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December 28, 2007

Google in 2000


What search engine did you use in 2000? It's very likely that the answer is not Google. Three months before Google became the default search provider for Yahoo, Google's search results looked slightly different than they look today. Google showed relevant categories from DMOZ, the snippets were much shorter, the "related pages" feature was called GoogleScout, "I'm Feeling Lucky" was added to every search results pages and you could choose the number of search results from a drop-down. At that time, Google didn't offer any specialized search engine, but it added at the bottom of the page a list of links to competitors (you probably used one of those search engines). The number of search results was much smaller because Google only indexed around 200 million web pages and Google was still looking for ways to monetize the search engine.

Google still hosts a search results page from April 2000, even if it's slightly modified because it was a part of an April Fool's Day prank called Mentalplex. Here's a slightly updated search results page from later that year.



The same year, Google introduced text ads, but they were rather primitive. "Google has recently started to include text-only banner ads on their search engine, but you may have not noticed the change because most searches currently don't include a banner ad along with the search results," reported tomalak.org in January 2000. Here's how the advertising system worked at that time:

"Google uses its Patent-Pending PageRank Technology and sophisticated query classification to create a Virtual Directory. In other words, Google categorizes the thousands of different search queries into the Internet's most popular and targeted areas. Advertisers simply select from a wide range of available categories most appropriate to their business. Google will match the appropriate ads to the category most relevant to the user's search."


The web could still be approximated by directories, collections of high-quality sites manually categorized by editors. In March 2000, Google integrated data from the Open Directory Project: "1.5 million entries, arranged in over 200,000 categories, selected and maintained by a volunteer corps of more than 22,000 editors." Larry Page concluded that "the addition of Netscape's Open Directory Project creates the most comprehensive and robust search resource for finding information and browsing the Web. We've combined the best aspects of search and directories to create an enhanced tool for easy access to information contained on the Web."

Google's traffic started to grow at an alarming rate. "Google ended 1999 averaging about 7 million searches each day, a roughly 70,000% increase over the 10,000 searches per day that were performed on the Google site in December 1998! This explosive growth reflects the total number of searches performed by users on www.google.com and on our corporate partner sites. As of the middle of January, we are averaging more than 10 million searches each day," reported Sergey Brin and Larry Page in the company's newsletter. Google wasn't satisfied and launched an affiliate program that enticed webmasters to add a Google search box to their sites. "By signing up for our affiliate program (...) you'll be able to place a Google search box on your site and begin receiving 3 cents for each search you send our way." At the end of 2000, Google handled more than 100 million search queries a day.

2000 was also the year when Matt Cutts joined Google. "When I joined in 2000, Google was a scrappy underdog search engine. Back then, Altavista was vastly more popular and reported 50 million searches a day. Google was popular among savvy webmasters and at many universities, and usage was growing quickly by word-of-mouth, but the smart folks at Google were eager for the company to be more well-known."

An example of positive feedback from 2000 (Usenet, via Google Groups):

"Try www.google.com. I've been most impressed with its ability to return good, relevant hits. Another big bonus with Google is that the site is almost completely clear of bandwidth-hogging graphics and advertising. The web site has to be the fastest I've ever seen."

2000 is the year that made Google a successful search engine, even if many people wondered what's the revenue strategy. "The company's adamant refusal to use banner or other graphical ads eliminates what is the most lucrative income stream for rival search engines. Although Google does have other revenue sources, such as licensing and text-based advertisements, the privately held company's business remains limited compared with its competitors," concluded Business Week in December 2000. "Now comes Google's big test. Can it keep forswearing pay-for-placement deals that allow commercial sites to buy high rankings in searches? Yahoo has begun cutting these deals in droves, matching lesser competitor LookSmart. But Brin says he isn't worried: When somebody searches for 'cancer,' should you put up the site that paid you or the site that has better information? Brin is betting better information will win the day. "

32 comments:

  1. I started using Google sometime around 1996. I chose it over Altavista and the others for one reason: Its homepage was the simplest and fastest to load.

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  2. I've used Google since 1999 because it's what the librarian at my school told us to use just after my (old) school got access to the internet. I hadn't really used the internet before that.

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  3. Ionut, when happens the broke up between Google e Yahoo!? You know why?

