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The Perfect Search

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Is there such a thing as the perfect search?

The New York Times published on 18 October 2004 an article about Google envy fomenting search wars. Jealous of Google’s domination of searching the internet, new search engines have been launched in the hope that they can vanguish this behemoth.

Which is the best search engine today?

I decided to conduct a personal and limited little experiment. I searched my own name. Just a simple search. The reason I chose this topic is not because of vanity, but because I know precisely where all my web listings are located, and therefore I would be able to identify all the hits, and, more importantly, I will also be able to detect all the misses.

I confined myself to 8 search engines, freely available on the net, and looked at only the top 30 sites listed. Results are given as percentages. I have ranked the search engines according to the accuracy of their searches. Perfect hits are listed under “Correct Hits.” Identification of a site where I was formerly listed, and can still be found with one further search within that site, is listed under “Half Wrong”. Sites totally undetected are listed under “Totally Missed.” And sites listed that are absolutely unrelated to myself, are listed under “Totally Wrong.”

Search Engine Ranking
1. A9 Correct Hits 93%, Half Wrong 7%, Totally Missed 0%, Totally Wrong 0%
2. Google Correct Hits 83%, Half Wrong 10%, Totally Missed 0%, Totally Wrong 7%
3. Excite Correct Hits 50%, Half Wrong 26%, Totally Missed 7%, Totally Wrong 17%

4. WebCrawler Correct Hits 53%, Half Wrong 23%, Totally Missed 4%, Totally Wrong 10%
5. Yahoo Correct Hits 33%, Half Wrong 33%, Totally Missed 10%, Totally Wrong 24%
6. Clusty Correct Hits 30%, Half Wrong 30%, Totally Missed 7%, Totally Wrong 33%
7. MSN Correct Hits 24%, Half Wrong 10%, Totally Missed 13%, Totally Wrong 53%
8. Snap Correct Hits 23%, Half Wrong 10%, Totally Missed 10%, Totally Wrong 57%

To my great surprise, Google is not the top search engine. It has been supplanted by Amazon.com’s A9. This is an excellent search engine and highly accurate in its capabilities. I realise that Google has other advanced search capabilities, but I am not exploring these functions.

I also like newcomer Clusty because it groups the topics into folders, and makes the presentation clean and tidy.

Although it sits at the bottom of my search engine table, I like the other newcomer, Snap. It has a pleasant layout, and furthermore, it gives information about the popularity of each website and a rating of its satisfaction.

What has been most disappointing is that the older search engines, the ones that preceded Google, have not improved over the years. Excite, WebCrawler, Yahoo, and Microsoft’s MSN search, are uniformly unremarkable.

It will be interesting to see how these listed and other unlisted search engines battle it out in the future. No doubt with keen competition, we will one day achieve that perfect search engine!

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