Metasearching the web with OpenSearch

Mark O’Neill dug up some ancient history in a recent blog post:

Is “WOA” really new? I urge everyone to read this Byte article from Jon Udell in 1996, 14 years ago. Part of the title says it all: Every website is a software component. A powerful capability for ad hoc distributed computing arises naturally from the architecture of the Web.

Actually it was only 12 years ago, but long enough so that I had to remind myself, today, of the lesson I learned back then. The full title of the column Mark refers to was: “I use AltaVista to build BYTE’s Metasearch application and realize that every Web site is a software component.” It was my first experience with client-side web scripting and lightweight service composition.

Fast forwarding to today, I was flipping between Google and Live Search and noticing that the answers I was looking for were distributed across the two sources. I’ve been doing that a lot lately, because the combination is really powerful. But for some reason, I hadn’t gotten around to automating a side-by-side search. And it’s gotten a whole lot easier than it used to be.

To see why metasearch is helpful, try this query two ways:

Google: search google live side-by-side

Live: search google live side-by-side

I found four relevant results spread, in non-overlapping pairs, across the two engines: TripleMe and SearchDub (via Google), and DualSearch and SearchBoth (via Live).

I tried the above query in all four, found DualSearch to be most useful, and made an DualSearch OpenSearch provider that you can use to add this side-by-side capability to the search box in FireFox, MSIE, or any other browser that can plug in OpenSearch providers.

Poking around some more, I came across FuzzFind and, although I don’t find it as useful as DualSearch, it does incorporate which is helpful for me. So I made a FuzzFind OpenSearch provider too.

Clearly I’m not the the first person to think of metasearch OpenSearch providers. Which other ones are you aware of? Which do you use most, and why? Feel free to tag your finds with metasearch, opensearch, and provider.

Bonus question: Why doesn’t every search engine offer its own browser-pluggable OpenSearch provider right on its home page?


  1. Hi Jon. Interesting post – I started to really care about OpenSearch during my work on

    Although I was considering pre-defined searches (so they build complex syntax, merge RSS/Atom output and are ready when you next check) – i was also very interested in two things (i posted some thoughts at [1]).

    1. How to make it easier to search these other sites.

    2. How to get RSS/Atom out from them (this week Google said it’s in the works).

    Of course it occurred to me that with all the complexity (and there is quite a bit to talk about when you go into merging the datasets) i could provide a “real time” OpenSearch interface directly over these normalized sites.

    That could then fit your plug-in idea :)



  2. Yes, 2008 minus 1996 is 12, not 14 :-). Ironically, I was studying mathematics back in 1996 when I bought that issue of Byte Magazine. I guess I need to go back to school!

  3. Hi Jon, in DS when I run a search including quotes it seems to bomb out, telling me: Your search – \ – did not match any documents. Do quotes work at your end?

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