Is Search good enough?

My view is that in Yahoo!’s days, search was not good enough.  Content was not sufficiently wide-reaching to fuel enough appropriate results for many queries; and where it was, algorithms were not sufficiently mature to deal with them appropriately, users being forced to re-phrase their queries or venture beyond Page 1 of the results.

But now, Google is here.  And Google is good at search.  Very good.  Unless I’m doing an academic task (like trying to find out how many pages there are out there), a single search is enough to find what I’m looking for.  And when searching for textual content, I rarely, if ever, go beyond the page fold, let alone beyond Page 1.

So now Bing is here.  And I’ve heard it’s quite lovely.  And apparently it’s quite good at finding stuff, better, some say, than Google.

But, as Karl Pilkington might’ve said, do we need it?  Is Google sufficiently good at giving people what they need to make Bing’s plight futile?  I don’t know the answer to this question—I guess it can be proven in the stats.  What proportion of people are looking for a single thing when they search?  What proportion refine their searches?  And what proportion of people venture beyond the first three results?  If the answers are lots, not many and not many, then there’s little added value to be brought from a Google competitor in textual search.

In actual fact, Google will have cracked textual search when it can confidently perform an “I’m Feeling Lucky” search when you hit Return.  Are we there yet?


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