The search engine,when you think about it, is a pretty magical thing. Really, they are essentially full text searches of ultra-massive databases, serving mind-boggling numbers of queries every second.
And there are hundreds of them.
Google, of course, is the Big Daddy of them all, with 60% of the market. The impressively poorly named Bing has apparently overtaken Yahoo! for second place now. Which is a bit like a Honda Civic entering the Le Mans 24 hour and making its way up to second, simply because the competition keep running out of fuel. (Although the comparison feels a little unkind to Honda).
To be honest, Google’s recent integration of Google+ into its search doesn’t bother me. I don’t trust Google’s results, and haven’t for several years. For searching MSDN, for example, it does a very good job. And their record of reporting takedown notices to Chilling Effects is an excellent one.
The only problem is that Google is too intelligent a tool. When it comes to web search, I don’t really want to live in a bubble, surrounded by the familiar, mainly because I already have nearly all of the familiar bookmarked and backed up to Firefox Sync. What I do need is a search engine that doesn’t really care what I am looking for or why, and will just interpret the query the way I want it.
Of course, I remember way back in 1996, when WebCrawler was the big noise, and got unseated by the mighty Digital Equipment Corporation’s shiny new AltaVista (now, sadly, a Yahoo! front end, but I won’t go into the history of AltaVista right now). Lycos is still going, and for years I was a huge fan of Dogpile, but at the moment, my default search provider has become one that I’ve always – until recently – scorned:-
Don’t laugh. It doesn’t have the reach of either Google or Bing, but that’s to my advantage – it has much less spam, better results, and I don’t have to think my way around Google’s algorithms to get the search results I actually want. With Google I frequently have to make two searches to find what I want – whereas with Jeeves it’s usually on the first page. (As an aside, I think Google’s integration of Google+ is great news… for Bing. It’ll erode the quality of Google’s results like nobody’s business.)
So… what the hell? Am I still living in 1996? Or am I just fed up with the “clever clever” search algorithms that actually just make Google and its ilk more and more distracting and irrelevant?