Can Google swallow up the competition?

 

There always seems to be lots of excitable web news about the ‘latest rival to Google’ or how ‘Google’s dominance is about to end’, but in the last few weeks it appears that finally there might actually be some new search engines coming into existence that could potentially rival the big G.

In the days of the decline of the searches Yahoo and MSN live! (though in the US both still hold a decent measure of success) it seems some new kids are on the block, even one might be an offshoot of a predecessor. They might sound like characters from Lord of the Rings, but in fact they are self-appointed rivals to Google.

These new searches pride themselves on impressive returns as search engines, largely aiming for accuracy over domain pagerank – answering user queries straight out or targeting what the user might want with the results. Google has countered by offering new additions itself – search for ‘Botswana capital’ and it will now tell you the answer is ‘Gaborone’ immediately at the top of the results without the need to click on through another site.

So have these new engines favoured style over substance? Is simplicity the key for search engines? Google has certainly always taken that view and it hasn’t done them any harm! Orchid Box had a look at their latest competition:

1/ Bing

Live’s little brother.

Bing  - Microsoft's New Search

Out of the ashes of Live Search springs the bizarrely named Microsoft ‘Bing’ search. Whether it’s named after the neurotic Friends character, the phrase “bada-bing bada-bing” or possibly the noise a microwave makes when it’s done, we’re not exactly sure. But it certainly looks good, and seems to work well to. Bill Gates’ minions have done well in creating a good looking interface with a simple results page, but the main question on my, and many others’ lips, is...”So...?”.

What’s different about Bing? On the face of it, not much really. The search results do not appear to be any better or worse than Google’s, though they might be a little less cluttered, and the ‘related search’ bar doesn’t offer anything new of note. It’s decent, and worth checking out, but it’s not overwhelming enough to make one want to start Binging and stop Googling.  

2/ Wolfram Alpha

Computational Knowledge Engine Search Thingy.

Wolfram - complicated

Ok so Wolfram isn’t technically a search engine, it’s a data calculator. But it is aiming to be a Google-Defeater, so it’s very relevant here.  The brainchild of British brainbox Stephen Wolfram, the premise is simple in its complexity. Type in a query such as ‘population UK’ and you’ll get a plethora of exciting statistics and graphs which actually can be very useful to one genuinely intrigued by such matters – and it helpfully offers the main figure at the top. It’s very impressive, and is still young so there’s plenty of potential here.

 

Wolfram in action

I’d say Wolfram is more likely to be a Wikipedia-botherer than a Google-Defeater but it’s a creditable source and one well worth using.

3/ Cuil

Cuild it be the one? Probably not.

Cuil - the biggest index search engine ever

Heavily funded and developed by ex-Google innovators, Cuil was meant to be the one to beat Google. The excitement was undousable on its opening day, so much so that Cuil’s servers couldn’t cope with the load at one point, its promise that it indexed more pages than Google one of great attraction to many wanting to test out this new search. Problem is, Cuil is just not there yet.

Cuil search engine results

Searches are ranked on their relevance and content rather than the popularity – which on the face of it makes great sense. Unfortunately this can bring up some strage results that aren’t necessarily useful to a browser – search terms such as ‘Twilight’ that are both a popular book and a generally used term bring up an interesting mix of results.

There are some nice features here, not least Cuil’s superior look. The ‘timeline’ feature works pretty well and is a nifty little addition on a search, and ‘explore by category’ is another user-friendly feature that would attract users and help eliminate the problems of mixed results. Cuil isn’t perfect, but it’s clever enough to make Orchid Box want to try it a bit more. That probably isn't enough for global dominance though.

Oh and apparently it means wisdom in Gaelic, if you were wondering...

4/ Kosmix

"The Web Organised For You". Thanks Mum.

 

Kosmix

One of a number of new ‘categorised’ searches around the web, Kosmix is all about the user, and the personalised search. That is, personalised by Kosmix for you. It's up to you to decide if that's a good thing.

If your term might bring up multiple results, Kosmix will immediately react to your search in the same way Wikipedia might, letting you the various categories your query is under and allowing you the choice. For example a search for ‘Twilight’ will bring up the response that several topic guides have the result – this is useful, but it’s not really what every user wants. Such results are great if you didn’t know what ‘Twilight’ was, and you knew which topic guide you wanted – but where’s the democracy in it all?

 

Kosmix - the search engine dictator

Search results are chosen for you, shop results coming from amazon, reviews from helium and so on... people simply can’t discover much new with Kosmix, at least without copious editing and fiddling. It’s severely limited in its aims and ideals and Orchid Box simply can’t see this one taking off particularly well.

So what’s next for search engines?

That’s by no means the last of them either. There’s plenty more sites competing for the search engine stragglers and experimenters. The advent of Twitter and endless other news postings on social networking sites does not mean the death of search engines, but it certainly brings about a need to adapt and evolve for a new age of web users.

The main problem all these new engines are likely to find though is in the old adage: “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. Let’s face it, Google is not quite “broke” yet...