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Beyond Google

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DQW Bureau
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Beyond

Google

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 an 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.

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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. Relevance matters.

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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?

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