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Summary:

For most people, even web workers, there is only one search engine on the web. To some extent we differ over which one that is: there are people who use Google all the time, others who swear by Yahoo, and so on. In reality, of course, […]

For most people, even web workers, there is only one search engine on the web. To some extent we differ over which one that is: there are people who use Google all the time, others who swear by Yahoo, and so on. In reality, of course, there are a zillion search engines out there. We’ve covered a bunch of alternatives in the past, and we’ve barely scratched the surface. But except in very narrow niches, it seems like all of the alternatives face the same problem: how to get any traction in a market where most people have long since decided what they’ll use.

Search engine makers have tried a variety of ways to get customers. Some have bragged about their superior technology and invested in splashy launch PR (sometimes with disastrous results – remember Cuil?). Microsoft has resorted to paying people to use its search engine – most recently with the SearchPerks! program. Firefox has made it easy to switch by providing a dropdown button that can change your browser’s default search engine with two clicks.

And yet, despite all the marketing in the world, Google’s share of the market keeps going up (it’s around 70% now), with Yahoo! firmly in second place and everyone else splitting 10% of the pie. On the face of it, it’s amazing that anyone with the business plan of “build a new search engine” even gets funding.

But how about your own search habits? Are you firmly committed to one and not even looking at another? Are you one of those flexible web workers who uses different search engines for different tasks? Is there anything that a new player in the market could offer that would really make you want to switch?

By the way, if you want a bit of search engine fun, Google has put a copy of their 2001 version out on the web to play with. It’s amusing to look back on a time when the top hit for “web worker” is an HTML editing application.

  1. Yahoo is a search engine?

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  2. Used Astalavista for a long time, then google came around. Switched because of the clean interface – and have never had a compelling reason to switch to another.

    So unless something so innovative comes around to pull me away… doubt I ever will switch.

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  3. I haven’t used anything else Google for the last 5 years. Before that I did use Yahoo for a while, but I found that I was always find the right things with Google.

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  4. I used Yahoo pretty much exclusively in 1997 when I first discovered the internet… I think I switched to Google for good in late 1998.

    And 10 years later, I think the only thing that could get me to not use google is if google closed down.

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  5. Popgist may have potential.

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  6. I won’t switch until another search engine gives me better results. I don’t search for common “britney spears” or “obama” searches, so Cuil et al. who are working to get good results for regular searches are no good to me. I make searches like “ubuntu display blank after suspend” and Google gets me answers where Live, Yahoo and others do not*.

    *Actually, this is a bad example – they all have similar results for this particular query, but my point was that Google searches a lot of forums and highly technical places that the others do not.

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  7. In some searches things seem worse than they were a few years ago.

    Search Engine Optimisation and attempts by site owners to get advertising revenues have contributed to this. (Google’s own dependence on advertising revenue must skew their decisions in ways that mess their results.)

    Given all that Google still seems the best for many purposes. (The difficulty would be discovering that something else is actually better for some searches!!)

    One of the problems is that catchy wording gives clicks often leading to barren content. Then clicks gives a better rating on the Search Engine. (The curse of PR and SEO is that it often goes with brainlessness.) An unobtrusive way to feedback that content was good would help fix that. (I wouldn’t want any specific company to “own” my feedback though.)

    Beyond that any tool that averages the response of anybody whose data has been captured is a road to hell. There are many audiences out there, some will seek a particular type of content others will go out of their way to avoid that same content. A way to go with like minds, and find what I really want, is needed (again without concentrating that information in the hands of any one company or losing control of it).

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  8. I use Ask.com because of it’s Ask Eraser, which gives the option of not having your searches recorded on ask.com’s servers. Of course my activity is being recorded in a million other ways, but I feel better not giving yet more information to Google. They already know too much.

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  9. Google provides a lot of APIs which allow for customization. The Cybersearch extension for Firefox uses Google in a very innovative way. That said, I have often wished that Google would provide me with a personal \”exclude this result\” feature for weeding out the spam. One s.e. that shows a lot of promise is Wikia. It lets you rate and annotate results… also offers a toolbar to facilitate this. The downside is that such features entail some work on the user\’s part. Sometimes I don\’t have time for that. But you might want to check it out as a diversion, it can be fun.

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  10. I did switch to goodsearch last year, (which uses Yahoo,) but I switched back to Google after a while, because I don’t like Yahoo. I would change search engines again if I found a better one than google. Google’s privacy stuff bothers me sometimes.

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