a feature they liked.

Winner: Google Spell Checking

Google has an uncanny knack of knowing when you've typed something incorrectly and offering to change your spelling. We love Google's spelling checking and our readers agree -- it gained 23 percent of the 339 votes received in this category. 

There's only one thing we don't like about the feature. If you spell something wrong, and if Google also sees that it has no matches for your incorrectly spelled word, then it will automatically correct your spelling and generate a new search results page. (Click here to see this in action -- a new window will open).

For the vast majority of searchers, this is great behavior. Google even tells you on the final search results page what it did automatically. However, more advanced users may find that this takes control away from them. Certainly we dislike it, and we've heard from other advanced users that they don't like it as well. C'mon, Google, give an option to disable this automatic correction, for those who dislike it!

Second Place:
AllTheWeb Page Customization

AllTheWeb allows its site to be customized in a way unmatched by any other search engine. Given that people spend so much time searching, it's surprising that other search engines don't offer so much control. 

Go on -- decide whether you want 100 results per page; whether search terms should be highlighted in the results; whether results should open in a new window when you click on them; whether you want AllTheWeb to automatically rewrite your queries; if you want to "uncollapse" listings from a particular web site; if you want search tips shown, if you'd like 2, 4, 6, 8 or 10 news headlines displayed above your ordinary web search listings; your preferred language choices and even how you'd like the service "skinned."

In the voting, AllTheWeb's page customization came in third, with 10 percent of the vote. However, we're giving it a second place award, because we think the second place feature -- AltaVista Prisma with 12 percent of the vote -- isn't conceptually that different from other "related search" options out there.

Don't get us wrong -- AltaVista's Prisma is a great feature to help you narrow in on what you are looking for. Behind the scenes, Prisma uses unique page analysis technology to help generate the links it displays, as explained more in this SearchDay review. However, Teoma uses unique link analysis technology to generate its "Refine" selections, while Lycos monitors clicks to generate the related search links it shows under the search box on its search results pages.

Different methods -- but the concept of showing users options to let them refine queries look and works very similarly at all three.

Honorable Mentions:
Google Dictionary Links
AllTheWeb Skins

After AllTheWeb's page customization feature, Google Dictionary Links & AllTheWeb Skins tied, both getting 9 percent of the vote. Both deserve honorable mentions.

Google's dictionary links are overlooked by many, but once you realize how they work, you'll find yourself using them all the time to look up words. Of course, you could get the same functionality by going directly to, but integrating word links into its search results page was a simple and effective feature for Google to do.

AllTheWeb's skinning feature is to some degree a subset of its page customization options. However, it is also a standalone feature that's easy to use.

Skim the skin gallery and pick out a look that you like, from Medieval Manuscript to Denim to I'm Feeling Lucky, a skin that AllTheWeb cheerfully admits will leave it looking "similar to a search engine based in Mountain View, CA." Funny, we know a search engine based in Mountain View that just won the Best Design award.

On a personal note, Danny wonders when someone will come up with a Star Trek LCARS skin. OK, so you've got to be a fan.

Other Notable Results

During the nomination round, the Google Toolbar & Google Cached Links were top choices to go forward into the finals. The features are great, but they both won in this category last year and haven't changed. We held them back so that other features could be recognized.

Other features worth mentioning include Vivisimo Autocategorization, an honorable mention last year and which gained 8 percent of the vote this year. AllTheWeb Query Rewriting pulled 7 percent of this year's vote, while SurfWax SiteSnaps gained five percent. Wisenut Sneak-A-Peek got 4 percent of the vote, while SurfWax InfoCubby and Lycos Fast Forward tied with 3 percent.

Best Specialty Search Engine

This category recognizes the best search engine providing results in a particular topical area. No actual search engines were listed on the voting form. Instead, voters were asked to "write-in" a search engine they liked and comment about why it was good.

Winners: Scirus & Google Groups

Last year's winner Scirus, a science search engine, was the top choice in the voting, getting 34 percent of the 118 write-in votes cast. We still think its an excellent example of a specialty search engine, one that we regularly hear advanced searchers at conferences referencing. For this, it wins this category for a second year in a row.

Following Scirus in the voting was Google Groups, with 8 percent of the votes and last year's honorable mention winner. This year, we think it deserves to share the winner award with Scirus. It continues to be a great resource, especially for finding answers to general questions.

Second Place: Internet Archive

Also known as the Wayback Machine, the Internet Archive has become one of those indispensable resources. Need to see what a web page looked like years ago? Often the Internet Archive will have a copy for you, free of charge. In a way, it's a search engine of the web's past history, and it's one we are grateful to have with us.

Honorable Mentions:
FindLaw, The Internet Movie Database,
Singingfish Audio Video Search &

FindLaw is a Hall of Fame winner from 2000, but we felt it deserved continued recognition through an honorable mention as a great resource for those seeking legal data.

The Internet Movie Database is a long-standing and wonderful site for when you need any movie-related information. If you've somehow never heard of it before, we hope this honorable mention helps bring it to your attention.

Singingfish is an unrivaled site for those seeking streaming audio or video files from across the web and extremely useful to those seeking this type of content. provides access to an archive of articles from over 300 magazines stretching back to 1998. It's another gem of a specialty search resource that you'll want in your bookmark list.

Special Recognition


For two years, we've given out Hall Of Fame awards. This year, we forgo those and instead give a special recognition award to The forum site has developed into an essential resource for those really "in" to search engines. Slashdot may be where geeks talk tech, but search engine geeks flock to WebmasterWorld to confer.

The community of hundreds is constantly watching for the smallest changes with search engines. Unannounced features and beta tests, obscure news stories, real world experiences -- all gets shared. In addition, reps from search engines themselves also post to the discussions.

There are only two downsides to the site. It can be easy for new people to get overwhelmed with information. It can also be difficult to know what to believe. As with any forum, opinions can and will be posted as facts. Read with care, but by all means do read.


Thanks to all those who voted, especially to those who took the time to leave detailed comments. We did read through them all.

Thanks also to Jupitermedia staffers Aytekin Tank for help with our polling script, Robert Cooper for help in processing the data and to Kevin Lane for getting the 2002 logos together when asked at the very last minute.

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