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Vivisimo has launched Clusty, a meta search engine with an impressive array of tools that helps you quickly find relevant results from a variety of information sources.

Despite the awkward name that conjures images of Crusty the Crab from The Incredible Mr. Limpet, Clusty is an elegant new search tool that takes underground favorite Vivisimo to a new level. In addition to presenting both standard web search results and Vivisimo's dynamic clusters that automatically categorize results, Clusty draws on several new sources of information.

"You're seeing a rich complex mixture of selective crawling of sites, with meta searching of sites and clustering," said Raul Valdes-Perez, CEO of Vivisimo.

Clusty is designed to be a consumer web search destination, rather than a technology showcase on the Vivisimo corporate web server. Previously, Vivisimo has licensed its technologies to others, such as InfoSpace's Dogpile meta search engine. Now, "we are stepping up and saying 'yes, do your web searches here,'" said Valdes-Perez.

Impressive features

Clusty allows you to use Vivisimo's dynamic clustering technology on ten different types of web content including material from the web, image, weblog and shopping databases. You can access each type of search by simply clicking a tab directly above the search box.

You can "customize" which tabs are visible by clicking the customize tab and then selecting from a list of database types. This is a very useful feature and one we haven't seen from many other search tools. Yahoo offers something similar if you use the search.yahoo.com interface. Future releases of Clusty will allow you to add tabs for your favorite search tools, according to Valdes-Perez.

The "clusters" presented in search results are incredibly useful. For example, a web+ search for Heathrow Airport offers three types of clusters on the left side of a results page. By default, results are organized into topic categories including hotels, parking, and airport lounges. It's also possible to expand these clusters to further focus your results set by clicking the + (plus) sign next to each cluster title. Clusters are created dynamically by analyzing words in the text, url, and result snippet.

You can also cluster results by source and by URL. These different views save you time finding the best results (what Valdes-Perez calls "selective ignorance" and also helps you see ideas and concepts that might go unnoticed otherwise.

Clusty allows you to use advanced search syntax from one or more of the underlying databases Clusty is querying. For example, the search site:edu chicago clustered results from the .edu domain.

Rich sources of information

News and weblog junkies and researchers alike will be happy to know that Clusty provides several new and exciting tools.

You're now able to meta search and cluster results from several web-based news providers and aggregators including the Yahoo News, The New York Times, and Reuters. Results are dynamically clustered and can be viewed three different ways.

Clusty also automatically builds news topic pages, similar to Google News for several news categories including "Top News", "World News" and Business. To access these "pre built" pages simply click "search" without anything in the search box.

Clusty's news search and cluster capabilities are also applied to content from the blogosphere by aggregating results and dynamically clustering results from several weblog and RSS databases including Technorati, Feedster, and Daypop.

Local search is also supported. Searching for some locations or a Zip Codes with Web will not only return web results but also a map (via MapQuest) and clustered results from a yellow page database.

A few other feature are worth noting. First, the very useful "Details" link located at top of every search results page. If you select this link a box will appear giving you info about which databases were queried and how many results were retrieved.

Next to each page title on all results page you'll notice a magnifying glass icon. When you click this icon a live version of the underlying page will open embedded into the results list. Unlike similar services that offer static images next to results, this "preview" version is live, and all of the links are hot. In other words it's possible to search, check results, review potentially useful pages, and visit other pages, without ever leaving the search results list.

Time to switch engines?

We're often asked what will make people switch from one general search tool to another. Of course, we always recommend knowing about and using more than one in the first place.

That said, Clusty offers results from a variety of search tools as well as different ways of looking at those results. This should appeal to searchers of all skill levels.

Novice searchers will appreciate the clean interface, its ease of use, and Clusty's ability to quickly focus result sets without having knowledge of advanced syntax and search techniques. Advanced searchers will love Clusty's sophisticated advanced search capabilities, which adaptively change based on the type of search being conducted.

Clusty's use of clustering and its presentation of diverse resources helps all searchers see more results quickly, at the same time sufacing related concepts that would be difficult if not impossible to quickly identify without the use of this type of technology.

We're very excited to see the release of Clusty and hope that Vivisimo continues to develop this cool and very useful search tool. Spend some time with Clusty. We think you'll be impressed.

Want to discuss or comment on this story? Join the Say Hello to Clusty, a Cool New Meta Search Engine discussion in the Search Engine Watch forums.

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