Accoona, Google Alternative

Google, which revolutionized Web surfing through its innovative and effective search technologies, seems to be securely crowned as the King of Search Engines. However, hope springs eternal, and there are still some upstart companies out there that are attempting to knock Google off its throne. The latest to give it a shot is called Accoona. Founded in February 2004, Accoona announced its official introduction on March 8, 2006. The New York City announcement took place at the United Nations, and in this case, the location was apt. Accoona has strong ties to China: The China Daily Information Company (CDIC), which describes itself as an official Chinese government agency, and its Web site,, hold a significant equity stake in Accoona Corp.

That being said, Accoona looks, at first glance, not much different than other search engines — including Google itself. Its bare-bones initial interface follows the same design: A central search field with buttons that let you search the entire Web or confine your search to news or business sources.

Searching On Scott
I started with a general Web search on "Scott Joplin" on Accoona and Google, and found quite a bit of disparity in the results (112,393 for Accoona and 4,130,000 for Google). When I did a search on the phrase "mp3 players," I got similar results: Accoona came up with 6,031,343 results, while Google boasted 187,000,000.

Quite frankly, while I appreciated Google's higher numbers, that alone wouldn't have made Google my preferred search engine — how many people go past the fifth page of results, anyway? There was also some variation in which sites came up in what order, but again, there were no really important differences.

Interestingly, I found Accoona's results page easier to read; Google has added so much advertising — plus news links — on top of its listing that it's gotten a bit difficult to find where my actual results begin. Accoona's results page was much cleaner; the results were headed only by a "Tell me about Mp3 players" link that led to a definitions page. Of course, when/if Accoona succeeds in attracting advertising, that could change radically.

However, simplicity shouldn't be substituted for complete information. For some reason, Accoona's listing shows only the initial domain name of each site — in other words, is shown as This is not only unnecessary, it is a hassle, especially when you get two results from the same domain and need to see differences between the URLs.

Biographical Facts
Most search engines now offer immediate information, such as addresses and biographies, when they are appropriate to your search. On my initial results page for Scott Joplin, both Accoona and Google headed their lists with links to biographical info. Google's informational approach proved more useful than Accoona's barebones strategy: It gave me a photo of Joplin on the results page, while Accoona did not.

However, Google's more commercial approach has its drawbacks. When I clicked on the site's biography link, Google just gave me a rundown of albums with Joplin's music, but no other immediate biographical info. Accoona's link provided a biography from the All Media Guide (that, based on his music's association with The Sting, classified Joplin as an actor instead of a composer); it was followed with more accurate entries from a variety of sources, including the American Heritage Dictionary, the Columbia University Press Encyclopedia, and Wikipedia.

One of Accoona's major selling points is a feature called, rather awkwardly, "SuperTarget Your Search." This filtering tool offers a handy way to allow users to focus searches, concentrating more on what they're looking for.
It works this way: When you do a news or a business search, the results page includes, on the right side of the listing, a series of drop-down menus that let you filter according to frequently used data-search categories. For example, a news search on "Scott Joplin" initially pulled 379 results (there is apparently a lot of Joplin music being performed these days). The first drop-down list allows you to "Refine Your Search" by emphasizing one or all of the words — for example, I could emphasize Scott over Joplin (which brought some articles by a writer named Scott Meeker from Joplin, MO, to the top of the results list). Other available filters included When Published (with choices ranging from within the last hour to over 30 days ago), Publisher, Relevant Company (it turned out that MetLife Inc. had recently sponsored a concert), Country, State ("State" being a rather imprecise term, since cities like Tel Aviv apparently come under that heading), and People Mentioned.

How useful are these filters? It's hard to say. Aside from the "Refine Your Search" box, which I found nice to have when searching on several words, there was nothing in the filters that search-savvy users couldn't find by simply adjusting their search terms. However, it could be a handy tool for many Web researchers.

Accoona has also touted its partnership with Dun & Bradstreet, which lets it offer users access to a database of business information via the Business search button. For example, when I did a Business search on CMP (the parent company of this publication), each company listed in the search results was accompanied by a small D&B icon. Clicking on the icon offered some basic information, such as the contact info for the CEO, the address of the company headquarters, the general company size, sales volume, and other company locations. If I wanted any more information, I was invited to purchase D&B reports for anywhere from $4 to $129.

I'm all in favor of alternative search engines, especially ones that do their own Web crawling. However, if Accoona is going to really distinguish itself as a Google alternative, it has quite a bit of catch-up to do. For one thing, it's going to have to take care of some serious formatting glitches — for example, when I changed my News search from Scott Joplin to CMP, the first line of the results listing stretched across the screen and pushed the SuperTarget boxes past the right margin. In addition, while the SuperTarget filtering is a nice start, it isn't enough to motivate me — or, I suspect, a lot of other users — to switch.

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