Due to their automation, most major search engines overlook much of the useful information on the web. This overlooked information has been called "The Invisible Web."
Finding the wealth of information missed by automated search engines requires specialized tools called "subject-specific searchable databases." These search tools are usually compiled by human beings so that you don't get "Candyman" film reviews when you search for "candy making."
Though specialized search-engines are more accurate than automated search engines, their search results are sometimes not as up-to-date.
The specialty search engines listed below are only a sampling of those available on the web. If you find other search engines you think would be valuable to your fellow MAIN users, please email the links to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks -- and enjoy!
(For specialty job-listing sites, visit About.com's Jobs By Career Field pages and MAIN's employment links page.)
IMAGE & MEDIA FINDERS
The Amazing Picture Machine - Primarily finds historical works of art that are out of copyright.
Ditto.com - searches image tags on html pages -- Nice alternate way of searching, but nearly all the images it finds are copyright protected.
Find Music - A search engine and directory for image, video, and sound files.
Stream.com and StreamSearch.com- Find streaming media files by keyword.
EarthCam - Searches for webcams by subject.
WebCam Theatre - Searches for webcams around the world, indicating which are active and whether it's daylight or not in the area where the webcam resides.
ArtLinx - A huge alphabetical links directory to arts sites on the Web, from the knowledgeable folks at desktoppublishing.com.
Artists Index - Find Web sites featuring more than 15,000 artists and their paintings, photography, sculpture, design, and other creations.
The Art & Architecture Thesaurus Browser - The Getty Museum's database of nearly 120,000 terms for describing objects, textural materials, images, architecture and material culture.
Artcyclopedia - A comprehensive index of every artist represented at hundreds of museum sites, image archives, and other online art sites.
Alternative Health News Online - Fully searchable database of articles on alternative medicine.
National Library of Medicine - Contains 9 million abstracts and citations from the National Library of Medicine on a wide variety of medical topics - both alternative and conventional - from throughout the world.
HealthTouch Online - Find information about more than 10,000 prescription and over-the-counter medications.
RxList - Search for detailed information on more than 4000 pharmaceuticals, including the top 200 prescriptions which represent nearly 2/3 of all prescriptions filled.
FindLaw - Though it is a specialized law search engine, it's a deep and robust legal resource.
The Consumer Law Page - A huge, searchable site dedicated to helping inform and protect consumers from scams, charlatans, quacks, schemes, and all other species of chicanery.
FindForms.com - This searchable database contains of thousands of free legal forms.
Katsuey's Legal Gateway - Gateway to the high quality legal research resources on the Internet for attorneys, legal professionals and consumers!
Legal Resource Links - More than 2,000 resources designed to be a legal research tool for attorneys and consumers. (Includes great guide to avoiding email spam, list of those blacklisted for being particularly prolific spammers, and laws relating to email spam.)
Law.com NC - Searchable laws and related news tailored to North Carolina.
POLITICS & GOVERNMENT
EZgov -Search for government information online, online payment options for various agencies, and government sites pertaining to your zip code.
Congressional Email Directory - Enter any congressperson's name to retrieve their webpage, which usually has a contact form or email link. Don't know who your congresspeople are? That's OK, they also list them by state.
Uncle Sam - Google's page that searches only dot-gov or dot-mil domain pages.
GovBot - Database of 1,594,012 web pages from U.S. Government and Military sites around the country.
Library of Congress Online - Search the LOC's extensive online database.
Political Resources on the Net - Searches a database of international political websites.
FirstGov - When searching for government-run websites, search at the source.
Thomas Legislative Information - Find laws and bills based on keyword or bill number.
Political Parties on the Web - Searchable index of political parties worldwide.
ENVIRONMENT & NATURE
NatureServe - Searchable database of authoritative conservation information on more than 50,000 plants, animals, and ecological communities of the United States and Canada.
EnviroLink - Searchable resource for individuals, organizations and businesses working for social and environmental change.
World Conservation Monitoring Centre - Database of IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants.
U.S. EPA Publications Search - Search by document number, document title or keyword.
The Pluralism Project - Database of non-Judeo/Christian houses of worship.
The Bible Gateway - Search several versions of the Bible by keyword/ phrase.
Cross Search - Online Christian Resource Directory.
BeliefNet.com - Searchable database of articles and information about a wide variety of religions.
AvatarSearch - Search engine for alternative religions and the occult.
Cyndi's List - Huge searchable database of Genealogy resources on the web.