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  4. >I started using Google sometime around
    >1996. I chose it over Altavista and the
    >others for one reason: Its homepage was
    >the simplest and fastest to load.

    I thought Google started as "Google" in 1998...

    I remember that I started using Google because some guys in a TV show about internet said "Hey, use Google, it's great!" somewhere near 2002 :D

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  5. I dumped AltaVista for Google in late 2000 and never looked back... which is around the same time I dumped Netscape for Internet Explorer. Needless to say that more recently Internet Explorer got dumped for Firefox - but Google still prevails!

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  6. I also started using Google around 1998/99, and did think it was a fantastic engine. But I never stopped using all the other engines, either. To this day, I still rotate my searches, and continue to use and explore other engines.

    I frankly think it is somewhat sad for any savvy computer user to lock themselves in to a single solution. It seems like most of the geeks I know echo many of the sentiments in this comments section, about how they started using Google 7-8 years ago and "never looked back".

    Google does indeed work the best for a good number of queries. But there are certain queries, and certain topics, that Yahoo is better on, and certain other queries that (gasp) even MSN is better on.

    And yet almost no one takes the time to continue exploring these other engines in any regular fashion. Oh, once every three months you might try *one* search on Yahoo or something like that. But almost no one practices search engine diversity analysis on any sort of regular basis. As a result, many people are missing out on some really good additional information-finding tools. They simply aren't training themselves and continuing to learn about all the options.

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  7. For those of you who "used" it in 1998, are full of shit.

    The beta was still going in 1998... mass usuage wasn't really available until 1999, which is when I discovered it, in July of 1999.

    This 1996, 1998 stuff is ridiculous.

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  8. According to data from Google's corporate site, at the end of 1998 Google "was answering 10,000 search queries each day". Here's an article from Dec. 1998 about Google:

    << Google gets remarkably smart search results by using a mathematical algorithm that rates your site based on who links to you. The ranking depends not simply on the number of sites that link to you, but on the linking sites' own importance rating. The result is a kind of automated peer review that sifts sites based on the collective wisdom of the Web itself.

    The program is complex, but the proof is in the results. Since discovering Google a few weeks ago, I've been so impressed with its usefulness and accuracy that I've made it my first search stop.

    Google isn't a finished product yet. Its creators, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, started their company only three months ago, and the Google.com home page calls itself an "alpha test." >>

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  9. I used to use yahoo, then at one point saw that it was "powered by google" and switched over.

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  10. See? Commenter wwjdcsk proves my point. He used to use Yahoo, then saw it was powered by Google, so switched over and never switched back.

    He doesn't have a clue that Yahoo is no longer powered by Google, that Yahoo has its own algorithms. Sometimes those work as well as Google. Sometimes they work worse than Google. And sometimes they work better than Google. But wwjdcsk will never know, because he has fallen into that same trap that so many alpha geeks fall into: switching to Google and never bothering to poke their heads back up and look around.

    Sigh.

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  11. Thanks for reminding me about the "Yahoo powered by Google" thing. Here's a screenshot from 2000 (via this page). The URLs looked like: http://google.yahoo.com/bin/query?p=keyword.

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  12. Actually, Ionut, I followed your link above to the Google corporate information web page, and read something quite interesting. It is from the 1998 entry on Google:

    Others were less interested in Google, as it was now known. One portal CEO told them, "As long as we're 80 percent as good as our competitors, that's good enough. Our users don't really care about search."

    Do you see the irony here? Yahoo, by a number of independent quality evaluations that I have read (academic studies, etc.), is now at least 80 percent as good as Google, if not more. And for some queries, it is even better. Yahoo has narrowed the gap, and Google no longer has such as huge lead as they did five years ago. And still, almost no one that uses Google on a regular basis bothers trying anything but Google; no one rotates their searches around to learn when and how another search engine might actually work better than Google.

    So that person from 1998 essentially was correct, but in a different context: As long as Google is at least 20% (or less) better than its competitors, that seems to be good enough. Google users don't really care enough about search to learn when and how another engine might be better. As long as Google is doing most of what they need, most of the time, Google users are too lazy to learn something else.

    Google, or at least Google's users, are behaving today the way other search engines and other search engine's users behaved toward Google in 1998.

    (Note: I am using Yahoo only as an example here. I could very well say similar things about Ask.com, and all the ways in which Ask is innovating around search. I am not advocating a switch to any one other company.

