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I have always thought of Google as being a search engine for everyone, that's part of the appeal. So when the development team behind a web portal for 'mature users' contacted me about the launch of a new search engine specifically designed for the older user I was a little confused.

dweb-askmabel Maybe it's my age, after all I am fast approaching the '50 plus' demographic that the Mabels development folk are targeting with AskMabel or maybe it's just that I have seen it all before. Ever since Google burst onto the search scene, redefining and dominating it, start-ups have been trying to get a slice of the search action and convince us that niche searching is where it is at. AskMabel appears to be doing just that, what with it promising a "unique take on targeted search results" and being "designed with the 50+ surfer in mind" and all. What it offers, I am assured, is something that is "tailored to the search preferences of a mature audience" although I am struggling to think what they may be, or more to the point how they might differ from what Google does.

After all, if my 80 year old mother wants to find a web site detailing the antiques fairs in her location then Google will happily look for those for her, and return them in a format she can happily understand. As long as the hits returned are relevant, what more could my mother or your mother possibly want? Well the press release promises a "level of demographic profiling" which "helps to create a seamless user experience, providing a quicker and easier route to finding relevant information online" apparently. By which I think they mean that AskMabel filters the results in order to somehow display the ones that are most relevant to older users.

Which still leaves me feeling confused. I can see the usefulness in providing a large font option (I suffer from low vision as a result of Wet Macular Degeneration myself) but a button which says 'clear search term' being promoted as adding to the user experience of the older Internet user? Isn't that just a wee bit patronizing? And as for matching and fine tuning the results of searches "directly to the topic and age" of the user, surely the most relevant result for any given search is going to be pretty much the same regardless of age? Jon Wickham, owner and founder of Mabels, says that "filtering the users search results to the topic of the search as well as the age group of the user is the first steps to a much improved internet browsing experience" and believes that it is "the way forward in attracting the quality and value content we all strive for".

To me it almost seems like a retrograde step back to the days of information portals (and if you can remember when that word was all the buzz, you are probably as old as me) with everything categorized by subject matter. Indeed, Ask Mabel allows users to find results to their search that are related to specific categories such as health, finance, retirement and mobility for example. Interestingly, they can also opt for a Google-powered search, which begs the question why not just Go Google in the first place?

Over to Jon Wickham again: "It's very important that information about issues affecting the older generation are easily and broadly accessible. There are so many fantastic web sites and information out there but we found that finding them quickly without wasting valuable time having to search all over the place wasn’t as easy as you’d think". Actually, Jon, I beg to differ as I think it's very easy, and so does my elderly Google using mother...

Do you think there's a need for an age-related search angine? Let us know by posting a comment below.

Edited by happygeek: unstuck

As Editorial Director and Managing Analyst with IT Security Thing I am putting more than two decades of consulting experience into providing opinionated insight regarding the security threat landscape for IT security professionals. As an Editorial Fellow with Dennis Publishing, I bring more than two decades of writing experience across the technology industry into publications such as Alphr, IT Pro and (in good old fashioned print) PC Pro. I also write for SC Magazine UK and Infosecurity, as well as The Times and Sunday Times newspapers. Along the way I have been honoured with a Technology Journalist of the Year award, and three Information Security Journalist of the Year awards. Most humbling, though, was the Enigma Award for 'lifetime contribution to IT security journalism' bestowed on me in 2011.

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Last Post by willson1
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I think it is a very patronising idea. Nobody, no matter what their age, likes to be thought of as old. And furthermore, having an old lady as the icon rubs more salt in the wounds!!

What are these people thinking?!

If their interest is to set-up an OAP/mature web portal for news etc, then fine do that, but to package it as an OAP search engine is stupid.

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The seniors search engine has, from what I understand, been born from out of the existing seniors news/resource portal. Still don't get it myself. About the only age-related niche engine I could understand would be for young kids which might filter out inappropriate material from searches, but that's it.

Edited by happygeek: spelling

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The mind boggles! I think the proof will be in the pudding. We may find it another billion dollar company like instagram!

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Reminds me of a bad clone of AskJeeves, which was targeted towards the non-tech saavy demographic as well. (I think I read a study somewhere that AskJeeves ranked as the primary search engine, even above Google, for housewives back in the day.) In fact, Ask.com dropped Jeeves specifically to lose that stigma.

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i think it was good but in my mind this search engine is powered by Google. the ask mabel has no searver for more more more Search Engine Result.. thanks but over all good i check it

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@offshoregeek - you agree with what, exactly? :)

@willson1 - the whole Google in China thing is a path well trodden, and full of state censorship potholes waiting to trip both searcher and search provider up!

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This is a good idea but Google is a huge Search engine so one really need something pretty good to beat it.

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and exactly how will the ... "target user" find this tool? by googling "google for old people" ?

i think it's not only useless, but also degrading. Like putting all the people of a certain age in the same basket. Its like assuming no 60 year old is ever going to want to play a child's game... maybe i'm just seeing this worst than it will be but it reminds me way too much of the whole "18-24 kids are more dangerous on the road" thing , i'm 23 and i keep getting stuff taken away from me because other people arround my age can't resist taking their car while they are drunk...

/done ranting~

antiques fairs in here location

her* :)

Edited by Philippe.Lahaie: typo

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While I completely reject the idea of a "retirement home" search engine, there is the kernel of a something valuable in here.

First off. Age doesn't define a person. Army officers, actors, criminals... we all get old. Assuming that the army officer becomes very like the actor when he's old is a wacky idea. More recent generations might have more competent web masters than older generations, but they're still web masters not people of age X.

There's just too much brainless content out there and search engines haven't coped very well. For example they have a horrible tendency to assume that I haven't typed in a well spelled query. They assume I made a typo and deluge me with answers I didn't ask for. I have to do extra work to get rid of the rubbish. (Several times a day.) Then the results are old, or it's just an unanswered question, or the author didn't know what he was talking about...

I'd be happy with a few finds (maybe 5 articles) that are useful to me. I'm happy to do more work myself with a smarter search syntax (remember Alta Vista! that's a start), and to pay a modest amount each year. If I pay I get control, that's what I want. Where advertising pays, it seems intelligence and usefulness exit the scene. That's what we have today.

Summary there's room for better search. Not for older people, but to suit individual needs. (I've sketched some of my own preferences above. Each person will have their own, mostly different I think.)

The current advertising model may have poisoned the search well. If enough people care maybe they can take back control of this important part of their lives!!

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The current advertising model may have poisoned the search well.

I think you may have a point there, but what is the solution now that this model has attained such a critical mass?

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Without going into detail, some of the pieces I can see include:

  • Start with the people who are annoyed enough to have looked at StartPage, DuckDuckGo... That is those who have taken some initiative.
  • Have an economic model that avoids advertising, and rewards active, ongoing contribution plus accumulated contribution.
  • If the mass market comes to the party that's a plus, but this can survive with the participants alone, doesn't need people who are pure spectators.
  • Users can choose how it works, real personalisation, right to the very core if you want, not some pre-packaged minor-configuration utility.

Like a democratisation for those who get involved and make useful contributions. The web has given us tools that can do it. Too many smart people have an attitude of we make it, and those uninvolved consumers out there use it. The ongoing Endless September'isation can be broken by those who notice it, if they're determined enough.

(By Endless September I mean the flood of new users being used to justify the degradation of pre-existing web features.)

Edited by Mike Gale: Add point about personalisation.

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i do not think so that any seniors peoples need the otrher Google , it is best for all and providing the good services

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