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If you're hunting for personal info or non-Usenet discussion threads, Lycos is a good starting place. Lycos, an old-time Web portal and hosting service, is making inroads in the personal search arena. However, those concerned about privacy issues should read Lycos's home page for more details. Unlike competing search engines, Lycos doesn't yet offer toolbars or desktop search tools.
Lycos uses the standard search box at the top of the main screen, with links for Web, People, Discussion, News, Yellow Pages, Products, and Multimedia searches. In a departure from its competitors, however, the page is cluttered with several distracting Lycos promos and features, such as the Lycos 50, a "pop-culture barometer" that includes a who's hot list, a daily celebrity blog, and a handful of ads. This isn't a deal breaker, but Lycos doesn't have the clean, spare search interface of many other search sites.
Web search results (now powered by ) gave us reasonably well-designated paid links up on top, followed by our main search results, which came with links and descriptions but no option for calling cached pages, a feature offered by Google, among others, and a great tool for seeing older content on frequently updated Web pages. Also missing were search spotlights, which aggregate images, news stories, and related info for popular searches.
Our multimedia searches were adequate, but we've seen better from other search sites. Lycos's image searches produced thumbnails and resolution and URL info, though we couldn't sort by image size. Video searches lack thumbnails.
We like the discussion search, which scours various online forums rather than searching increasingly archaic Usenet newsgroups. We also like the BizRate-powered product search, which lets you enter your zip code for accurate shipping prices on price quotes. Unfortunately, news searches give you only a bare-bones, photo-free list of results from Google.
Lycos excels at people searches, though some of the search options may rub some the wrong way. We were troubled by Lycos's use of so-called professional searches, companies that cull public information from the Web and present them in an aggregated form. For example, an engine called ZoomInfo cobbles together professional bios from the Web, complete with job histories, resumes, and related links. Professional searches seemed to work better for more well-known subjects; our own bio got mixed up with that of a campus pastor in Santa Barbara, although the bio for Bill Gates was predictably comprehensive. Lycos also offers $50 background checks through a site called Intelius, which grabs such info as past addresses, criminal records, and credit histories (all matters of public record, we should note). Lycos's Yellow Page search uses Verizon SuperPages and includes basic city/business name queries, driving directions, and ratings and reviews from Zagat.
Lycos comes up short in advanced features, such as downloadable toolbars and desktop search, and it won't save your search history, all features offered by Ask Jeeves. Lycos's help section also fails to provide detailed search examples, but it does offer several different categories of search, such as Yellow Pages and Lycos Radio.