A Search Engine Designed To Surprise You
“Marginalia” up-ranks sites that are text-heavy — with truly offbeat results. Call it “serendipity engineering”
Hey nerds: I recently stumbled across “Marginalia Search”. It’s a search engine with a fascinating design — rather than give you exactly what you’re looking for, it tries to surprise you.
How does it do this? By up-ranking web sites that are text-heavy, and downranking ones that are highly visual, loaded with modern web cruft, and SEO-optimized.
The upshot, as the creator suggests, is that you wind up with a lot of weird results very different from the usual fare coughed up by Google or Bing or even DuckDuckGo. Marginalia is doing …
… in a sense the opposite of what most major search engines do, they favor modern websites over old-looking ones. Most links you find here will be nearly impossible to find on a regular search engine, as they aren’t sufficiently search engine optimized.
This may seem a choice from some sort of nostalgia, which in part is true, but there is more to it. The hypothesis is something akin to the Lindy-effect: If a webpage has been around for a long time, then odds are it has fundamental redeeming quality that has motivated keeping it around all for that time. Looking at design elements is one way of determining the approximate age of a webpage, and thus predict its usefulness.
The purpose of the tool is primarily to help you find and navigate the strange parts of the internet.
The strangest ego-surf I’ve ever done
I can confirm! When I did an egosearch for myself, Marginalia basically ignored all of my modern presence online — like my Twitter account, my personal web site, my Medium posts, and most of my writing for publications like the New York Times Magazine or Wired or Smithsonian.
Instead, it was an absolute smorgasbord of deep-cut Clive Thompson material — going back literally 25 years into the Internet’s precambrian past. One of the top links was to…