Microsoft has Google and Yahoo in its sights, and is rolling out new search technology.
Microsoft said the MSN Search preview taps into an index of more than 5 billion documents, topping the 4.2 billion that have been included in the Google search. Last evening, as word of Microsoft’s plans for the preview circulated through the technology industry, Google announced that it had finished a lengthy process of boosting its searchable index to more than 8 billion Web pages.
Clever folks at Google, eh? I tried to a few comparative tests, to see how many results I got from some random search terms:
souvlaki – 98,000 from Google, 17,320 from MSN
Darren Barefoot – 34,700 from Google, 2743 from MSN
capri pants – 246,000 from Google, 18,969 from MSN
While MSN’s exact numbers are appealing, Google appears to have the edge in raw results by a long shot. Though, I am pleased to see that MSN puts me ahead of that tosser Darren Hayes in a search for the term Darren. The sums are relatively meaningless though–what really matters is the quality of the search results. MSN’s press says that they excel at answering questions posed in natural language.
I asked both search engines “what is population of Cuba?” Here are Google’s results and MSN’s. Both did very well. Now let’s try something more obscure: “what planet is Ford Prefect from?” Google’s first result links, accurately, to Wikipedia. MSN, on the other hand, links to a page from Hip Hop magazine which doesn’t even contain the answer. Finally, let’s get really tricky: “How many goals did Stan Smyl score in the 1980-81 regular season?” Google offers 5 results, none of which answer the question but at least they offer some pertinent information about Smyl’s career. MSN, on the other hand, only produces 1 lousy result (the page Google has ranked 4 out of its 5).
Frankly, MSN, I’m pretty underwhelmed. What about those results is supposed to impress me? What’s the lesson? Whether you’re a start-up or Microsoft, a new search engine is going to have to do something pretty extraordinary to beat Google. I don’t doubt that it will happen, but it didn’t happen today.