Prompted by a post on David Fletcher’s blog, I tried out Kartoo just now. Typing “government” gives an interesting result that I have a picture of, but can’t upload to blogger for some reason. I’ll come back later and try again (ah fixed it, new browser blocks popups, but you can recover them and put them on a whitelist). So here’s the screenshot:

It’s an intriguing mini-map of government sites and not at all what I’d expect. Vertex get an entry, apparently because they’re a sponsor – at least they don’t appear at the centre. Both No10’s site and ukonline appear, but so does an Irish government site and MSN. And then two sites that are both retired – open.gov.uk (which was last seen in mid-2001 I think) and dtlr.gov.uk which I think went around the same time (following the election?). That’s the harsh stuff out of the way.

What I really like is the categories on the left hand side. I can’t always figure out why some sites come up in the picture, but it’s interesting to see the variety none the less. I’m sure I could waste hours here discovering new sites, both from the UK and outside (even though I restricted to the UK, for instance, there’s a site called seattleccd.com. Clicking on the site can take you to the home page, not necessarily to anywhere that your search phrase occurs, but hovering on the site shows you the link text on the left hand side. You can also increase or reduce the number of sites that come back in the map (on the options button), or change the search engines used to aggregate the results.

What Kartoo really tries to get to though is the relationship between sites – it’s kind of a technorati for the mainstream web. Who is linking to who, and what are the associations that they create. Fascinating, and as David says, a sign that the be all and end all of search is not google (although I’ve been using all the web and teoma a lot recently). A serious bit of work has gone into this, that’s clear.

While you’re looking at Kartoo – type your own name in and see what comes back.

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