Google versus… anyone

Microsoft's bing

Recently Microsoft launched another attempt to dethrone Google as the search-engine kings of the Internet. Welcome to Bing. Go on, give it a try. You know, it’s actually not bad. In fact it’s quite good. Or at least not too far off as good as a search engine can be. Hooray! The king is dead, long live the king?

There are articles appearing out there which would appear to agree. cnet are very excited about it, for example. Am I? Well, no. But not for the obvious reasons. I am a bit of a Google fan – I like their services and I suppose I like their “image” (aka marketing) And Microsoft? The opposite. I have little use for their services or software, and I really do not like their image. However a lot of that is, of course, very subjective.

Given my predilection for all-things-Google, they have been my search engine of choice for, oh, ages. And, indeed, their search technology is pretty good.

But I think Bing makes a rather important point.Not that Google have screwed up. Nor that Microsoft are suddenly hip and trendy. More that search technology is actually not that difficult. That sounds ridiculous, given the fortune that Google have poured in to it. Yet it’s really not that difficult to do well. Sure, you need a heap of computing power, a few data-centres’ worth of storage and some smart dudes. But all of those are in ready supply to anyone with moderate funding (and Microsoft, more than probably any other company in the world, could comfortably claim to have a bit of spare cash to fund stuff). Everyone goes on about the amazingness and mystique of Pagerank. And indeed it works well, after years of tweaking and tuning. But it’s just an algorithm. It’s not Divine Revelation.

Taking Bing for a spin, I find that it works just fine. Better than Google? Probably not. Worse than Google? Probably not. That’s the point: you can’t really tell. If someone silently slipped Bing behind my Google search box, I doubt I’d ever notice.

So I guess whether Bing, or anyone else, pushes Google off the top spot in search technology is all pretty much up to marketing and spin. Oh, and maybe a little bit of good old monopoly abuse? Let’s see.

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