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The little engine that could beat Google

AlltheWeb says it searches more pages than the Internet darling, becoming the latest service to attempt to dethrone Google.

Upping the stakes in the search engine battles, an alternative search service is claiming that its index is bigger than Google's.

AlltheWeb, run by Fast Search & Transfer, said Monday that it now searches 2.1 billion pages versus Google's 2.07 billion. AlltheWeb has attracted a cult following among researchers seeking hard-to-find results.

However, the number of pages in an index is only one indicator of a search engine's power. Others include how often it is updated, how easy it is to use and how quickly its results are generated.

"Fast's mission is to deliver leading real-time search and information retrieval technology to our clients," Fast CEO John Lervik said in a statement.

Google remains the most trafficked search site on the Web, and it provides search technology to major companies including Yahoo. On Monday, Google also announced that companies including Boeing, Cisco Systems and National Semiconductor have signed up to use its corporate search services.

The company downplayed Fast's announcement. "We hope it raises the awareness of search's importance in our everyday lives," Google spokesman David Krane said.

Fast is one of several companies hoping to take on the search leader. In April, Ask Jeeves took search service out of beta more than six months after it acquired the site. Another Google wannabe, WiseNut, launched last year.

On the corporate side, Google has been in a protracted battle with search technology provider Inktomi to offer products to companies such as Yahoo.