The ability to rank or rate results delivered by search engines is slowly becoming more commonplace, and I'm noticing that one or two multi/meta search engines are either incorporating this functionality into search or indeed making a specific feature of it, such as the new URL.com.
I wrote about Jatalla on my own weblog at the beginning of September and was less than complimentary about it, since it had indexed very few pages (it has to be the only internet search engine that doesn't return any results for the search 'porn'; I was getting desperate to see some results, indeed any results by that point!)
However, since then we have seen the arrival of URL.com, which is an interesting and memorable domain name, though not necessarily one that I'd associate with a search engine.
Their tag line is 'search with many' and relates less to the search engines used and more to the users. Basically it's a search engine that pulls results from Google, Yahoo and MSN, ranks the results on the screen according to position and allows users to rank or comment on what they see. On the whole it does the job reasonably well, and is worth taking a look at.
Users will get the most out of the search engine if they spend the few seconds it takes to get an account, though this does mean that others will be able to see what your interests are, though this can be easily overcome by choosing a John Doe account name.
Searches ran reasonably quickly, although I noticed once or twice that one or other of the three was slow to respond, leading to a less than accurate set of results, though of course this is a problem inherent to this type of search engine. Rather more worrying however was the fact that I noticed that sometimes a page would be returned as being in fifth position in the Yahoo results for example, when it was actually first. This really is a fundamental flaw and should be addressed quickly.
However, users can click on the result that they want to view and the page is pulled into a URL.com frame, at the bottom of which the searcher can vote for the result ('good result' or 'not so good' and can also comment on the page. It's then possible to either close the frame and go directly to the website page in question, or back to the results page. If other users run the same search they will be able to see that particular individuals have commented on and/or liked/disliked the result. If other people comment on the page these are emailed to other commentators as well, hence the 'search with many' aspect of the site.
This function is easier displayed than described, so try a search for 'search engine watch'. Pages with positive votes will show up more than pages with negative votes, with the idea being the URL.com community will police what appears on their screens.
This is useful and interesting, but of course it's also open to fraudulent use. While this doesn't appear to have happened with the results yet I'm fairly confident that it won't be long before people with grudges against certain sites, or who want to obtain a commercial benefit from boosting their own sites get involved. One could always argue that the power of the many will overcome the comments of the few (that almost sounds like a quote from Mr Spock), but I'm not entirely convinced that will necessarily be the case. Interestingly there's nothing in the site documentation that I could find that addresses this issue, but I can see so many legal issues being raised with this it's painful.
All said and done however, it's a nice optomistic idea that works well - at the moment. If nothing else, it's a quick and easily memorable URL to allow searchers to get access to 3 of the major search engines.