Part search engine, part social networking tool, Delver aims to deliver the search results that are most relevant to you and your social world. Although it raises some privacy concerns, it's safe to say the engine excels at culling reviews, pictures, video, and other media.
With its white background and large font, Delver's UI reminds us of several other Web 2.0 sites, including LinkedIn, Flickr, and Picnik (precisely the kinds of sites from which Delver is pulling content). On the main search page, you can perform a Web, People, or Media search, in much the same way you can choose to do a Google search for Web, Images, et cetera.
When you get search results, the page is divided in two: a wider left pane, with the results, and a narrower right-hand pane showing items you've "kept." At the top of the left pane are three tabs: Web, People, and Media. For each kind of result, there's a number in parentheses showing how many results Delver turned up.
Search results appear in linear form, as they do on Google, Yahoo, and other established search engines. The Web tab offers a mix of photos, video, and Web content (see Search Results section below). When you click on the People tab, you just get other users' profiles. These were hit-or-miss in terms of accuracy: We found some people whose names were Michael Phelps, but there were others, listed toward the top, who were located in towns called Phelps or went to schools by that name. When you click on the Media tab, you'll only see photos and videos.
Under each hit you'll see an accompanying photo, a link to the profile of the person who authored the content, a link to get more content from the same person, and beneath it all, the URL of the site you're looking for. This arrangement is cluttered, and having to squint to find the name of the Web site made our search slow-going.
How it Works
When we first used Delver, we felt a bit creeped out: you can't use the search engine without first creating a profile. When we typed in our real name, Delver, by default, used our LinkedIn profile to gather basic information on us (such as previous jobs and geographic location). You can also add your profiles from a variety of other popular sites, including Blogger, Facebook, Flickr, and MySpace, among others. For privacy's sake, you can change your display name to an alias.
By adding our LinkedIn account, Delver knew that we're based in the greater New York City area, and that we're currently employed at LAPTOP magazine. Whenever we searched for something, then, Delver gave preference to results from people who have the similar credentials as us. That's most useful if you're looking for something like a review or YouTube video--things where you might prefer recommendations from someone who knows you or has similar sensibilities.
To strengthen results, you can add other users as Search Buddies so that Delver prioritizes their content. You can also add information to your profile such as your location, profession, employer, high school, and college, which will help the search engine connect you to other like-minded people.
When you scroll through search results, you can see who owns or recommends the pictures, video, or other content that you're looking at. You can even click on a link to that person's profile, where you can see what social networking profiles they've added, what articles and other bookmarks they've stored, and what references have been made to them on the Web. Cripes, that seems invasive, and guess what? People can look at your profile, too.
If someone chooses to make this information public, well, to each his own. The problem is, users don't have the option of making their profiles private, or picking and choosing what information appears, with the exception of items you've bookmarked on the site. You can remove social networking profiles you don't want others to see, but that would weaken the search engine's power.
When we searched for Michael Phelps, Delver first turned up 196 people results--meaning 196 users were named "Michael Phelps," or had one of these two search terms in their profile. Below that, on the same page, were a smattering of photos and video clips. Below that, finally, were the general (read: less personalized) Web results, including, in this case, Phelps' official site and a seemingly endless stream of blog posts in which he's mentioned. Clicking on People or Media will make this list of results seem less cluttered, but then you'll miss out on Web pages, and will only see user profile and photos and videos, respectively.
The results are also relatively skimpy in number: Delver delivered 47,661 Web hits for "Michael Phelps," whereas Google returned 12.6 million. When it comes to relevance, both Google and Delver listed Phelps' entries on Wikpedia and SwimRoom.com as their top two hits. But Google also included links to NBC's Olympic site, IMDb.com, the popular celebrity database, as well as Phelps' official site and Facebook page. Delver's subsequent hits included videos, as well as dozens of posts from various blogs registered at Blogger. Phelps' Web site from the 2004 Olympics made the list; his site from the most recent games was lower down.
With an emphasis on delivering information that's relevant to you (and endorsed by people in your social networks), Delver is a better choice for members of the YouTube generation looking for photos and video than it is for people doing everyday Web searching. If you're looking for thorough search results, stick with Google. If you want to cut straight to the best viral videos, give Delver a whirl--and be aware of the compromises in privacy.