Google is seen by many as a search standard. Initially it built on its
simplicity, huge reach, and speed of response. Lately it is moving in many different directions-from a directory-based search, to Google Earth to
searching your desktop. And, of course, advertising based revenue streams. But
if one were to go back to the original proposition of search engines-finding
of relevant information-then is Google really the best search engine? Are
there more around that offer, if not better, at least equally good search?
In general, any search engine uses three basic components to
answer a query: Its Web crawler crawls the Web or visits Web pages regularly to
gather information about them; the indexer generates anThere is more to search
and on that parameter there is a long way to go index of Web pages based on the
information gathered by the Web crawler; and, finally, the query server displays
your results in a particular order.
Google uses proprietary software, PageRank-developed by Google’s
founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin-which use text-matching techniques to
find pages that are both important and relevant to your search. The
popularity-ranking method works out the order in which the search results are
displayed-based on how many other sites link to each page. MSN and Yahoo (and
AltaVista) use categories and keywords to index pages. The MSN index generator
ranks those sites higher that are updated regularly, have high volume content
and have many sites link to it.
Ask Jeeves flagship search sites, ask.com and teoma.com, work on
the Teoma search technology. Based on the subject of search query, Teoma
organizes sites into naturally occurring communities. Its Subject-Specific
Popularity technique ranks sites by the number of same-subject pages that are
referenced by each site. Vivisimo’s clusters free the user from the burden of
gleaning right information from the reams of it available on the Web. This
search engine gives high importance to the quality of resulting cluster
descriptions visible to the user.
The difference in searches arises from the frequency and
accuracy of the Web crawl, size, and type of index, ranking methods and
relevancy of information. Google is rated as the biggest search engine with an
index of more than 8 bn pages, as per the figures available with the Search
Engine Watch (an independent analyst of the search engine industry). The second
in line is MSN with 5 bn pages, followed by Yahoo with an estimated 4.2 bn and
Ask Jeeves at 2.5 bn. But, obviously, there is more to search than size.
And, on that parameter, there is a long way to go. I tried some
searches-‘Natwar Singh Oil’, ‘Gandhi Information Technology’ and ‘search
engine industry size’-the first one to see if the web put out any historical
coverage of this issue. The second to see if anyone had at anytime linked the
Mahatma’s economic philosophies with information technology (a very long shot)
and the last one to check if one could get a quick, specific, answer on what is
the size of this new industry (a very optimistic shot). The search was tried on
Google, MSN, Vivisimo, and Teoma.
The results were grey on all. ‘Natwar Singh Oil’ refused to
give any more information than the current news coverage from across the globe.
‘Gandhi Information Technology’ gave many names of educational institutes,
and the search engine query gave nothing with pinpoint accuracy. There were many
other advanced options that were not tried. And this is not meant to be a
comprehensive testing of search engines.
But one thing was obvious. Search engines have a long way to go. So do the
searchers. We all like quick and clean information. That is simply not there. So
the next time you are searching for options, try the advanced searches and be
imaginative. Who knows what you may uncover?