While "search engine" has become generic to also include directories and meta search engines, a true search engine uses "spiders" or "robots" to collect data from individual websites. When you do a keyword search, the search engine uses its proprietary algorithm to display what it considers to be the most relevant web documents from its database.
Examples: AltaVista , Google , Northern Light
A directory uses a subject classification system to organize individual websites. This requires a person to visit the site to determine the appropriate category for placement.
Examples: Yahoo! , LookSmart , Librarians' Index to the Internet
Meta Search Engine
A meta search engine takes your search term and sends it to multiple search engines and/or directories at one time and returns the results to you. Some of these meta search engines provide separate results from each search engine while others will combine the results into a single list.
Examples: Ixquick , Dogpile , C4TotalSearch
Pay-for-Placement Search Engine
This type of search engine uses paid listings for their top results. The highest bid amount for the specific search term will receive the number one placement in the results. These listings are usually followed by unpaid results from some other search engine.
Examples: GoTo , FindWhat
Lately, there has been a blending of the functionality
of the search tools available. Yahoo! for example, began
primarily as a directory. It now follows its directory
listings with results powered from the search engine
Google. When categorizing these various search tools,
they have been classified by their major strength. (e.g.
Yahoo! is classified as a directory and not a search
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