I can’t remember the exact year, but I do remember finding out about Google’s search engine from an EdTech instructor. I’m thinking this was about 8 years ago, and after reviewing the history of Google, I’m think I’m pretty close (this is from Wikipedia):
Google began in January 1996, as a research project by Larry Page, who was soon joined by Sergey Brin, two Ph.D. students at Stanford University, California. They hypothesized that a search engine that analyzed the relationships between websites would produce better ranking of results than existing techniques, which ranked results according to the number of times the search term appeared on a page. Their search engine was originally nicknamed “BackRub” because the system checked backlinks to estimate a site’s importance. A small search engine called Rankdex was already exploring a similar strategy.
Convinced that the pages with the most links to them from other highly relevant web pages must be the most relevant pages associated with the search, Page and Brin tested their thesis as part of their studies, and laid the foundation for their search engine. Originally, the search engine used the Stanford University website with the domain google.stanford.edu. The domain google.com was registered on September 15, 1997, and the company was incorporated as Google Inc. on September 7, 1998 at a friend’s garage in Menlo Park, California. The total initial investment raised for the new company eventually amounted to almost US$1.1 million, including a US$100,000 check by Andy Bechtolsheim, one of the founders of Sun Microsystems.
Ray Schroeder (no relation, but we definitely have the same interests and hometown) from the University of Illinois, Springfield, has a great blog on alternate search engines: http://alternatesearch.blogspot.com/
Depending upon your area of expertise, some of these search engines might really appeal to you and your students. For instance, if you want your students to find RSS feeds on certain topics, you can use a search engine just for that: http://www.rssmicro.com/
Want to do scholarly research in science and technology? You might want to try http://www.scitopia.org/scitopia/.
Quintura is cooler than cool . . . you just need to go look at it. You mouse over the cloud of terms created by your keyword search and the results are instantly revealed to you in the right-hand pane. Visually, it’s a work of art. I noticed a Quintura for kids on the website, so that might be an interesting tool to help students visually understand and create relationships between words and concepts.
One search engine that is not listed on Ray’s list is Flock, a social search engine. I have not used this yet, but one of my colleagues really likes it.
So, get out of the Google rut and try out some of these alternate search engines. While Google is handy with its integrated tools, you might find another search engine that works better for certain searches/needs.