Move over Google, Yahoo, and Bing; blended results or not, personalized search, Twitter results and OneBoxes … you guys are just too predictable for this article. There’s a new breed of search engines out there, and they’re letting users search and find some utterly crazy stuff. And by “crazy,” I mean a lot of things: unique, cool, awesome, and downright strange. Sometimes all of the above. A search engine that lets you find (and buy) discontinued soda pop? Check. A search engine that helps you find cheap Amazon.com items so you can get free shipping? Sure! A search engine to locate misspelled eBay and Craigslist items? Got one of those, too. Looking for dead zones in cellular coverage? Read on.
Call ’em what you want: strange, cool, unusual, bizarre, you name it. These aren’t your traditional search engines, that’s for sure. Here’s a list of 8 of what we think are the crazy-coolest search engines on the web. (Oh, and with a bonus entry at the end.)
1. Dead Cell Zones
Dead Cell Zones offers a searchable map mashup of user-reported dead cellular zones. It lists U.S. dead spots that have been reported by users of AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, and some smaller carriers. How many? The site claims to have more than 100,000 submissions from users. There’s also a UK version available at www.deadcellzones.com/uk.html.
2. Things You Saw in a Movie
Yep, it’s a search engine dedicated to the fine art of product placement. So, say you just finished watching the fantastic 2007 film The Kingdom and you really need to know what sunglasses Jamie Foxx wore during the movie, you’d go to Things You Saw in a Movie and type in either “Jamie Foxx” or “Kingdom” and you’ll quickly get your answer.
3. Storm Events
The National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) has an online database called Storm Events that lists all U.S. weather events going back to 1996, and some (like tornadoes, high winds, and hail) going back to the 1950s. You can search for records of dust storms, floods, funnel clouds, wild/forest fires, thunderstorms, and much more. After choosing a state, you can dig down to the county level (or not).
While we’re on the subject of government search engines, how about Pillbox from the U.S. National Institutes of Health. What is it? It’s a search engine for identifying unknown pills. For real! The site warns that it’s still in development and not intended for clinical use, and has all the requisite disclaimers … but it’s still one of the most interesting search engine ideas around. You provide the size, shape, color, and other attributes of a pill, and it returns a list of possible matches along with links for more information about the pill.
If you’re searching for bargains online, looking for misspelled auction items can be a great way to go. TypoBuddy is sort of a meta-search engine that makes it easy to find misspelled products on eBay and craigslist. Type “laptop” (spelled correctly) into TypeBuddy’s search box, and it provides links to look for common misspellings on those two sites. When clicking the eBay link, I’m taken to the results of an eBay search that includes misspellings like “lpatop, lapotp, laaptop, latop” and so forth. TypoBuddy not only helps you find potential bargains, but it also proves there are a lot of poor spellers out there.
6. Filler Item Finder
Amazon.com offers free shipping on orders of $25 or more. But what if you’re buying something that costs $24.77? Filler Item Finder to the rescue! It’s a search engine for low-cost Amazon products that you can filter by category, and the results are automatically sorted by lowest-priced items first. Paper clips for 27 cents? Sold.
StorageFront is a site that doubles as a marketing tool for storage facility owners, but on the consumer side it offers a search engine for finding self-storage locations across the U.S. You can filter results by unit size and a dozen features, such as climate control, 24-hour cameras, and more.
8. Soda Finder
Frankly, I’m not sure I’d actually drink a case of soda that was discontinued by the manufacturer 20 years ago … but expiration dates aside, Soda Finder is an online store that offers a search engine for rare, old, and discontinued soda pop. (They don’t have my favorite, Crystal Pepsi, right now — but it was there when I first discovered this site.) And yes, there are disclaimers and warnings all over the old products. But even if you don’t spend a dime, Soda Finder is a bottle full of fun.
So there you go — eight of the crazy-coolest search engines we could find. But you know, there’s one more I should mention. It’s similar to this last one, the soda search engine, but let’s not penalize it for similar/duplicate content. After all, if you’re reliving childhood by looking for an old favorite soda pop, you might decide some candy would be a perfect match. Chocolate usually doesn’t go well with soda, but I’m gonna include this one, anyway.
BONUS: Nostalgic Candy
Nostalgic Candy does for chocolate/sweets what Soda Finder does for beverages. Remember Hot Dog Bubble Gum? Remember Mallo Cups? Remember those candy cigarette sticks? My, how times have changed since I was a kid. Again, buying or not, this is a fun search down memory lane.
(Special thanks to GP for some ideas and assistance.)