Sep 14, 2006

[The Web] The Battle of the Search Engines

This week Microsoft announced that Windows Live Search is now out of beta, which more or less means that the search engine is now truly "live" and is a more-or-less finished product. In light of a recent CNET article asking people to reconsider using Google considering the other players in the market, I thought it might be interesting to run a few tests too.

One of the biggest benefits of Google, for me, is how truly relevant the content is, especially since I am a non-US resident. Before Google, searching for content relevant to me and my country especially during my student days was significantly difficult since I had to constantly filter the results until I managed to find what I needed. Google doesn't seem to have that same difficulty and tends to surprise me with maintaining relevancy despite my using obscure local search terms. So for the purposes of this short experiment, let's try a few searches that mean something in my country but can be interpreted in many other ways as well.

First, let's meet our contestants:

  1. Google - the current reigning champ with majority market share in the search market
  2. Yahoo! - a crowd favorite because of its customized content and extra bells and whistles
  3. Windows Live Search - a newer player in the field from the guys at Microsoft
  4. - the site that used to be known as Ask Jeeves, now a more streamlined search engine known for pretty comprehensive results

Round 1 - Acronyms

On a whim, I thought it might be interesting to see what some local acronyms might result in. I started with [MMDA], a local government agency that manages most of the traffic control in our capital city along with other city beautification projects.

Google brought me the official MMDA website at the top of their results on the first try while Yahoo! only had it as one of the top five results and Live Search didn't even have it on the first page. I was surprised that also had the official website at the top of their list. Not bad.

Next up is [PUP], a local university. Google managed to get it right the first time once again by locating the webpage of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines right off the bat. Yahoo! and Ask found the page within its first five results although got a little lost in articles about dogs. Windows Live didn't find it just yet. I can't blame them, they're new at this yet.

Looks like Google has 2 points, Ask has 1 and both Yahoo! and Live Search are at 0 in terms of accuracy although Yahoo! is still pretty close, for the most part.

Round 2 - Names

Continuing the game, I decided to be just plain silly and attempt searching for local personalities with as little information as possible. I started this round with just the search keyword [Piolo], in reference to the local actor Piolo Pascual.

Surprisingly, all four engines got this pretty spot on, leading me to links specifically about the Filipino actor may they be Wikipedia articles or independent fansites. I guess his name is more specific than I thought it would be. Points for everyone!

To continue the annoying thread, I next tried to search for [Jolina], since Jolina Magdangal annoys me beyond belief. This time around, no one got it right on the first try leading me to furniture stores and Tex Mex places. I looked at the next highet results and Google had a link to her official GMA profile, where this is the station that is currently supporting her for now. Everyone else caught up by the third search result, leading us to a variety of fansites for the supposed pop icon.

Everyone has 1 point for this round. I was weighing assigning partial points for the second search term but then that might skew things.

Round 3 - Local Institutions

This round might be similar to the first one, but it's worth a shot. I now wanted to see if they'd lead me to the website of certain local groups or businesses based on my search terms.

I started with something safe and popular - [Ayala] and all search engines except Yahoo! brought me to a relevant page. Google and Live Search brought me to the company's corporate page while Ask brought me to their malls' webpage. Yahoo! goofed since they brought me to a Wikipedia article about some Argentinian soccer player.

The next test was for a more generic name so I opted to add a little to the search by looking for [Sy family]. Points for everyone for bringing us to a Time Magazine article about them and other major asian families except for Live Search which led us to German family or other.

This round has Google and Ask with 2 points, and Live and Yahoo! with 1 point each.

The Verdict:

I know this is not very comprehensive, but I think it's a fair show of where the search engines stand given some samples of more localized content searches. This was just something I wanted to try off the top of my head and should we ever want to revisit this concept in the future, I'm more than open to suggestions on how this experiment should go.

Let's look at the final scores:
  1. Google - 5 points
  2. - 4 points
  3. Yahoo! - 2 points
  4. Windows Live Search - 2 points

And the winner is Google, with coming in a close second. Yahoo! still performed decently although the engine was constantly asking for addtional search terms to narrow the search down. Live Search is clearly showing it's raw nature at this point and the engine definitely needs more time before it starts filtering the results better.

This just goes to support my initial statement about how Google is great for non-US residents looking for relevant data. Even with minimal search terms, it still brought me pretty close to localized content most relevant to my queries even while general. Yahoo! is trying to keep up but relies on localized search terms like philippines for it to identify the need to look for local content. My kudos to - they've come a long way from the old Jeeves days when they were only good for looking for academic resources, really. It's fair to say that it's not too bad to use Ask, although I wish they had more supporting services like Google and Yahoo! do today. Perhaps they will in time, eh?

In the future we can try other contests to compare image search results or something of that nature, who knows? I'm pretty sure this is far from over.

What do you think?


  1. rocky nerd rocky nerd rocky nerd!!! hehehehe. but you're so useful! :)

  2. haha, i'll take that as a compliment!

    glad you found the site useful thus far - i'm going to keep working on it so i becomes more appealing to a larger audience while still being rather geeky, hehe