Ancestry.com - Search by surname to get a plethora of links. Also has surname-specific message boards, homepages, etc.
Adoption.org - Search for birth families.
GenSource IFA Archives - Indexes web sites containing actual historical records that individuals have taken the time to transcribe and placed on the net for your use.
Genealogy.com - Search by any combination of first, last and middle name; birth and death date or location, and keyword.
Macinsearch - A full-text Macintosh search engine has more than 23,000 links indexed, covering Mac hardware, software, people, news, and the latest juicy rumors about Apple.
Macinstein - Another Mac-only search engine.
Happy Puppy - Computer game search engine covering PC & Mac platforms.
32bit.com - This huge repository of shareware and freeware automatically provides you with updates of new software additions since your last visit.
Download.com - Access to more than 20,000 Windows, Macintosh, DOS, Linux, Palm OS, Windows CE, and BeOS software programs, categorized and reviewed.
ZDNET Downloads - Searchable archive of reviewed software from ZDNET, an authoritative source for computer information.
DIGITAL REFERENCE DESK
Acronym Finder - Decipher those pesky abbreviations.
Cambridge Dictionaries Online - Search for your definition in any of the Cambridge editions.
Yourdictionary.com - Includes links to foreign language dictionaries online in addition to its resident English dictionary and thesaurus.
Bartelby.com - Many reference works have been completely digitized. Bartelby.com allows users to read entire texts online or search them by keyword to get right to the chapter you're looking for.
Lexical FreeNet - An amazing language cross-reference. Search for a word alone to find related words, rhyming words, similarly spelled words, and other words that contain the search term as a substring. Also allows entry of two words to render connections between the words.
Phrase Finder - Searches for phrases related to any word.
Cliché Finder - If it's on the tip of your tongue but you just can't remember the right cliché, enter one of its words to get the rest.
Annabelle's Quotation Guide - Find quotes by keyword or subject matter.
Merriam-Webster Online - Thesaurus, dictionary, even a phonetic search.
ESPECIALLY FOR KIDS
EarthCam for Kids - Searches for webcams pointed at things kids like zoos, space views, nature cams, etc.
700+ Great Sites - Compiled by the Children and Technology Committee of the American Library Association.
Awesome Library and Kids Click - Two librarian-compiled databases of sites for kids.
Kid's Space Connection - Produced by K-12 students as a resource to other K-12 students.
Study Web - An annotated "meta-encyclopedia" featuring links to more than 63,000 educational Web sites, rated by visual content and appropriate grade level.
OFF THE WALL
UFOsearch - The paranormal and UFO search engine.
Funny.co.uk and Ha! and Humor.com - Searchable databases of jokes and online humor.
Disinformation.com - Need information on the counterculture? Here's the place to start your search.
UselessKnowlege.com - Keyword search through this huge trivia database.
Alpha Search - Accesses Internet "gateway" sites, whose authors have spent significant time gathering into one place all relevant sites related to a discipline, subject, or idea.
Direct Search - Dedicated to searching "the invisible web" -- specialized databases that traditional search engines are unable to access.
InfoMine - Search for scholarly information on the web.
Yack.com - Search for online chats or browse by subject matter.
YBlost - Find people, email addresses, and businesses nationwide -- YBlost primarily lists search engines that act as online phonebooks.
Debriefing & Infind - Two surprisingly accurate metasearch engines. Meta search engines search several other engines, but can often provide redundant results because of the similarities of the results from the engines it searches. In contrast, these metasearch engines strive to remove those duplicates and, in most cases, succeed.
Information Outpost - The biggest surprise while researching these specialty engines was discovering this site where an actual human being will compile links tailored to your plain-English question. Now, it's not instant gratification -- it usually takes a day or so for an answer, but the results from my test query were fantastic! I asked for information about an obscure Finnish band (Gjallarhorn). Even though I did not have the correct spelling of the band's name, they found four links that were right on.
About.com - Not your typical search engine. Links are arranged by subject and compiled by humans rather than "bots" (bots are computer programs that search the web and provide most search engines with their links). It's doubtful that you'll find anything relating to this week's headlines at About.com -- it's just not what they're about. But if you're doing research on a subject and want a reliable starting place, their compilations of links can be invaluable (for instance, most of the search engine links listed here were found through About.com's extensive listings on "specialized search engines" and "the invisible web").
In addition to a wealth of links, About.com also provides informative, how-to articles. For the purposes of this page's subject matter, their article on "The Art of Backward Searching" is a must read. Don't forget to follow the links to related search-technique articles listed at the bottom of the page.