    I just find it ironic that the 1998 attitude about users not caring enough about search to bother trying anything else out, even when that something else might work slightly better from time to time, is exactly the attitude that one could now use to characterize Google users.)

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  13. @(the first Anonymous):

    Yahoo stopped using results powered by Google in February 2004. Yahoo acquired in 2003 Overture, a company specialized in pay-per-click advertising that also owned two search engines: AltaVista and AlltheWeb.

    The explanation? "Within the rapidly growing Internet advertising market, commercial search is the most dynamic and fastest growing segment. The worldwide commercial search segment is estimated to grow from approximately $2 billion by year-end 2003 to approximately $5 billion by 2006 (Source: Piper Jaffray), a compound annual growth rate of approximately 35 percent."

    In 2002, Overture sued Google for infringing on a patent related to pay-per-click advertising. "At issue in [the] lawsuit is Google's method for selling and displaying advertising, which is keyed to search terms and appears alongside and above search results on its Web site. In February [2002], the company introduced a service called AdWords Select that allows marketers to bid for higher placement in marked sections--a tactic that has some similarities to Overture's search-listing auctions."

    Two years later, Google and the Yahoo-owned Overture settled the dispute. "In settling the suit, Google agreed to give Yahoo 2.7 million shares, worth $291 million to $365 million if the shares sell within the range of $108 to $135 that Google has estimated for its initial offering price." Google's initial offering price was $85.

    Google took the idea of the pay-per-click ads from Overture and adapted it. "When Overture was founded as Goto.com, it was a search engine where the results were all advertising. Sites bid for the top spot in any given search term, with the top bidder being listed first in the search results. But advertisers paid only if a user clicked on their ad." Google added other factors in the bidding process, like the click through rate, and improved the model.

    So even if Yahoo helped Google become popular and even if Yahoo owns Altavista (the most popular search engine before Google) and Overture (who first came up with pay-per-click ads), Google is the leader in both search and PPC advertising.

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  14. @(the last Anonymous):

    You're not comparing apples to apples. The company from 1998 wasn't better than the competition, while Google is better than the competition.

    1998 quote from a CEO: As long as we're 80 percent as good as our competitors, that's good enough.

    You're saying that Yahoo Search is 80% as good as Google and people don't want to search with Yahoo. Why would you use a tool that delivers worse results than your current tool?

    I'm all for using multiple sources of information, but the average user won't switch from Google to another search engine unless that search engine CONSTANTLY delivers MUCH better results. And unlike many other companies, Google doesn't rest on its laurels and improves the search engine every day.

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  15. You're saying that Yahoo Search is 80% as good as Google and people don't want to search with Yahoo. Why would you use a tool that delivers worse results than your current tool?

    Because 20% of the time, it is better than your current tool. And so 80% of the time you should use Google, and 20% of the time you should use Yahoo.

    That is all I am saying here.

    What I find ridiculous is that people stay with one tool 100% of the time. That is the situation I am talking about.

    As an analogy, imagine you were a housing contractor. Throughout your day, your work was divided roughly 4/5 pounding nails, and 1/5 screwing in screws. So 80% of the time you were hammering, and 20% of the time you were screwing.

    Now, given that 80% of the time, the best tool is going to be a hammer, would you always use that tool, 100% of the time, to do your work? Of course not. You would switch to a screwdriver, when it came time to work with screws.

    And yet, this is the situation I find (anecdotally) most people who use Google to be in. They use the hammer 100% of the time.

    My main contention is that if you rotate your searches among all the engines (Google, Yahoo, MSN, Ask, etc), you will start to notice patterns, start to notice when certain types of queries work on a certain search engine, and when certain types of queries work better on another engine. You will start to notice that one of your queries is a screw, and another one of your queries is a nail. And so you will use the "screwdriver" engine on one query, and the "hammer" engine on another query.

    And yet people lock themselves in, 100% of the time, to this one-tool mode.

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  16. Maybe, but the situation is not very clear. It's not that Yahoo is better for commercial queries or for answering questions. It may deliver better results for some random queries so you can't find a pattern.

    Probably the best thing to do is to try other search engines if Google doesn't deliver good results, but in most cases it does.

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  17. And unlike many other companies, Google doesn't rest on its laurels and improves the search engine every day.

