Tuesday, September 1, 2009

People Search Engines

Google may be good at many things, but people search is not one of them. For that you’ll have to use a more specialized search engine.

Going by ComScore’s December numbers, Pipl is leading in the US with 557K unique users to Spock’s 260K, but is trailing internationally with 1.35M uniques to Spock’s 2.38M. How has Pipl pulled this off? Matthew Hertz, the company CEO, tells me it’s mostly word-of-mouth. It’s a simple answer but it rings true. Just take it out for a spin and you’ll see why—it’s just good. In fact it’s so good it’ll probably scare some people’s pants off when they see what information it is able to—legally—drudge up.

It produces not only links to all of your profiles on social networks like Facebook, MySpace, and LinkedIn, blog mentions, and photos on Flickr. It finds mentions of your name in public records, including property records, SEC filings, and birth databases. It also finds e-mail addresses and summarizes “quick facts” about the person.

Unlike most search engines, Pipl crawls the Deep Web. I’ll explain. A general purpose search engine typically crawls the Web by following links to URLs found in other pages. By contrast, the Deep Web is made up of pages that no other pages link to. Dynamic pages are a good example of these sorts of pages. This means that if an engine wants to index pages located in Deep Web repositories it has to “guess” possible URLs. Just how big is the Deep Web? No one really knows but it’s generally accepted that it is vastly greater (orders of magnitude greater) than the Surface Web—the pages which are easily indexed by search engines.

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