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The Web has about 1 million search engines. Most universities have search engines, most newspapers have search engines and many companies and organizations have search engines. Since 1997, and with the support of five grants from the National Science Foundation, Meng and his collaborators have found innovative ways to run queries across multiple search engines and sort through the results.

Webscalers, founded in 2002, is now based in the Start-Up Suite at Binghamton University’s Innovative Technologies Complex, which is home to several young companies that have their roots in faculty inventions.

“If the Web keeps on growing, a company like Google may run out of resources to crawl all of those pages,” said Vijay V. Raghavan, a vice president of Webscalers and a distinguished professor of computer science at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. “We won’t have that problem. We will scale much better.”

The firm has already launched several metasearch products.

metasearch engine advantage

The first is a news metasearch engine called AllinOneNews. Available at www.allinonenews.com, it connects to 1,800 news sources in 200 countries. That’s the largest metasearch engine in the world.

Webscalers also offers MySearchView, a customized metasearch-engine generation system that allows any user to create his or her own metasearch engine just by checking off a few options at v2.mysearchview.com.

That site is a showcase for the company’s attempts to develop automated solutions to link multiple search engines.

This kind of technology could be useful for large organizations with many branches or divisions. If each one has its own search engine, but the organization as a whole does not, a metasearch engine can connect all of the parts to the whole.

For example, Webscalers has developed a prototype that would allow a search of all 64 campuses in the State University of New York system as well as SUNY’s central administration.

“People can use it to find collaborators,” Meng said. “It could also help prospective students find programs they’re interested in.”

The technology could be adapted to large companies or even the government, Meng said.

Webscalers has incorporated another unusual feature in its AllinOneNews metasearch engine called a “semantic match.” A search engine that’s capable of making such a match will find results for words with the same meaning, even if they’re not part of the original query. It will include pages with the word “ballerina” if you search for “ballet dancer,” for example, and “hypertension” if you search for “high blood pressure.”

Challenges for large-scale metasearch engines include determining which search engines are the best for a given query, automating the interaction with search engines as well as organizing the search results. Meng and his colleagues have done extensive and pioneering research on these topics, publishing about 50 papers so far.

Meng hopes to one day build a grand metasearch engine that would integrate all of the 1 million small search engines into a single system. “There are still a lot of significant challenges in creating a system of such magnitude,” he said, “but I am optimistic that such a metasearch engine can be built.”

— Rachel Coker

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