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March 17, 2007

A Campaign for Alternative Search Engines


Ask.com has a campaign in the UK called "Information Revolution". Their purpose is to convince the people who use Google to search online that they should use other search engines too. While the message is noble, Ask's arguments are a little out of place. They suggest that Google could control the information and become the Ministry of Truth from Orwell's 1984.
Did you know that more than 75% of people in the UK use just one search engine to find information? The same search engine. The biggest search engine. The most popular search engine. Why? It's not that there aren't choices, it just seems that most people don't use them.

You can imagine we were rather curious about this, so we did some research and found that 62% of Internet users don't think about which search engine they use. We call that sleep searching, you probably call it 'getting stuff online'.

But statistics aside, if this keeps up, who knows what could happen? One company could eventually be your only source of access to information on the Web! Controlling your mind would only be a step away! Then they'll have you. All too easy...

But this is 2007, not 1984. So we're speaking up before things get out of hand. Raging against the machine kind of thing. The machine of conventional wisdom if you like!

It's always a good idea to use more than one source of information, but scaring people away with Orwellian allusions is not a good strategy. Especially when the search engine you advertise has a long way to go before becoming a reliable source of information.

The campaign is also a call to rebellion against the establishment and the layouts and the texts seem to be inspired by Che Guevara, the leader of the Communist Revolution in Cuba.

While many people suggest that Google is actually a monopoly and has become synonymous with search, the cost of switching to other search engines is minimal. Especially when Yahoo and Microsoft ask you if you want to switch to their search engines everytime you visit them. You don't have to download new software, learn how to use it and become comfortable with it (you have to do this if you switch from Windows - Microsoft's monopoly). To change your default search engine is as easy as changing your homepage or the default engine from the search box. But to do that you need to have a reason, to see a search engine that shows much better results than Google for most queries. As long as the alternatives are worse, it's no wonder that people use Google.

Update:
Ask UK shows this "smart answer" when you search for [search]. According to Matt Cutts, the same "smart answer" was displayed when you searched for [Google].


{ The first image is licensed as Creative Commons by montini. }

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