Researchers attending a conference on internet searching were divided on the use of social networking for serious research, with some saying traditional search engines are the more practical choice. Others, however, said social media can be effective tools for specific research tasks, such as conducting a survey or taking a snapshot of people’s interests.

Chris Sherman, president of Searchwise, said Google, Yahoo, Microsoft’s Bing, and newcomer WolframAlpha are the four main search engines that benefit researchers.

"Web search has consolidated into a few major players–and it’s likely to stay that way," he said Sept. 14 at the opening session of the WebSearch University conference in Washington, D.C. He added that competition among the major search companies has increased, which also increases innovation.

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