    Well, in 2003 and 2004, Yahoo bought its way to search engine algorithms with its acquisition of companies like Altavista and Inktomi. But since then, it hasn't been resting on its laurels either. It improves its algorithms every day, too. Which is all the more reason to continue to try it. Not switch to it. But keep it in one's arsenal.

    I mean, how long ago did Yahoo dump Google, and start providing its own results? It has been around 3 years now, right? And yet the commenter wwjdcsk above still did not know that. That's terrible.

    You're not comparing apples to apples. The company from 1998 wasn't better than the competition, while Google is better than the competition.

    Actually, this isn't completely true anymore. Maybe Google was better than the competition in 1998. But in 2008, Yahoo has largely caught up. Again because it also has not been resting on its laurels.

    So I probably need to refine what I said above, about the hammers and screwdrivers, and 80%/20%.

    I would say that 20% of the time, Yahoo is better than Google. 30% of the time, Google is better than Yahoo, and 50% of the time, Google and Yahoo yield results of equal quality.

    Maybe my percentages are slightly off to the left or to the right, but generally, I think you would have to agree that, in a large number of cases, the results are about equal nowadays.

    So if you're talking about Google being clearly, unequivocably better than Yahoo, that only happens around 30% of the time. Because 70% of the time, they are equal or worse. More equal than worse. But still only clearly, unconditionally better 30% of the time.

    Kudos to Google for spurring Yahoo on to new heights. But if Google did not exist, and were to suddenly appear in today's environment (with both Yahoo and Google at their current quality levels), would people switch from Yahoo to Google? Especially given that for a good number of queries the two search engines work equally well?

    If the answer is no, if the answer is that people would just stick with Yahoo, then we need to reexamine our assumptions about search, and about the value of mentally locking ourselves in to a single information source.

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  18. Maybe, but the situation is not very clear.

    Let me ask you this: When you try your query on Google, and it does not seem to work, what is your first plan of action? Do you, with a single click, try another search engine? Or do you, with a single click, re-try a slightly different query on Google?

    Uh huh. I thought so. You re-try on Google. Rather than explore, learn, understand new tools, using the query as an opportunity to learn something about another search engine, you assumed that you had made the mistake by asking the wrong query, and so you tried Google again.

    Or, if not you (because I am not arguing against you, personally..I don't even know you and certainly do not wish to aggravate you in any way :-), then 98% of Google's other users take that re-Google approach.

    Yet here is a situation in which Google is showing itself not to work, and rather than try another tool, you try the same tool, again and again. That's like trying to screw in the screw using the face of the hammer, and, upon failure, continue trying to screw using the cheek, the neck, the eye, the claw, the throat, or the handle of the hammer.

    It is that attitude that I am railing against. And it is that attitude that the 1998 CEO was talking about. He was wrong in 1998 about Google not being more than 20% better. 1998 Google was 150% better than Altavista. I remember it, because I was a user of both Altavista and Google in 1998.

    But today, when Google is only clearly better than Yahoo 30% of the time, and Yahoo is actually better than Google 20% of the time, a Google user's first reaction is to re-query Google, rather than query Yahoo.

    What that tells me is that the 1998 CEO was right. Users won't switch. Even when their initial Google query failure gives the query a good chance of being a screw, not a nail.. one of those cases where Yahoo is clearly better.

    That, again, is my main point. And I frankly find it kinda depressing.

    At least with the lock-in that users experience with something like Windows has real switching costs; my Windows software won't run (easily) on other platforms. But user laziness lock-in, where the first reaction is to re-Google, rather than switch from the hammer to a screwdriver or a wrench? Where the user's own mental laziness and love of the familiar is the only source of the lock-in?

    That really bothers me. Not because I work for Yahoo or Ask or MSN or any other search engine. I do not. But because it's the same sort of mental laziness lock-in that makes things like Fox News so popular. People are unwilling to explore the unfamiliar in search of better solutions, unwilling to think outside of the "one box", so to speak :-)

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  19. Maybe, but the situation is not very clear. It's not that Yahoo is better for commercial queries or for answering questions. It may deliver better results for some random queries so you can't find a pattern.

    Actually, I have noticed at least one clear pattern, not between Yahoo and Google, but between MSN and Google.

