Need to do a little online detective work? Track down anyone from long lost schoolmates to the new friend whose number you've lost with this assortment of powerful people-search engines. Photo by Byrne7214.
<br /?Pipl is a tenacious people-search engine. Pipl's claim to fame is the depths to which it can plumb the "deep web" to find information. When you search for a person using Pipl, you're not limited to a simple white pages search. Pipl scours databases and indexes that standard search engines normally don't touch. If it's there to be found, Pipl returns all manner of things about the person you're searching for, including blog entires, photos, publications, donations on public record, profiles on social and business networking sites, and other overlooked sources. Pipl supports searching by name, username, phone number, and email.
Specialised search engines you say? Heresy! Many readers eschewed fancy people-search engines—many of which often incorporate Google results into their own—preferring instead to get their hands dirty at the source. With more and more people cultivating an online presence, it's easier than ever to find people with broader search engines like Google. One of Google's strongpoints is that you can use additional search parameters that are unavailable at the other search engines. For example, it's impossible to search for "John Smith classic car restoration" to find an old car-obsessed friend of yours when all you can type in is Last Name, First Name. Additionally, Google can sometimes find incredibly obscure references to a person. (I once tracked down an old classmate through a single reference on an out of date softball team roster found through Google.)
Facebook is principally a social network, but its the first stop for many people searchers due to its widespread popularity. By Facebook's count, 150 million active users frequent the site. Even if you take those numbers with a grain of salt, that's still an enormous number of people who have put themselves out there to be found. Therein lies the strength of looking for someone on Facebook: By joining the service, Facebook users have essentially put up a big sign that says, "Find me!"
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/>Spock is another people-search engine that relies on multiple sources and aggregation to cull as much information as it can about a subject. In addition to indexing information from various news sites and social networks, Spock has a variety of notifications options available. Like 123people (below), Spock supports email notifications of changes to a person search, but you can also subscribe to an RSS feed for your search.
123people has a broad reach, delving into blogs and public profiles to increase your chances of finding who you're looking for. 123people is a strong people-search engine, but one of the best pieces of functionality available to 123people searchers is its email notification feature, which sends out an email alert whenever the results of a specific search changes. It's a little heavy on the stalk-factor (though in a strange way not all that different from Facebook's newsfeed), but it saves you from wasting your time with fruitless return searches.
If you've got your own foolproof tips or tricks to share when it comes to tracking people down on the web, sound off in the comments.