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Meta Search Engines

Last updated Apr. 04, 2006.
by Greg R. Notess

Multiple Search Engines, Meta Search Engines, or Metacrawlers?

Whatever you call them, meta search engines query several other Web search engine databases in parallel and then combine the results in one list. Because they do not need to create their own databases, there are many meta search engines out there. Several of the best known are listed below.

There are many variations of the meta search approach:

  • Desktop meta search engines (or Search Utilities) areclient programs that are downloaded and then installed on your computer to use for meta-searching and post-processing of results
  • All-in-one search pages provide quick access to many search engines either with simple links or via search boxes
  • Hidden Web Meta Search Engines are specialized meta search engines that aim to search databases that other search engines miss. One example is Turbo10.

Note the Problems with using multiple search engines before relying on their results.

Meta-Search Engine Owner Primary Web
Special Features
Vivisimo Vivisimo Ask, MSN, Gigablast, Looksmart, Open Directory, Wisenut Google Clusters results
Clusty Vivisimo Ask, MSN, Gigablast, Looksmart, Open Directory, Wisenut Google Clusters results
Ixquick Surfboard Holding, BV AltaVista, EntireWeb, Gigablast, Go, Looksmart,Netscape, Open Directory,Wisenut, Yahoo Yahoo
Dogpile InfoSpace Ask, Google, MSN, Yahoo!, Teoma, Open Directory, more Google, Yahoo All top 4 engines
Mamma Mamma Media Solutions About, Ask,, EntireWeb, Gigablast, Open Directory,Wisenut Miva, Ask
Refine options
Kartoo AlltheWeb, AltaVista, EntireWeb, Exalead, Hotbot, Looksmart, Lycos, MSN, Open Directory, Teoma, ToileQuebec, Voila, Wisenut, Yahoo ?? Visual results display

Problems: These multiple search engines are a commendable effort; however, the problems still outweigh their benefits. All have significant limitations as a comprehensive search tool. They are subject to time outs, when search processing takes too long. Since most only retrieve the top 10-50 hits from each search engine, the total number of hits retrieved may be considerably less than found by doing a direct search on one of the search engines. Advanced search features on individual search engines are not usually available. Phrase and Boolean searching may not be properly processed or available. Often they exclude one of the major databases such as Google or Ask.

See several of my old columns in ONLINE for more information:

Defunct Meta-Search Engines

  • C4 (formerly Cyber 411). Defunct as of Dec. 2002.
  • Inference Find. Defunct as of March 2001.
  • MetaFind. (Merged with MetaCrawler around Jan. 2000.)
  • SavvySearch (Bought by c|net's in 1999; technology still used there.)

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