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3/25/2005
06:10 PM
John Soat
John Soat
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IT Confidential: A Good Search Engine Is Hard To Find

After Google had one of the most eye-popping IPOs of all time--certainly since the era of the dot-com rockets--I thought things would quiet down in the search-engine market. But no, things have heated up. Last week, Barry Diller, who is no fool (at least according to today's hottest business book, DisneyWar), paid $1.85 billion for the search service Ask Jeeves. The reasoning seemed sound when a survey released last week revealed that people increasingly use broadband, the Internet, and search engines to get local shopping information, not local papers or commercial directories. And last week, a French news service, AFP, sued Google over its news aggregation engine, claiming copyright violation but more than likely simply running scared.

I decided to dip my toe into the market, so I had a code-jockey pal of mine gin up a search engine. I told him I wanted something special, something that wouldn't only return links but search for meaning, value, truth. I call it the Virtuous Search engine. Let's give it a whirl.

SEARCH: Truth Results: 3

Baseball Players Deny Steroid Use
http://www.congressionalbrokenrecord.com

Ken Lay on 60 Minutes--"I'm A Victim"
http://www.enronwasn'tsobad.com

House Leader Tom DeLay Attacks Ethics Charges
http://www.politiciansarepeopletoo.com

Wait a minute--this doesn't sound right. These items all relate to telling the truth in some way, but they don't really get at the truth. Let's try again.

SEARCH: Justice Results: 2

Jury Acquits Actor Robert Blake Of Murder Charges
http://www.celebritiesdeservemore.com

Fresh From Jail, Martha Stewart Preps For Reality TV Series
http://www.goaheadcastthefirststone.com

What the heck! These items relate to the justice system, but certainly they don't seem to embody the spirit of justice. One more time.

SEARCH: Business Savvy Results: 1,277

After Customer Data Gaff, ChoicePoint Hires Chief Privacy Officer
http://www.toolittletoolatetoobad.com

Oracle Pays Premium For Vertical-Industry Software Vendor
http://www.yumyumeatemup.com

Apple To User Sites: Be Afraid
http://www.customerswhatcustomers.com

Windows More Secure Than Linux, Microsoft-Sponsored Study Says
http://www.what'sthatbehindme.com

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 NEXT

Oh, I get it. It's a relational search engine--it looks for items that are somehow related to the topic, whether directly, proportionately, or inversely. Well, it certainly seems to weight its results on one side of the equation. Or maybe that's just where most of the results are these days. Anyway, I'm taking the search engine back to my friend.

I've lowered my expectations for search engines--now I just want good driving directions. Or an industry tip. If you've got one, send it to jsoat@cmp.com or phone 516-562-5326. If you want to talk about Oracle squandering its money or Apple squandering its good will, meet me at InformationWeek.com's Listening Post: informationweek.com/forum/johnsoat.

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