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WebFetchPro UK Metasearch

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WebFetch Pro is a multi/meta search engine creted by InfoSpace and it promises to give you the 'best search results available on the Web'. It attempts to do this by combining the results of the leading search engines (such as Google, Yahoo, Ask MSN and specialised engines for other options) and displaying them for you. It offers tabbed searching for the Web, Images, Audio, Video, News, Business Finder and People Finder, with an option for limiting results to the UK or running an international search.

There is a UK bias to the resource, and the last two options mentioned, Business and People Finder use the Thomson and BT directories respectively. As a result this may affect its international use, but equally increase its appeal for the British market.

The interface is clear, and does what it should do. The results can be displayed by relevance or by search engine, though if the latter is chosen the first 'results' are advertisements from Yahoo and Google - it's necessary to scroll down the page some way to get to the organic results. There is an option on the right hand side 'Are you looking for?' to allow users to focus their searches a little more. Results can be previewed on the results page, more pages can be returned from the site or the user can run the search from one of the engines listed which originally found it.

Exactly what you would expect from a multi or meta search engine, although it was disappointing not to see options for searching blogs, or saving RSS feeds, but perhaps that's being greedy.

However, after having played with the search engine for some time I did feel unsatisfied with the experience. This was due in part to annoying little things, such as the fact that although there was a UK/International option this only seemed to work for Web search and was ignored when I tried to use it for image searching etc. The results page itself was messy, with an emphasis on sponsored results, and the use of colour - 4 different background colours for boxes ('Sponsored results', 'Are you looking for?' 'Results page') and colours for the result title, description, URL, search engine, and 'preview' felt quite garish. At the bottom of the page of results was yet another box of sponsored results however. I appreciate companies need to make revenue and this is the ideal way to do it, but equally they need to remember that they make their money from the users clicking on the links, and by this point I was ready to glaze over.

Search functionality was fine, and it worked perfectly well for simplistic queries, as all multi search engines do. With more complex queries WebFetch Pro was able to limit sending the query to just those search engines that could cope with it, which was a nice touch. No help screen though, which is always a bad sign, or if there was one, I didn't see it, which is just as bad.

What also irritates me, and this isn't a dig specifically at WebFetch Pro, but at all the engines of this type is that they all try and make the point that they are in some way better or superior to single search engines, and that users will get better, 'more comprehensive and relevant results fast' as WebFetch Pro puts it. This may well be the case, but only up to a point, and it's a point that's quickly reached. Any good searcher can create a complex search query for a sophisticated search engine and get superb and accurate results. The same search on an engine of this type is bound to fail since the other search engines queried will either not return a result (in which case I may as well just visit the one engine to begin with) or they will return a result that is incorrect. Search engines are not the same - they have different functionality and different syntax, and that's not about to change any time real soon, so in order to get the most out of them, like it or not, I have to visit them and know their little ways in detail.

Having said that, WebFetch Pro is perfectly adequate for the job it sets out to do, though it is not one that I'll be returning to on a regular basis, but it's worth comparing to any other multi/meta search engine you use just in case you like it better.


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