In March 2002, webmasters around the Net started noticing referrals from a host identifying itself at eps.new.search.new.net. Trying to access http://eps.new.search.net.net, however, results in an aborted connection, hiding the identity of the search engine from many webmasters. After somebody started a thread at JimWorld's Search Engine Forums, I spent a couple of hours looking into the mystery engine.
As it turns out, eps.new.search.new.net is the host for Quick!, a search engine normally only accessible to users of New.net, a registrar of alternate top-level domains. Although the clear intent of Quick! is to promote New.net's new aTLDs, its listings include sites from the standard, ICANN-approved domains as well.
Quick! is a partnership between New.net and Applied Semantics. The two companies announced their partnership in a press release dated 14 March 2002, and announced the creation of Quick! (in a message in the New.net user forum) on 29 March 2002. (This websnob started seeing referrals from Quick! on 31 March 2002.)
If you're using Quick!, your're in the minority, because the Quick! host server (eps.new.search.new.net) disconnects anyone it doesn't think is a New.net customer. The only way to see Quick! results is to install the New.net plugin, use an ISP that's partnered with New.net, or perform a sneaky cut-and-paste job.
If you've never heard of New.net before, and you're seeing New.net results after performing a browser-based search, check to see if your ISP is one of New.net's partner ISPs. If it isn't, check Windows' "Add/Remove Programs" menu (in the Control Panel) and look for a program called "NewDotNet". (The plugin is Windows-only.) If it's there, it probably snuck in when you installed some other program; New.net pays other software companies to "bundle" the NewDotNet plugin with other software (usually commercial file-sharing programs).
Both the NewDotNet plugin and ISP-based New.net service override normal address-bar searches, so a user who mistypes a domain name is redirected to Quick!. (Normally, Internet Explorer redirects such users to MSN search.) That's probably how most users discover Quick!.
If you're not running New.net (and don't want to), the only way to sneak into eps.new.search.new.net is to find a complete referral URI (with all the search parameters included) from your web server logs, and paste that into your browser's address bar. (You can't just type "http://eps.new.search.new.net", because that host is checking the address for several variables, including a user number and partner name, and aborting any connection that doesn't have all the variables set.) Once you're "in" Quick!, however, you can enter any query you want into the input box.
Quick! search results are a combination of Overture's pay-per-click listings, Inktomi results, Open Directory Project listings, and Quick!'s own database, which consists only of sites using New.net's aTLDs.
Oddly enough (considering its origins), the top results at Quick! aren't from the New.net domains. Instead, the "Featured Results" are drawn from Overture and Inktomi (in the same order they display on Overture.com). The first page of results for each search contains only 5 featured pages; further pages of results contain 15 Featured Results.
Many searches produce a sidebar of "Related Searches". (This presumbably uses the "Dynamic Categorization" techology that Applied Semantics considers its specialty.) Quick!'s Related Searches are based more on traffic correlations than keyword clustering, and often recommend searches that contain completely different terms than what was searched for.
Underneath the the Featured Results/Related Searches section, Quick! lists up to three "Featured New.net Sites" (all sites using New.net aTLDS). A surprising number of searches on Quick! produce results without any Featured New.net Sites, which suggests that either New.net registrants aren't submitting their sites, or aren't actually using their domains for real sites. (Come to think of it, those are probably both true).
The last section on each page of search results is "Closest Web Site Matches by Category", containing six listings from the Open Directory database.
While the second and later page of search results display new Overture/Inktomi listings, they repeat the New.net and ODP listings.
There's not a lot to say to webmasters about Quick!. If your site is listed in Overture, Inktomi, or the ODP, you're probably going to pick up some incidental traffic from Quick!, but it's not worth trying to optimize a site for it. (In fact, it's redundant, since the Featured Sites are displayed in exactly the same order as they are at Overture.com. If you're optimizing for Overture/Inktomi, just keep doing what you're already doing.)
Quick!'s own database only includes New.net domains, so there's no way to submit a site if you're not a New.net registrant. If you are, you should submit using the Quick Search Submit form. (That form is actually on a "free form" site, which suggests New.net is not the most technically-savvy bunch of people on the Web.)
A New.net representative admitted in the new.chat forum that New.net plans to add paid placement for New.net domains. Until then, placement for New.net domains seems to be governed by registrant-entered descriptions and keywords.
New.net has no reason to send a robot to listings it gets from Overture, Inktomi, or the ODP. They probably use some sort of automatic verification of submitted New.net domains, but I don't know it they use a robot or just look up the domain in New.net's customer database. (I don't have any New.net domains, so I can't watch for a robot.)
The most interesting thing about Quick! is that's it's showing up in server logs at all; until Quick!'s debut, many people (including me) didn't believe New.net's claims about the number of New.net users. Quick! makes it hard to ignore the fact that New.net does have a sizeable number of users: For the 30 days preceding this review, Quick! produced referrals (for this domain, bauser.com) comparable to other second-tier engines. In fact, it outperformed several older engines, including Teoma, MAMMA, Webcrawler, and Overture. New.net may actually be building a constituency worth being aware of.
Quick! itself, on the other hand, is nothing to write home about. Unless you're extraordinarily fond of New.net's new top-level domains, you're better off switching your browser defaults back to a good search engine like Google. If your website is already listed in one of Quick!'s contributing engines, accept the referrals as the dumb luck they are, but don't be surprised if New.net eventually stops sending you free users.