A new alternative search engine that caught my eye this morning is SearchCrystal, a very experimental-looking tool that combines multiple search engines in a rich visual design. Each search engine gets its own color code, and results that show up in a large circle. When an item is listed on more than one search engine, it's given its own geometric shape showing which engines picked it up, along with lines that link up identical results. The goal is to give you a visualized results page that lets you compare a few engines at a time without having to scroll down one large list.
The results are split up into five different areas--one for each search engine. These engines vary by what you're searching for, be it photos, videos, news, or blog postings. In the case of blogs, SearchCrystal will pull results from Sphere, Bloglines, Google Blog search, Technorati, and BlogPulse. There's also a mode to just view Wikipediaarticles. Each string shows the top 10 results in order, with the ones closer to the middle of the sphere being more important. The end result makes it look similar to a dartboard.
The one real hurdle with SearchCrystal is that it's slow. Most searches took about ten seconds a pop, with the longest taking just over 20 seconds. This is just simply too long for a casual search. Likewise, it has a learning curve--you're probably going to stare at the swarm of results the first time you try it out before knowing what you're supposed to do. While not difficult to pick up, I can see someone like my mom not knowing where to start.
As usual, there's a Facebook app for SearchCrystal. You can also e-mail it, or embed it in a blog or site with the query of your choice, which I've done after the break.