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Will Answers.com Replace Google?

October 14, 2006

We read articles all the time about search engines that might just be the next “Google replacement.” Google owns most of the world, in case you hadn’t noticed, and some folks just aren’t happy with that. I think the word “competition” has something to do with it. We’ve already written about the growing power of Google’s competitors in another post (“Chris Sherman Predicts the Future”). Now, we’d like to introduce you to a search engine that doesn’t replace Google, but instead, “plays well with others.” It’s called Answers.com and you’ll find it at www.answers.com.

Barbara McNichol (www.barbaramcnichol.com) bugged us again for another search. Barbara’s the excellent editor and writer from Arizona who we wrote about just a few days ago in “Use Quotation Marks to Find Unique Quotes.” Her question this time was personal. You see, she’s a Canadian citizen married to a U.S. citizen and had some questions about estate planning and wills (not that she’s going anywhere soon, mind you).

Her search topic made us think of Answers.com, a web search site that supplements whatever search engine you might already be using. Because, as Answers.com says in their marketing material, “Sometimes you just want the answer.”

We’ve been having a lot of fun with this site lately – looking for the answers to “Where is Osama bin Laden?” “Can I have another cup of coffee?” and “Who is going to win the World Series?” I have to tell you that it failed miserably. Actually, Answers.com doesn’t ask you to type your question as a question (like the old AskJeeves site) and it, unfortunately, does not predict the future.

What you do is type in “Osama bin Laden,” “coffee” or “World Series” and get directly to the information you need. For coffee we got entries from the American Heritage Dictionary, the Britannica Concise Encyclopedia, the McGraw Hill Professional Technology Encyclopedia and more. Targeted, quick, trusted information.

So we told Barbara to go to Answers.com and type in a search for – living trust. Her results include definitions from Barron’s Dictionary of Business Terms, West’s Encyclopedia of American Law and Wikipedia.

But Barbara was also asking for some specific information about the difference between living trusts and wills. So, we told her to stay in Answers.com and type her search this way – living trust vs a will.

With this search she got a page of results powered by Google. Isn’t that like Coke offering you a Pepsi? What’s the world coming to? The first result was from a law reference site called legalzoom.com, which was a quick summary article about the advantages and disadvantages of living trusts and wills.

Incidentally, we mentioned that Answers.com plays well with others – and indeed, they’ve just announced a cooperative effort with the New York Times. One of the cool things is that now whenever you are reading any New York Times article online, you can Alt-Click a word (I tried “Sam Nunn”) and it will take you to an Answers.com page for that word, topic, person or place. Told you it plays well with others. (Nunn, by the way, now heads the Nuclear Threat Initiative after a distinguished Senate career).

Answers.com also partners with Google in another way that you may not have noticed. Do any Google search and Answers.com provides the definition at the top of the page. Try this: type a search for – fiduciary – into Google. Up near the top of the page you will see “Results 1-10 of 16,100,000 (or some equally ridiculous number).” Next to that you will see the word, “definition” and it will be underlined. Click on “definition” and you will go directly to Answers.com.

Answers.com claims they are “the world’s greatest encyclodictionalmanacapedia.” We just call them a great way to get specific and trusted information more quickly than you can from Google. Will it replace Google? Nope. But it sure comes in handy at times. Because sometimes you really do just want the answer.

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