Saturday, June 17, 2006

Random Ruminations on Search

A couple of random opinions on the state of search…

Much has been made of’s recent resurgence. It has been said that Ask has better features than Google. While this may be true, great algorithms do not a successful search engine make. What really matters to the users of a search engine is how well it caters to the long tail. Take this recent search I made (to put this in context, refer to my previous post). By the looks of it, while the results returned by Ask are quite obviously inadequate, compare them with those returned by my friendly neighborhood search engine. See what I mean? It really boils down to the quality of a search engine’s crawling infrastructure which is going to be on par only if a company has the muscle to pull this off. Does anyone out there see Ask plonk down $2 billion to upgrade their datacenter? I think not.

Reading this recent article (if you don’t subscribe to the BBC tech news RSS feed, do so – they have some of the best articles out there) got me thinking about how cool it would be if search engines had a feature that validates search results for safety. I wanted to blog about it sometime (complete with mock up screen shots). Just as well I didn’t do it since scandoo already does it for you. While the creators of the product admit that it is somewhat nascent, a superficial test showed up some interesting results. Try searching scandoo for something as innocuous as your name followed my a search term related to the world’s favorite 3-letter word (I will refrain from giving suggestions in an attempt to keep this space G-rated). See the difference? I was impressed by how scandoo managed to whitelist a wikipedia entry on my search term while blacklisting a site whose credentials were somewhat more suspect. While it is not clear at this point how credible their techniques are, a mature product really has the potential to disrupt the consumer AV and spyware software market. Why? Because unlike enterprises, consumers don’t need to be secure. They just need to feel secure. If Google, Yahoo! and MSN plug a major entry point for spyware, it may end up removing desktop AV/spyware software from a consumer’s list of “must-haves”.


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