From the start I will tell you that there is no such thing as the perfect search engine. But I will try to explain what is good in major search engines, and should exist as features in the next perfect search engine. I will start to list the search engines quoted in this topic. Some are familiar some are no names, but for sure all have at least one good feature. Here we go: Google, Yahoo, Microsoft Live, Ask, Quintura, Powerset, Wikia and Cuil.
First page features:
AUTOCOMPLETE: [Google, Yahoo, Ask, Cuil].
This is standard right now, because this feature helps the user select faster a certain search term based on initial letters. The drawback is that sometimes it can slow the user and confuse him at the same time.
PRIVACY / EULA: [All subjects have this feature].
I think that this feature is a must on the front page of any search engine. The user must know the legal limitations in order to decide whether the service is worth using or not.
WEB / IMAGES / VIDEOS: [All subjects have this feature].
One strong feature is diversity. If the search engine can provide different type of data, then the first screen should display this capability.
Results page features:
RELATED SEARCH: [Most of the subjects].
The user is undecided. Sometimes he doesn’t know in what category is the search result situated. So the related search will help him in narrowing the results and finding relevant data.
SEARCH TERM HIGHLIGHTED IN RESULTS:[All subjects have this feature].
I’m glad that this is a standard feature. It is very good to see how the search term is displayed inside result’s content. This also helps the user to stay on focus on a certain domain.
ORDERED RESULTS:[Quintura, Ask].
This is a feature that is not implemented in most search engines. I think it is a major drawback, because a simple number in front of the result will make the user remember easier the search result. Also this will give a certain structure to the overall look of the results page and it can sustain a better user experience.
GREAT USER EXPERIENCE: [Quintura, Powerset, Cuil].
It seems like the newcomers have some advantages in this field through some innovation or improved features. Quintura for example has it’s own interactive tag cloud while Cuil and Powerset have other interaction features. Wikia has its own features but I don’t think that for now are in the search results benefit, except for the following.
SCROLLING ACTION: [Wikia].
This is a feature that I like very much. It is an automatic results display while scrolling. In this case you don’t have to press on a page number from pagination, in order to see other results. Awesome feature and pretty accessible.
IMPROVED RANKING ALGORITHM: [None so far].
There are many ranking systems but what’s the point? We need a ranking system based on quality not links quantity. Also a better system against copy/paste sites. This will make the search results more relevant and the users happier.
CONTENT:[We can combine all together].
The content is huge. But its quality is the problem. If the search engines can sort their data, then the search process will be less painful and more productive.
Overall there are some needed features and some standards to be implemented. Also I believe that it will take some time until a new competitive search engine will appear. Cheers!