science comes to the search engine wars!

I found this post on the Data Mining blog, which links to a page that compares bing, yahoo & google. The idea is that you submite a search term, and then it performs the search on all three search engines, and returns the first page of each. You can then pick which results are the best, after which you can find out which results came from which search engine.

For me so far, yahoo is performing better than I expected. I haven’t used it for search in years…

In any case, it’s good to be able to test this blindly. Still, given the relative market positions, being slightly better on search results isn’t going to do bing or yahoo much good (it’s like Pepsi winning the Pepsi challenge – people aren’t choosing Coke because it tastes better!) – they still need to come up with a compelling, unique business model if they’re going to dislodge google from the top of the hill…

Student and teacher of innovation - University of Queensland Business School - links to academic papers, twitter, and so on can be found here.

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4 thoughts on “science comes to the search engine wars!

  1. Tim,

    The other problem, of course, is the unexplained desire of aforementioned companies (and others) to be on top of the hill. I think there is something to be said for simply being the best search engine all round (regardless of rank). Many a pyrrhic victory litter the IT landscape. I only cheer for a fight when I find that the guy at the top is truly undeserving and has simply blundered into becoming the dominant platform (AOL IM and Myspace come to mind).

    Google comes across as a thoughtful despot. I don’t so much hate it as fear it for the power it wields. I’d like to see this power be handed over to MS or Yahoo.

    • I’ve never had much problem with google, mainly because if this web page had been available in 1998 or so google would have killed everyone… I know what you mean about their level of power though Marco…

  2. Back in around 2000 or so this kind of thing was quite common. There were a whole load of “meta-search engines that trawled through the best search engines of the time, Altavista, Yahoo, AskJeeves etc and displayed an amalgamation of the hits, sometimes splitting the screen four ways, sometimes using its own algorithms to produce a best-of-the-best type result. I was always a bit half-hearted about them myself just as I’m half hearted now at the idea that other companies ought to even bother trying to compete with google. Google shot onto the scene in 2000 or something and I’m a little suspicious of the idea that it won out because it had “the best” search algorithm” the “best” always seemed to me to involve shunting to the top whatevere you searched for and for a long while it was quite clear to me that google were promoting certain sites ahead of others – I think maybe Google won out via a combination of brilliant marketing to customers…… it was the all white page that had no load time (in the dial-up era) that persuaded me to use it and recommend to others that they set it as their home page and the fact that they were clearly getting a lot of money from their sponsers behind the scenes.

    Which isn’t to say that their search algortihms aren’t good, of course… but I think we should remain suspicious of anyone who says “our search algorithm is the best” but never actually reveals to anyone what exactly that algorithm is.

    From an ideological point of view it’s flagrantly wrong to allow Google to be the sole proprieter of the internet but realistically no-one has challenged them for years and I wonder if it’d be simpler for smaller communities of practice to work around it by providing their own links, classifications of their own more specific areas….. In short, I don’t think that these new meta-engines will probably have a greater impact than the old ones did. For years librarians have been saying “try more search engines than just google…. I’ve actually always disagreed with this approach. If I search for “business innovation”, google is probably going to give me a toehold into the community by pulling up a number of sites, which will then hopefully link me to others that interest me. Far more useful to explore the web this way, than to trawl through pages of Yahoo results on top of the google ones…

  3. Thanks for the comment Alex. I remember the days of Alta Vista well – and one of the things about Bing is that it has a real 1999 feel to it.

    You and I have discussed this before though and I think we have quite different memories of how good google was when it started. For me, it was WAY better than the existing search engines. It used to be a real crapshoot if you were trying to find information on relatively obscure things pre-google, and my experience was that google’s algorithm was substantially better. And in fact, one of its big advantgages was that it WAS an algorithm, rather than a small band of ‘experts’, which was the model that most of the other search engines were still following in the late 90s. So for me, internet search became substantially more useful once google showed up.

    There is definitely an issue with the huge concentration of power that they now have, and while they don’t seem inclined to abuse it at the moment, that’s still not a good situation. Not sure what the best way around it is…. Part of the problem is that the internet is definitely a rich-get-richer environment in terms of links (which is why google returns amazon results so frequently now) – so even if Bing or yahoo (or someonw new) now have better search algorithms than google, they also have to compete against google’s embeddedness, which is quite a bit more difficult…

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