Ernst-Jan Pfauth is the former Editor in Chief of Internet at NRC Handelsblad, as well as an acclaimed technology author and columnist. He a Ernst-Jan Pfauth is the former Editor in Chief of Internet at NRC Handelsblad, as well as an acclaimed technology author and columnist. He also served as The Next Web’s blog’s first blogger and Editor in Chief, back in 2008. At De Correspondent, Ernst-Jan serves as publisher, fostering the expansion of the platform.
We’ve written quite a lot about alternative search engines on this blog. It’s more than just a healthy interest, as Boris and me traveled to San Francisco in April to visit the altsearchengines meeting. So for us, it’s close to an obsession. Why? Because alternative search engines are the pioneers of search. They shape the future. Although their engines aren’t always perfect yet, you can tell where it’s going. We think that’s pretty exciting. Sometimes we stumble upon an alt engine that already does a good job, like SafeManuals and FixYa. That’s even more exciting.
Charles Knight, altsearchengines editor, tipped us about these two services. SafeManuals and FixYa are aimed at supporting people with using those complicated home devices like DVD recorders.
“Your sex-toy is stuck in « defibrillator » mode and you threw away the user guide to prevent your kids from finding it?” No worries! The Communication Assistant who mailed me this is from SafeManuals. This basically is a huge directory with 883542 manuals for all kinds of devices. From scooters to iPhones and from a flatscreen TV to an old-fashioned tube. And your sex-toy…
Although the interface is horrible – lots of ads and cheesy stock photos – the Google Custom search-powered site does a good job. Some user manuals aren’t available on the manufacturer’s page anymore, yet the guys from SafeManuals somehow managed to offer them as a pdf download. It remains weird though that a service that is focused on helping people out, doesn’t seem to spend any time on their UI.
So what if you’ve found a manual on SafeManuals but you’re still stuck with a certain problem? Then you head over to FixYa, a knowledge base that is constantly updated by a community of helpful users who share their experiences of technical problems and solutions. The huge collection of solutions is filtered by a rating system, which allows experts to arise. Like IrishDruid, a staff member from Logitech who has solved 1395 problems and considered to be a “guru”. Not all active users are staff members, but it’s a great way for companies to see what kind of problems customers have and at the same time improve their image.
Different places, more results
These vertical search-engines don’t necessarily compete with Google – SafeManuals is even using its technology -, they offer different places for niche searches. So when you search for manuals in Google, you might end up at SafeManuals where you’ll definitely find what you’re looking for. Vertical search engines are popping everywhere and we’ll be an important part of the future of search.
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