Dogpile's Toolbar Fetches More than Search Engine Results

The Dogpile toolbar consolidates a variety of useful web and specialized searches into a single, easy to use interface.

Dogpile is primarily known as one of the most popular meta search services, querying 13 major engines including Google, FAST, Ask Jeeves and Inktomi. With the Dogpile toolbar, you can now gain access to search results while viewing any page on the web.

In addition, you can also run a number of specialized searches, including yellow or white pages listings and public records, and check reference sources such as a dictionary and thesaurus.

"We strongly believe that there is blurring of the lines between web search and directory search," said Lisa Bukowitz, InfoSpace senior product manager for the Dogpile toolbar. She said the company had three primary design objectives for the toolbar.

The first was to make it easy to conduct a search. By offering a toolbar, search is always available, on demand, regardless of whether you're viewing the Dogpile homepage or not.

The second objective was to begin closing the gap between searching web pages and general information searching, for things like maps, stock quotes and so on.

Third, the company decided to offer competitive features that would make the toolbar compelling, through thoughtful user interface and customization capabilities.

The Dogpile toolbar meets all of these objectives, and especially shines in its interface and customization capabilities.

As with any toolbar, you enter your query into the search box. Then you select the type of search you want to run using drop-down menus that intelligently reconfigure themselves based on what you're looking for.

For example, if you've selected a meta search, you can specify whether you want it to be a web search, or limited to files, multimedia, news, message boards, and so on. Similarly, if you select a yellow pages search, two new fields for city and state appear on the toolbar.

These are the categories you can select for meta searches:

  • The Web - Search for your general query on the Web
  • Images - Search for image files related to your query on the Web
  • Shopping - Search for shopping information (prices/reviews) related to your query on the Web
  • Multimedia - Search for multimedia files related to your query on the Web
  • News - Search for news articles related to your query on the Web
  • Files - Search for file downloads related to your query on the Web
  • Message Boards - Search for message board topics related to your query on the Web
  • Dictionary - Look up the definition of a word with the click of a mouse
  • Thesaurus - Find alternative ways to express yourself
  • Acronym Finder - Discover the meaning of TGIF and other acronyms

You can also limit your searches to very specific types of information, including:

  • Yellow Pages By Name Or Type - Click the Yellow Pages button or use the drop-down menu to access the largest listing of businesses online and find the products and businesses you're looking for
  • Whites Pages - Click the White Pages button on the toolbar or use the drop-down menu to locate people fast with this collection of white page directory listings
  • Public Records - Use the drop-down menu to perform a personal background check with our comprehensive database of public information
  • Horoscopes - Use the drop-down menu to see what the stars have in store for you
  • Weather - Use the drop-down menu to get the latest forecast for any place in the United States
  • Maps - Use the drop-down menu to access detailed maps and driving directions for wherever your destination may be.
  • Stock Quotes - Use the drop-down menu to find stock ticker information for your selected company

The Dogpile toolbar is highly customizable. "An end user can customize the toolbar for any of those search categories, whether it be for web search or yellow pages or public records search," said Bukowitz.

The toolbar also has a couple of basic personalization options that some may find appealing. To use these, you are also offered an option to submit your zip code and date of birth during the install process. Then, if you customize the toolbar to include a horoscope or weather button, you can have direct access to your local weather page, or your horoscope for the day.

With the personalization options enabled, is the company tracking your search behavior? Absolutely not, says Bukowitz.

"A lot of serious thought went into creating a tool that wasn't invasive, and also be conscious that this wasn't labeled as spyware."

The toolbar privacy policy is similar to that of most search engines, stating that no personally identifiable information is collected without your consent. Bukowitz said that InfoSpace will from time to time invite toolbar users to participate in surveys designed to help improve the toolbar, but that these are optional.

Bukowitz said that the company plans to be aggressive in feature development for the toolbar. Two more releases are planned this year, during the third and fourth quarters. Bukowitz declined to provide specifics for the planned upgrades, but she did say that they were likely to consider a number of categories for additional customization, and tools like a pop-up ad blocker.

How does the Dogpile toolbar compare with the HotBot deskbar I reviewed yesterday? Both are well designed, and ultimately more useful than toolbars that search a single source, such as the Google or Teoma toolbars. This is because they include results from both of these services, in addition to others.

They can also co-exist peacefully with one another, since the HotBot deskbar resides in the Windows taskbar, and the Dogpile toolbar is a browser plugin.

What if I were forced to choose between the two? That's a difficult choice. I'd recommend downloading and trying both, and basing your decision on how well each tool satisfies your own needs.

In general, the HotBot deskbar's hundreds of search resources and powerful extensibility make it ideal for more advanced, serious searchers, while the Dogpile toolbar's ease of use and quick access to ready reference tools make it a better choice for casual web users.

Both are useful tools, and advance the state of search toolbar development. I'm looking forward to future upgrades coming down the pipe from both companies.

The Dogpile Toolbar: Features, Tour, FAQ

Download the Dogpile Toolbar
Minimum system requirements to download the Dogpile Toolbar:
Windows 98/NT/2000/ME/XP
Internet Explorer 5.01 or higher

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