Bringing order to Web searching

Information is good. More information is better. But when it comes to searching for information on the Internet, the outcome is often too much of a good thing. Search Google for “employment discrimination,” for example, and it returns 8.25 million results.

I have written before about Vivisimo, a search company that takes its name from the Spanish word for “clever.” It markets what it calls “clustering” software to businesses and organizations and for several years offered a free demo version on its Web site. The demo grew so popular that Vivisimo has now spun off a full-featured site dedicated to applying its clustering engine to Web searches, called Clusty.

Clusty is not a search engine, in that that it does not crawl or index the Web the way Google does. Rather, it is a software program that calls on other search engines, extracts the relevant information, and then organizes the results into a hierarchical folder structure, much like the folders in a Windows directory.

Perform the same “employment discrimination” search in Clusty, and you notice something different. While the results appear in the center of your screen much like they do in Google, to the left of the screen is a list of expandable folders with titles such as Age Discrimination, Civil Rights, Sexual Harassment, Gay Rights and Employment Discrimination Lawyer. Clusty has grouped the search results into topical folders, giving you a quick overview of the main themes and allowing you to zero in on relevant results more quickly.

There’s more that makes Clusty unique. Next to each search result are three icons that give you options for how to view the Web page. Click one, and it opens the page in a new window. Click another and it opens a preview of the page directly under the search result. Click the third and it shows you which of the topical folders contains that site.

Like Google, Clusty has tabs for searching news, images and shopping sites. Unlike other search sites, it lets you customize the tabs. Add tabs for searching blogs, Wikipedia or Slashdot.

For lawyers, Clusty’s ability to help hone in on relevant results makes it a useful tool for legal and factual research.

For another recent review of Clusty, see Building a Smarter Search Engine.