    If you compare MSN and Google, side by side, you'll find that Google is orders of magnitude better at "navigational" queries: Known-item searches, home page finding, etc.

    But if you look at MSN search, you'll see that it is much better for topical or informational queries, i.e. if you need to know something about why the race riots of the 1960s happened, or how the Republican party took over a formerly democratic southern United States.

    Google is good for "what" and "where" types of questions. MSN is better at "why" and "how" types of questions.

    I have nothing empirical to back this up, at least nothing externally empirical. It is only something that I have noticed when examining all the searches that I myself have done, over many years. It is a pattern that has surfaced.

    So I would just encourage folks to continue to explore, and not just rely on one engine, because you may notice similar or other such patterns, and start to understand when and how to use what search engine tool with what query.

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  20. I'd like to see some references for those numbers (20% of the time, Yahoo is better than Google. 30% of the time, Google is better than Yahoo).

    In a post from June, I've mentioned about a Greasemonkey script that shows links to other search engines at the bottom of the page. It's easier to use than the browser's search box.

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  21. > Because 20% of the time, it is better than
    > your current tool. And so 80% of the time
    > you should use Google, and 20% of the time
    > you should use Yahoo.

    For the sake of argument, let's say your 20% number would be accurate. So now -- how would you as searcher be able to know which 20% of the queries fare better at Yahoo than Google? Because without knowing this, switching 20% of the time still doesn't make sense (as your chances would be better at Google as it delivers the better SERPs 80% of the time -- again, following your argument).

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  22. @Philipp: You might not know right away. But by continuing to switch your queries between the two search engines, you will start to learn. I have already told you that, for the queries that I do, I find Google to be superior for "what" and "where" queries, while MSN is superior for "why" and "how" queries.

    Your mixture is going to be different than mine. Because you are going to be doing a different type of queries than I do.

    But if you never try it, you will never learn it. You'll be forever stuck, trying to screw in the nail, or hammer the screw.

    @Ionut: Thanks for the info on the greasemonkey script. I'll have to check that out. But I'm challenging you (in a friendly manner) to take a step further. Don't always treat another search engine as a second class citizen, where you only go to Yahoo *after* going to Google. A third of the time, try going to Yahoo first, and then greasemonkey your way back to Google, if the Yahoo search doesn't yield the results you needed. Or Ask.com first, or MSN.com first. Whatever, I don't care. Just try other things first, then go back to Google. On a regular basis, for an extended period of time. Just to see what types of results each throws up. Then you'll begin to learn when Google is the best tool, and when some other engine is the best tool.

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  23. Because without knowing this, switching 20% of the time still doesn't make sense (as your chances would be better at Google as it delivers the better SERPs 80% of the time -- again, following your argument).

    Actually, I refined my argument, by breaking that 80% down into two parts:

    (1) Google was only clearly better 30% of the time, and

    (2) Google was equal to Yahoo 50% of the time

    What is extremely interesting to me is that, in those cases, 50% of the time when Yahoo and Google are equal, they actually come up with a fairly diverse set of results. What I mean is, the top 2 or 3 results might all be relevant, on both Google and Yahoo. But they are actually *different* results!

    For example, if I am looking for today's corn prices, Google might yield (I'm making these sites up, for sake of argument) "cornfarmers.com", and I find the price there, whereas Yahoo might yield "americangrainfarmers.com", which also has the price.

    And the weird thing is that the top Yahoo result will not be found in the Google top 10, and vice versa!

    It is therefore all the more important to cycle your information sources, to ensure diversity, to make sure that the "relevant" information that you are finding isn't always from the exact same set of sources favored by a particular algorithm.

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  24. @Philipp: Along the lines of that 80%/20% split, I actually can send you a pointer to research showing a blind study in which users were asked to do their own queries (thus the information needs were "real"), and then were presented with two lists, side by side, from Google and Yahoo. All branding was stripped away, and left/right bias was controlled for.

    The users were then asked to pick which list of results was the better list. 65% preferred Google. 35% preferred Yahoo.

    (Would you like a pointer to this research? Should I send a link?)

    Now, you may look at that and say, "See? Google wins, 2/3 to 1/3!"

    I look at it and say "1/3 of the time, the user is getting worse results, if that user uses Google 100% of the time." One in three searches is a HUGE number. How many searches do you do each day? 20? 30? 50? That means that anywhere from 6 or 10 or 17 queries per day are being wasted.

