Pipl is a people search engine that tries to be a little different. Rather than just go off and hunt for email addresses, this tries to search through the deep/invisible/hidden web to return content that other search engines are going to miss. The interface is simple – type in first name, last name, city, state and country, then let it go to see what it’ll find.
It searches across a wide variety of resources, and it does it reasonably quickly – with the searches that I ran I’d get responses in 5 seconds or less. Pipl pulled content from 192 (which is a British site providing access to electoral registers for example), Friendster, and it pulled up what it calls ‘quick facts’ that are snippets from webpages. This was useful, since it provided useful thumbnail sketches of the person/people with the name the searcher is seeking.
So, for example, our own Danny Sullivan is variously:
+ Editor in chief of Search Engine Land,
+ A brilliant guy who does an amazing podcast
+ An architect
+ An idiot
+ A long time commentator on the search engine industry
Pipl also pulls content from profile and directories such as Amazon, publications, public records, web pages and news items.
It also suggests possible name variants as well, so ‘Danny Sullivan’ may be a nickname for ‘Daniel Sullivan’ or ‘Sheridan Sullivan’. The first I could have guessed, the second took a little more thought to work out.
It was certainly interesting to hunt through the information provided, and Pipl has made a good start, but there were a few gaps that surprised me. No mention of social bookmarking services for example – I would expect to be able to see if people with the name I was looking for had marked things in del.icio.us or Furl for example.
Although Pipl do mention Flickr I didn’t see any references to images that either Danny or I had put up. I would also expect to see material from the BT phone book, or some of the other school reunion websites.
This however maybe a little churlish, given that it’s only recently launched. It’s an engine that’s worth taking a peek at – even if it’s only to see what they have on you and your namesakes. It will probably be more than you expect.
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