Monday, February 04, 2008

Search engine wars.

This week Microsoft has made a generous offer to buy Yahoo. This has been described as a shotgun wedding with Google holding the gun!

I remember back in 2004 Microsoft launched a massive campaign to promote its own search engine MSN Search. Aside from lots of prime time TV adverts they claimed to index millions more pages than Google (8 million vs Google's 2 million). Within a week the number of pages Google claimed to index rose to 10 million!

Ask Jeeves has also been working to boost its service. They have some great features on their page. When they launched they cornered a niche in the market - that you could ask them a question and they would find the answer. This contrasted Google's approach where you had to ask the answer to get confirmation you were right. Now they want Google's business they have rebranded and tried to compete as an alternative to Google.

Google differentiated from Yahoo when it launched because every result at Yahoo was part of a category. After a search you had to zoom into the right category to find related results.

I'll give Microsoft some free advice. All that matters for a search engine is that I find what I am looking for. First time and every time!

When I saw the ad campaign in 2004 I did go to MSN search. I ran a search and could not find what I wanted in the top results. I went to Google and found what I wanted in the top 3 results. Needless to say I havn't been back since.

MSN is absolutly awful at finding what you want. What takes the mick is last time I needed software for my Microsoft Mouse I couldn't even find the correct page on the Microsoft search site.

One let down like that and they lost a customer for a long time. The beauty of the web for a customer is there is never any tie-in to a certain site or system. If one day you find better answers on a different site you just make a new favourite and never go back.

Finally coming back to the larger picture could you imagine the world if Microsoft was running the most successful and popular search engine? They already have the most successful desktop operating system with an extremely large momentum preventing any competition. Do you reckon they would abuse their power if they could control everyone's search results and internet usage?

My last thought is could this determination to make a bigger impact on the Internet be a sign they are worried about the future of their operating system monopoly? I am currently running Vista SP1 and will report how I find it soon!


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