    However, you still have a really good point. You write:

    Because without knowing this, switching 20% of the time still doesn't make sense (as your chances would be better at Google as it delivers the better SERPs 80% of the time -- again, following your argument).

    I guess the only thing I can say to this is: At what point do you stay with one search engine, any one search engine, exclusively? Do you stay when the difference is 80/20? Do you stay when the difference is 65/35? What if the difference is 50.5/49.5? By your counter argument, you would say that Google gives the best results 50.5% of the time, so it would make the most sense to only continue using Google, because it delivers better SERPs a majority of the time.

    But I would argue that this is silly. 50.5%? Yes, it is technically a majority. But you're missing out on almost every other query that you do! Certainly it is worth at least rotating the queries some. Then, at least you stand a chance of learning which of your queries are screws and which are nails. Wouldn't you agree?

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  25. > The users were then asked to pick which list
    > of results was the better list. 65% preferred
    > Google. 35% preferred Yahoo.

    Without further knowledge about this poll, it might also mean: 65% of the people prefer Google results 100% of the time... like a taste preference... and if you happen to be that kind of person, you ought to stick with Google all the time (or Yahoo, if you're the 35% person).

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  26. Without further knowledge about this poll, it might also mean:

    Maybe. Maybe. Again, I would be happy to point you to the link, so you can read it yourself, if you want. I just would rather send the link privately.

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  27. Sorry, just two more comments. No need to respond, if you do not wish to.

    Without further knowledge about this poll

    FWIW, it wasn't just a "poll". It was a rigorously-conducted, scientific user study. The results were published in an international peer-reviewed conference.

    it might also mean: 65% of the people prefer Google results 100% of the time... like a taste preference...

    Yes, it might mean that. But I started thinking about this for the past few hours, as I was going about my day. And I feel safe concluding that a 100% taste preference is quite statistically unlikely. Especially since branding information was removed, and the users really did not know which list was Google, which list was Yahoo.

    You know how you were saying earlier, about you not knowing ahead of time which queries were "screws" and which were "nails", i.e. which would work better on what search engine? I guess my feeling is that if you cannot tell which of your queries would be more appropriate to different engines, you probably also cannot tell which engine's search results you are seeing. Especially not 100% of the time.

    For example, if you go on to Google and Yahoo in the U.S. right now, and type "rare birds", one of the search engines returns "rarebirds.com" as its top ranked link, the other search engine returns "rarebird.com", a completely different website.

    Which result is Yahoo? Which is Google? Can you tell?

    Similarly, if I go to both engines and type "bat guano", the top link from both engines is a link to the same exact Wikipedia page. So, which engine was Yahoo, which was Google? Can you really tell? I suspect you cannot.

    And even if you could tell, 100% of the time, which was which, I have a hard time believing that you, or anyone, would really prefer any one thing, 100% of the time, over another. Especially in matters such as knowledge and information.

    For example, let's just take small subset of knowledge/information: political parties inside of Germany. Take any one political party, I don't care which one. Do you agree, 100% of the time, with any one party? With CDU? With SPD? With FDP? With the Greens? With the democratic socialists?

    If you don't agree, 100% of the time, with any one source, on even this small subset of the world's information (German politics), how it is possible that you would agree, 100% of the time, with any one search engine, on ALL the world's information? I don't care whether that search engine is Google or Yahoo or whatever. The vast amount of the world's information is so complex that I don't think any one algorithm or set of algorithms from any one company is going to match any one person, 100% of the time.

    Google is amazing; that I am not denying. But it isn't *that* amazing.

    Again, I think the danger is that, we as individuals, start to think/believe that any one political party, or any one search engine, represents every single one of our search interests better than any other political party or search engine. 100% of the time.

    When we slip into that mode, no company needs to be evil about locking us into their products (e.g. Microsoft). We lock ourselves into those products, because we've convinced ourselves that we do not even want to escape, that the world from this one perspective is better than any other perspective we might ever choose to have.

    That attitude makes me really uncomfortable.

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  28. While I'm disinclined to get into a general debate with "anonymous" (on time/value basis, which I also apply to the idea of switching search engines constantly...), I must point out that the user "wwjdcsk" whom "anonymous" ranted against in no way suggested that he/she *still* believed that Yahoo! Search is still "powered by Google". Original post by wwjdcsk below:

    "I used to use yahoo, then at one point saw that it was "powered by google" and switched over."


