WASHINGTON – Seek and ye shall find. A number of new Internet search engines created by Christian, Jewish or Muslim entities aim to filter out queries from Web users in a way that is more relevant to those users and keeps them from temptation, alcohol and pornography.
"We think that the other search engines are way too 'main street' oriented. We wanted to provide a solution to explore the Web in a safe environment, where you won't bump into explicit content or immoral websites, like pornography," said Reza Sardeha, the Amsterdam-based founder of the Muslim-oriented search engine I'mHalal.
If one types the world alcohol into imhalal.com, the search engine produces results that explain the Muslim viewpoint on drinking. Type in "pornography," and the search engine produces . . . nothing.
The 21-year-old Kuwaiti says the site attracts users from places like Pakistan, Indonesia, Malaysia, the United Arab Emirates as well as the United States.
"Actually we know that our users are not only Muslims, and once a week we get an email from non-Muslims as well saying that they like the content of our safe search engine and they allow their children to search knowing they won't bump into offensive content."
For Christians, SeekFind offers "a research tool for people who are looking for biblical and theological content from an evangelical Christian perspective," says founder Shea Houdmann, who operates from Colorado Springs, Colorado.
According to the seekfind.org website, the search engine functions by "only indexing websites that are biblically based, theologically sound, and in agreement with our statement of faith.
"That way, you can have confidence that you will find content which will be God-honoring and spiritually encouraging," it says.
For the Jewish community, the niche is filled by another engine called Jewogle, which bears a passing resemblance to Google.
Danny Sullivan, editor in chief of SearchEngineLand.com, said none of these website has "taken off and caught fire" but that "it doesn't mean to say that they can't be good, profitable businesses."
But he said some of the niche websites fail, like the African-American search engine called rushmoredrive, which was closed by its parent firm IAC in 2009.
"It was designed so that when you do a search you get sort of an African-American spin on the Web results that you got back. But that never took off."
Michael Gartenberg, partner at technology research firm Altimer Group, told National Public Radio that some of these niche groups are bringing more users to the Internet.
"You have an emerging generation and emerging culture that wants to take advantage of technology . . . search engines and the things that they provide but at the same point, be true to their heritage . . . and not stray from their belief system," he says.
© AFP 2014