These past few days I’ve been stumbling on articles about Wolfram Alpha. How that it’d be the next search engine. How it’d be the Google killer. And so on.
Unfortunately, it’s not the first time I’ve heard about such claims.
I can’t remember exactly when I was first online on the Internet. Probably 1995. Back at that time, there was only a handful of websites. There was a book claiming to be the Yellow Page of Internet. It was enough to get me around.
Then the internet grew. Very quickly. So I started to utilize Yahoo to find websites of interest. At that time, Yahoo looks like DMOZ.org. Yes, seriously.
Anyway, it was enough for my needs.
But the Internet doesn’t stop growing. Then I realized that I’ll need a different kind of assistance, to enable me to continue utilize it as best as possible.
So I found AltaVista. Lycos. And others. A.k.a “search engines”
It was truly amazing. You can find what you’re looking for from several millions of pages on the Internet within several seconds. Totally unheard of. I became adept at utilizing it. People thought I’m an IT wizard. While actually I was just rather good at asking the right questions to Altavista.
One thing about the Internet is that it’s a free place. Everyone can do anything at anytime. Altavista was not left alone for long — soon others are gunning for its position.
Long story cut short – Yahoo made Google as its search engine, Google became successful, Yahoo cut the deal; but it was too late. Google already became the King of Search Engines.
So now others are gunning Google.
And they’re not always doing it exactly the same way as Google. Which is good.
We’ve heard about Mahalo. About Cuil. Metacrawler, Ask.com, etc.
However, after years, still none managed to unseat Google from its top position. Despite the fact that some are answering questions even better than Google.
For example, do you know that there are search engines that can process questions in natural language form ? Example : Who is the president of Indonesia ?
START is the first web-based answering system, online since Dec 1993. Yes, what Wolfram Alpha trying to achieve is already done by MIT. 15 years ago.
That made START even more impressive.
Have a look around : Who is Sarah Connor ?
It can be biased too 🙂
What is the best programming language ?
It can even lie !
Are you alive ?
Ahem. Okay, back to the topic – with all these wonderful engines, why it’s Google that’s still on the top ?
It’s because performance alone doesn’t ensure success.
You need also :
(1) Marketing : Google is already a very well-known brand. It’s even included in Merriam-Webster dictionary.
Competing with such well-known brand is a significant challenge.
(2) Scalability : Incoming : Can the engine scale to today’s billions of pages out there on the Internet ?
Google could. Not all the others fare as well.
(3) Scalability : Outgoing : Keeping point 2 above in mind – can you reply to people’s questions within / under 1 second ?
Google could. Some others could too – by sacrificing point 2.
(4) Relevancy : Can you read people’s mind ? Oops, let me rephrase that – can you give relevant answers to the questions ?
This is not easy as it might be because Internet keeps changing. It’s a moving target.
A while ago I was using a search engine called GigaBlast.
It was pretty good, and at the time it was even faster than Google.
However, after a while it started giving me irrelevant results. When I checked, it was because of various SEO techniques being deployed. So it got tricked in certain queries.
But Google kept becoming better. So I went back to Google.
Any contender for Google’s seat must be able to compete in the long run. They must not stay the same, because Google is always becoming better.
Yeah, it might be a while before we saw someone killed Google. Actually, they may be absorbed into Google’s collective instead.
But just as two-person start-up managed to shook the search engine world several years ago by creating Google, we may very well witness that again in the next several years. Because on the Internet, nothing is sacred and forever.