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Google may be one of the greatest innovations of the decade, but one could argue there’s a lot of clutter. Smaller, more niche search engines are popping up to cut through all the flotsam. One such site is Twing, a search engine scouting out information in discussion forums.

"The main goal is to let people quickly find relevant content within the social spaces of online discussions," says Scott Germaise, director of product management at Twing. The initial focus of the search engine was and continues to be in forums, which he acknowledges "seems a little bit dated" but argues that forums retain an incredible depth and wealth of content.

Most of the buzz among Web 2.0 users is about blogs and social networking, but forums shouldn’t be counted out yet. According to a Forrester-Groundswell study of over 10,000 U.S. consumers, 28% of internet users read online forums and discussion groups, while 25% read blogs.

Alternative search engines are innovating the way both individuals and businesses alike do research. "There’s a value toward segregating content by certain types of information, Germaise says. "If you look at major search engines, they don’t have a segregated area for this content. They don’t make it easy for you to get it. Page popularity is not going to get you the best stuff." Business owners can also use niche engines as a new medium to better engage their clients. "What we allow brand managers to do is find out what people are saying about their products. Is there a business opportunity here that I’m missing? In the scope of social media, I think it’s increasingly important to find out what real people are saying."

Twing developers are hoping to expand into other social media discussion spaces beyond forums, as well as adding more widgets and getting to the content in more forums.

Do you think searching forums could help small or large businesses?