Despite all of the hype surrounding social media, search is still the backbone of the internet. Without it, you’d be hard pressed to find all of the information that’s out there. The giants of search know this, of course, and they continue to work on ways to make your searches easier and faster -- and to muscle out the competition in the process. Here are just a few of the latest search technologies that are available -- or soon to be available -- that will help you power your way through the web.

** Google’s tricks Google recently unveiled a basket of new technologies designed to hasten your way to the information you seek online. A new feature called “instant page” guesses which internet site you’re looking for by analyzing the words you type into the search box and “pre-fetching,” or caching, the site. When it works, the result is astonishing: click on the search result and, if Google has guessed correctly, the page will appear in an instant -- no slow loading due to heavy graphics or complicated page layout.

This feature will be a boon not only to those still struggling with slow internet connections but also to those with the fastest connections available. That’s because the loading of today’s internet pages is often hampered by slow source servers or, more frequently, by pages that are weighed down with dozens of images and ads. The good news about instant page is that you don’t need to be logged in to your Google account to use it. It no doubt leverages a technology already in existence: Google’s now familiar instant results feature that shows you sites for which you’re likely searching as you type into the search box.

Voice search is another enhancement that Google is bringing to its search engine. Already available to smartphone users, voice search allows you to speak search terms rather than type them. To use it, all you’ll need is a microphone connected to your computer. Even one that’s integrated into a webcam will work, which means that you don’t necessarily have to be tethered to your PC to use it.

Rounding out Google’s palette of new search offers is “search by image,” which is not the same as simply logging on to Google and click the Images link. The new search by image feature will let you drag an image file from your desktop -- or paste the web address of an image -- into the search box. Google will then do its best to tell you as much as it can about the picture, including, if possible, identities of people, location, background of place, origin of the picture, and more.

You’ll see these features roll out over the coming weeks and months. You’ll know that voice search is ready when a little microphone icon appears in the Google search box. Image search will have a link that allows you to search for a file on your hard drive and another that lets you paste in a web address of an image.

** Yahoo! and Bing move forward Google competitors Yahoo! and Microsoft’s Bing aren’t just standing by and watching the progress that Google is making in search. Each search engine is rolling out enhancements as well.

Yahoo!’s new Search Direct attempts to predict your search phrase as you’re typing it. Much like Google’s “instant” feature, which offers suggestions as you type a search term, Search Direct rolls out a set of ten possible matches in the left side of a frame below the search box. Beyond that, though, Search Direct uses the right side of a frame below the search box to expand upon the search phrase you’re typing. For instance, if you type “what is fibromyalgia,” Search Direct will provide links to information sources on fibromyalgia in the right side of the frame below the search box. The best way to test out Search Direct is at Yahoo’s bare—bones search site (

Bing’s latest enhancements centre mostly on mobile, concentrating on beefing up its free Bing for iPhone app and its Bing for Mobile browser. The Bing for iPhone app now automatically fetches links to iPhone apps relevant to a user’s search term, making it much easier to find apps than by delving into the sea of apps stored on Apple’s iTunes. And Bing for Mobile, the browser available for many smartphones, now makes it easy to share images with Facebook friends, browse the latest news stories quickly, and includes a search history feature that can speed your way to previously visited links.