The launch of Ask.coms own blog search engine last week has prompted me to look at what both Asks new offering brings to the blogosphere and also what Sphere offers, a search engine which I had not looked at previously here.

There are already a number of players in the Blog Search Engine space, from specialist blog engines such as Technorati and IceRocket and blog search offerings from the main players in the general Search Engine market such as Google Blog Search. As such, the marketplace is already looking quite competitive as everyone looks for which features to offer and how to go about differentiating themselves.

So let’s have a brief look at what both Ask and Sphere are offering us in terms of search and functionality:

ASK.com
They call it their Blogs and Feeds search engine and they have teamed up with Bloglines to provide the information within it, there are three main tabs which return results for a general search, an RSS Feed search and a News Search.

On the general search, you can search according to relevance, date or popularity, with the displayed results giving you the post title together with the author, name of the blog and a short description. It offers 4 options in terms of what you can do with the displayed results: you can preview the blog without leaving the search page by using their binocular feature; you can subscribe to the RSS feed and a drop down menu gives a choice of readers; you can also save the result to visit later which is a nice touch; and you can share the results by posting to del.icio.us, bloglines, digg etc.

There is also a fully functioning advanced search option which allows you to search according to a number of different criteria such as title, author, description etc and by specific time frames. As Ask.com has created this is conjunction with Bloglines, so the RSS feeds are ranked according to Bloglines subscription data not entirely fair but it is difficult to rank RSS Feeds so I guess it has to be done somehow.

Sphere
Sphere runs their own Search Engine and the initial interface reminds me of a mixture of Google and Technorati, which I guess is where some of the inspiration will have come from.

Probably the main stand out feature for the search is that there is a deal of flexibility open to you in terms of the time scales being searched, although this is only available once you have your initial search results which defaults to the last day guess that shows just how much information is now posted on blogs! You can choose to look at the last week, 4 months or choose a customised range of your choice with a natty little graphic to do it with. On top of this you can choose to organise the results by relevance or time.

They give a profile of the author of the Blog which contains average number of posts per week, links per post, last 3 links in and last three links out. The additional information link takes you to a page which recreates much of the same information together with the last three posts made. You can also subscribe to an RSS Feed of your results.

As for the results between the two difficult to tell. Speed was good on both and I was more familiar with the results on Sphere to be honest but the functionality and hence flexibility on Ask seemed to have the edge.

So, over to you – try them out and let me know what you think.

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