    Since this discussion *was* about when people first learned about Google, it makes more sense that wwjdcsk referred to his/her original conversion experience, no?

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  29. Mysterius writes: I must point out that the user "wwjdcsk" whom "anonymous" ranted against

    First, let me apologize to both you, Mysterius, as well as to wwjdcsk, if what I said in any way came across as a "rant". I was merely using wwjdcsk's experience as a "proof of concept" to my earlier point. I certainly did not intend to rant *against* him. If it came across that way, I again apologize.

    And I stand corrected. He never did say that he was unaware that Yahoo had stopped using Google. I apologize again.

    But he did say that, at that point, he "switched over" to Google. I.e., he stopped using Yahoo, and has never used Yahoo since. He switched. And so his post still contains that main attitude, of choosing one engine and never looking back, that I have been talking about.

    Mysterius continues: Since this discussion *was* about when people first learned about Google, it makes more sense that wwjdcsk referred to his/her original conversion experience, no?

    Actually, the discussion was not about when people first learned about Google. Let me refer to the first to lines of the blog post:

    What search engine did you use in 2000? It's very likely that the answer is not Google.

    The question/discussion was around what search engine you were using in 2000, not when you first discovered Google.

    And to answer that question, I pointed out that, in 2000, the search engine that was using was Google, Altavista, Infoseek, etc. In other words, the search engine I was using was all of them. I was using all of them in 1994, too. And I continued to use all of them in 2004, and will continue to use all of them in 2008.

    I really was on-topic.

    Yes, it's true that in the comments section, it quickly turned into a bragfest about when who discovered Google first. But that is not what Ionut originally asked.

    I can respect you not wanting to get into a general debate about the value of continuing to explore various information options, but let me just say again that the general attitude of thinking that only a single source of information can satisfy all your information needs is one that is very scary, and very dangerous, imho.

    For example, I think that one of the main reasons the U.S. is involved in the Iraq quagmire right now is that U.S. citizens tend to place too much trust in too few news sources. We tend to think that a single Iraqi defector has all the truth about the existence of WMDs. We tend to only want to watch a single source (e.g. Fox news) and, even if we take the time to also watch CNN or NBC, never bother reading any of the foreign press, and inform ourselves of different perspectives. We tend to believe, like I think you do as well, that the time/value tradeoff for exploring other news sources is not worth it. Might as well just stick to Fox, since they seem to provide most of what we want, most of the time.

    Alas, if we all as citizens had made a little extra effort at the beginning of the war, we might not have gotten into this mess at all. And the overall long-term time/value costs, drain of resources, loss of lives and families, would have paid off in the end.

    Using a search engine isn't quite the same magnitude as going to war; I do realize that. But the attitude of thinking there is no value or that it costs too much time to continue looking around at other sources of information.. that attitude is the same general attitude that, IMO, brought us into war. So if I can speak out against that attitude, in any context, I will.

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  30. At the time, there were two types of indexes/search engines to turn to: (1) Yahoo-style indexing services, which were considered higher quality sources because humans did web page categorizing; and (2) Altavista-style search engines, which indexed many more web pages, but would generally turn up pages and pages of results of either irrelevant or low-quality hits (low quality became even worse once "search engine optimization" (i.e., web spamming) took off). With the search engines at the time, what you were looking for was typically SOMEWHERE in the index, but you either had to keep trying to hit on the right search term, or dig through pages and pages of results.

    Contrast this with the results that Google would turn up. Even with relatively broad search terms, people generally got excellent results - good enough that Google could put up the "I'm feeling lucky" button, which would automatically forward you to the top hit for your query, and you would get reasonable results. On other search engines, such a button would have been useless for all but the narrowest of search terms.

    They also had a lightweight interface, and fast servers, which certainly helped. However, other search engines copied this aspect of Google's services, without any real resultant gains.

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  31. This is an old post, but I would like to say thank you to anonymous. Good read, good points, well written, and I am converted into a multi-searcher now.

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  32. loved the post, wanted to find a picture of what a google serp looked like iike 1999 but then hit this! lolz, april fools - if only it was summer!

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