When you're trying to find someone online, Google's not the only game in town. In the last two years, a handful of new people search engines have come onto the scene that offer better ways to pinpoint people info by name, handle, location, or place of employment. While there's still no killer, one-stop people search, there are more ways than ever to track down a long-lost friend, stalk an ex, or screen a potential date or employee. The next time you wonder, "What ever happened to so-and-so?" you've got a few power people search tools to turn to.
Note: Stalking is serious business. When we say 'stalk,' we're exaggerating, not recommending.
Find Phone Numbers and Addresses with ZabaSearch
zabasearch.png Look up anyone's home address(es) and phone numbers at ZabaSearch, a creepily-comprehensive people search engine that will freak you out when you search on your own name but save your ass when you desperately need a former coworker's phone number. ZabaSearch's index includes listed and unlisted numbers and addresses (though the founders say all the info is public record.)
Search the "Deep Web" with Pipl
My favorite new search engine of the bunch, Pipl digs up information about a person Google often misses, supposedly by searching the "deep web" (or "invisible web.") Pipl returns an impressive number of results for most people who use their "real" names online, including personal web pages, press mentions, MySpace pages, and Amazon wishlists. You can also narrow your search for common names by entering city, state and country, too.
Search Several Social Sites at Once with Wink
So the person you're looking for likely has a Friendster, LinkedIn, MySpace, Twitter, or Xanga account? Instead of searching each service individually, enter their full name or screen name, plus other identifying information like interests and location at Wink to do a one-hit comprehensive search of all those services at once.
Get Employment Results at ZoomInfo
Job-centric search engine ZoomInfo aggregates people and company information in one place to help candidates find the right job, but its people search tool also turns up information about corporate types especially well. ZoomInfo's information listings on people, culled from the web, include people's employment history and current job title, whether or not they're looking for a job. Search by a person's full name at ZoomInfo, and when you get too many results, filter them by geography (U.S. and Canada only.)
Find More than College Students at Facebook
Incessant notifications, Beacon, and zombies aside, one of Facebook's greatest utilities is finding people online, and it's not just for students anymore. Chances are your grandmother set up a Facebook account this year, so all those annoying emails might be worth tracking down your best friend when you were 9 years old who moved to Florida on Facebook.
Practice Your Google-fu for Better People Results
googlepplsearch.png Okay, fine, you can't talk finding people online without mentioning the big G. For internet superstars you'll get great results by just typing his/her name into Google's search box, but for civilians, common names or names with double meanings, a few advanced Google techniques can help narrow down the field of results.
* Enclose the first and last name of the person you're searching for in quotes when you enter it into the search box (like "John Smith").
* Include other relevant words, like the person's profession, employer, location, or screen name, too (like banker or Austin, Texas.)
* If the person you're searching for is likely to appear on a particular web site—like a school—search only that site using the site:URL operator (like site:ucla.edu "John Smith").
* To look up people by face, search for them on Google Images to get a quick visual—especially useful for people with common names, or to determine the gender of a name you never heard before.
Get Context-Menu Access to People Search Engines with the Who Is This Person? Firefox extension
Finally, if you run across folks online you want to know more about often, search a ton of engines for someone's name with the Who Is This Person? Firefox extension. Simply highlight the name on any web page and look 'em up on Wink, LinkedIn, Wikipedia, Facebook, Google News, Technorati, Yahoo Person Search, Spock, WikiYou, ZoomInfo, IMDB, MySpace and other engines from the Who Is This Person? context menu item.
For more online sleuthing resources, check out Wendy's great tutorial on searching public records online. To make yourself more findable? Have a say in what Google says about you. Also, many of these services let you "claim" your name and add information to your results. Do a search for your own name and click the link that says, in effect, "Is this you?"
Does the current crop of people search engines make you want to change your name, fail you entirely, or help you get in touch? Let us know what you think in the comments.
Gina Trapani, the editor of Lifehacker, likes to find and be found. Her weekly feature, Geek to Live, appears every Friday on Lifehacker. Subscribe to the Geek to Live feed to get new installments in your newsreader.