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Number One with a Bang

Saturday, December 7, 2002

The young upstart search engine, Google, is, well, no longer the young upstart search engine. The latest Nielsen//NetRatings results reveal that the 4 year old Google has the largest reach of any search engine. With 29.2% of all home and work users, Google just edges out incumbent Yahoo. So, it seems you've all taken our advice and started using Google. :)

Google's index of the Web contains over 3 billion pages. Despite that, most searches take less than a second, and the results returned tend to be uncannily accurate. The relevance of search results is do in no small part to PageRank, which uses links to judge a site. In other words, each link pointing to a site is like a vote for that site.

This has all led to some interesting and heretofore undreamt of uses for search engines. Someone recently searched for all the letters in the alphabet to see "who owns the alphabet." The results are interesting if useless from any practical sense.

Another fairly useless (but nevertheless extremely fun) site is Google Fight. It uses Google to determine the popularity of two opposite phrases. The more popular of the two is the winner. So, in a battle between The New York Times and The Washington Post, The Times takes it. Though over 90% of computer users use Microsoft Windows, in a Google Fight with Apple, the disparity is not so great.

Ironically, a Google Fight between Google itself and Yahoo shows that Yahoo is the most popular search engine. Hmmm, so much for Google Fighting. Or maybe someone should tell Nielsen to double check their scores. After all, as we all know, Google is never wrong. :)

One particularly interesting search reveals the most linked to sites on the Internet. Theoretically, these are also some of the most popular sites on the Internet. Again, Yahoo takes first place, just above Google itself. Several other Google competitors appear in the top 10. Microsoft, Adobe, and CNN round out the list.

Finally, Google publishes Google Zeitgeist, which tracks the most popular searches and categorizes them by several criteria. From the top gaining and declining lists, you can get a sense of current fads and trends. Among the gainers last month, for instance, are the names of viruses, celebrities in the news, and current events. Most notable among the decliners are the ominous phrases "world trade center" and "september 11."

Now that Google has usurped the crown from Yahoo, I'm afraid I'll need to find another search engine to champion. After all, I can't be caught using the same search engine everyone else uses.

Notable up and comers include Teoma and WiseNut. Like Google, Teoma and WiseNut also rank sites by links. Teoma goes one step further, however, grouping sites by subject, called communities. Unfortunately, Teoma has a relatively small portion of the Web indexed, and since it doesn't accept free submissions, this is not likely to change.

WiseNut, on the other hand, has a fairly large index with 1.5 billion pages. A WiseNut feature provides related sub categories for searches. So, a search for "Cape Cod" lists several categories such as "Cape Cod Real Estate" and "Cape Cod Vacation." The categories are meant to help you refine your search. It's a very nice feature; however, it's probably the reason WiseNut searches tend to be so slow.

So, for the moment, it appears I'm stuck with Google. Sigh. :)

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