What’s answer searching? It’s when someone is looking for the answer to something, rather than a specific web site — though web sites often contain answers. An answer search engine? That’s a service that specializes in offering direct answers to questions, rather than links to sites. Some answer search engines to consider are below.
Pick a category, then choose a volunteer, then ask your question.
Provides access to fast facts and other information from over 100 reference sources. Formerly called GuruNet. Review:
Got a question? This service from the Virtual Reference Desk will connect you to an expert in one of many areas, or you can search for past answers to questions.
Designed to let you enter search terms in natural language. It then examines your sentence, rewrites it in a way that it thinks best and submits it to various different major search engines. When results come in, it actually downloads all the pages listed, then extracts sections that it thinks provides the answer. Reviews:
Collaborative Live Reference Services
Not an answer service but a guide to live reference/answer services worldwide.
Fee-based “ask an expert” site for information technology questions, such as about programming languages, operating systems and software applications.
Designed to bring back “encyclopedia-style” content, meaning it will try to extract what it assumes are facts from web pages or from online encyclopedia, if it can find them.
Fee-based, web version of the legendary Facts on File reference service which is available free online from many public and university libraries.
A program from Google that allows users to get personal answers from a screened researcher, in exchange for a fee. Reviews:
- Google’s Newest Technology: People Answering your Questions (Apr. 2002)
- Expert advice online at a price (Sept. 2002)
- Information for Sale: My Experience With Google Answers (Oct. 2002)
- A question of answers (Apr. 2003)
Access to reference material, research information, periodical literature and more. Searching is free. You pay to view material you find. Previously called eLibrary and Researchville.
Information Please almanacs are favorites among researchers who need trustworthy facts. This site allows searching across Information Please’s various almanacs, its encyclopedia and its dictionary.
Allows you to find definitions based on a word list using a version of the 1913 edition of Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary (about 200,000 words) or the Free Online Dictionary of Computing (about 14,000 terms).
The Free Dictionary
Access to several dictionaries and encyclopedias, in one place.
A free encyclopedia, written and edited by volunteers. Reviews:
- GuruNet Becomes Answers.com and Is Now Available Free! (Jan. 2005)
- Just the Facts, Please (March 2005)
- Community-Built Wikipedia’s Strengths & Weaknesses (Sept. 2005)
Free service where you can ask questions on any topic and get answers from other members of the community. Review:
- Ask A Question and Get an Answer at Wondir (April 2005)
Answers At Major Search Engines
Major search engines also offer “direct answers” to many questions. Available to Search Engine Watch members, the Search Features: Direct Answers section of Search Engine Watch’s Search Topics area has a full rundown on stories about these features. Here are some recent stories with more information:
- New Yahoo Instant Search Gives Answers Directly — No Results Page Required
- Ask Jeeves Unleashes More Smart Answers
- MSN Adds Direct Answers With Sports Info
- Ask Jeeves Gains “Zoom” Query Refinement & “Web Answers” Features
- Google Launches Q&A Service, Answers Directly on Results Pages
- Google Joins Yahoo & Ask With Direct Display Of Stock Market Data In Results
- Google’s New Weather Shortcut and Similar Services
More Resources & Reviews
Available to Search Engine Watch members, the Search Types: Answers/Facts section of Search Engine Watch’s Search Topics area has stories relating to answer and fact search engines. See also our articles The Best Online Reference Sites from Jan. 2005 and No Charge: Public Libraries Provide Full-Text Access to Databases! from Dec. 2002 for additional resources to consider.