Engines like Hakia, Accoona and Powerset are trying to grab search market share by writing a more sophisticated algorithm. A growing number of entrepreneurs are placing their bets, however, on a hybrid system that puts humans back into the search equation. They are grouped under a newly coined rubric, "social search," and it is becoming a crowded field.

Newcomers like Squidoo, Sproose and NosyJoe offer search results based on submissions or votes by users. Bessed also relies on users to suggest the best Web pages for a topic, but then has editors refine them. ChaCha gives customers the opportunity to have an online chat with a human being who can provide search assistance.

Sometimes a small variation on an existing idea is enough to make it stand out. In October 2006, when Bessed began its search service with the manually edited results pages, it had only two editors and covered just a few hundred search terms suggested randomly by users.

Get the full story at The New York Times