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COMMENTARY

Search and ye shall find: Google Is the Best Search Engine


By Shakil Ahmed

What's the best search engine on the web? Everyone seems to have their favorite but if you were to ask me I'd say Google (www.google.com) wins hands down. Google is so effective, that among the web savvy a verb "to google" (to do a web search using Google) is now part of tech lexicon. Thus, if you're a single man or woman and want to do a bit of investigative reporting on a prospective dinner date, its become obligatory to "google" them and find out what is out there on the Net.

But I'm getting ahead of myself a bit. What is cool about this search engine? I'd have to say that it has an uncanny knack to find what you're looking for on the web, quickly and efficiently. I know this might sound a bit over the top. After all I look at different technology every day and I sometimes roll my eyes when I read magazines raving about this or that new technology. However, this time there's no exaggeration. I'll take a cue from Walt Mossberg, the Wall Street Journal personal technology writer, who wrote recently "Google is everything a search engine should be: thorough, smart, speedy and honest."

Of course there are certainly other ways to search for things on the Web. Yahoo!, for example is incredibly helpful and I even use it as my home page. Though it's not really a search engine (it's actually a directory created by real live people) it wades through oceans of data efficiently because of it's organized in a logical manner. I also think highly of LookSmart and AltaVista but they still don't hold a candle to Google.

What it does is leverage the benefits of sophisticated search capabilities - speed and breadth with an incredible ability to home in on exactly what you're looking for. If I weren't an engineer, I'd say it was magic. Actually Google operates using a proprietary page-ranking system that's in part dependent on how often a site is linked to other sites. The reason why Google is so fast is because it has identified and evaluate more than a billion pages of content on the web, making it the world's most comprehensive search engine. Google also has a unique hosting architecture that uses thousands of PC's linked together to rapidly find the answers we seek.

One of the cool things that it doesn't do is to skew the results in favor of paid advertisers. (Unfortunately, folks it's come down to that. A lot of search engines will find you a lot more easily if you pay for their services.)

You get an idea about the character of this search engine by examining the Google home page which is clean and straightforward. It's essentially blank except for the field where you type what you're looking for and two buttons below entitled "Google Search" and "I'm Feeling Lucky Today". Hit the first button and you get a page of urls in order of relevance. Hit the "I'm Feeling Lucky Today" button and it automatically opens up the search engines first choice url.

More often than not, it works like a charm. For example, I did a search for my colleague Rob Kay (who also writes a column for PBN) but is not exactly a household name. He does however have a web site on the Fiji Islands. I typed in "Rob Kay", hit "I'm Feeling lucky today" and voila-a millisecond later there his homepage was staring at me in the face. I did a similar search on one of my best friends, Jeff Bloom who runs a Hawaii tech company and does a lot of community service work with kids. With one search on Google, there was Jeff Bloom at the top of page. Not just any Jeff Bloom, but my friend who lives in Waimanalo. Similar searches for Jeff on Yahoo!, Altavista, LookSmart, and MSN yielded much more modest results.

Each result provides you with a brief summary of the page and a link to a cached version, that Google saved after first indexing. For example the search result from "Jeff Bloom" yielded "Jeff Bloom Receives Entrepreneur Of The Year Award ... In the last 14 years, Jeff Bloom has built, and continues to run, three successful, technology-oriented businesses." The link goes directly to his company's site.

If you haven't tried this search engine, you owe it to yourself.

Shakil Ahmed is the founder of PDC Systems, a Honolulu computer and networking company established in 1991. Questions or comments should be addressed to askshak@pdcsystems.com

Published May 4, 2001

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