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Posted by aaron at 06:01PM, Wednesday, December 08th, 2004

I'm ready for the next Google

The quality of normal Google search results for the kinds of searches I do has decreased markedly over the last couple of years, and Google doesn't seem to be paying attention to the usability or effectiveness of their bread-and-butter product any more.

I need a new search engine. Way back when, I used Yahoo, because that was about it. Then I used AltaVista, because no other search engine could equal it for technical searches. Then I switched to Google, and back in the day it was even better than AltaVista. Now, though, Google seems focused on simply increasing the number of pages they index, for their normal search, but mostly doing cool, less search-enginey things like Google Maps.

Simply increasing the index size might seem like a good idea, but, the net being what it is, I end up finding what I'm looking for less of the time than ever. There are now lots of pages that just contain lots of words or phrases, and no real content; they're just search-engine traps (that redirect to eBay or wherever), and Google's always playing catch-up with their creators, when it comes to filtering them out. There's also more and more content on the web, and more and more pages that index other pages; just because a page contains the words "tibook" and "spacebar" and "problem" doesn't mean it has anything to do with hardware problems pertaining to the spacebar on a Titanium PowerBook. Just because there are more pages that match my search words doesn't mean that there are more useful pages out there, and Google seems to have lost sight of that in its effort to out-market Yahoo.

I've been finding more and more cruft, and fewer and fewer useful results. As the amount of content it indexes has increased, Google has done nothing (that I can see from my searches) to address what's becoming the most important aspect of search out there: context. I get matches with some, but not all, of my search-terms, none of which appear in the same paragraph, and each of which may appear in a different link name, way up at the top of the search results. That's not progress. It's a waste of my time.

Google also continues to miss whole huge swathes of the internet. Public hi fi fora? Google doesn't index stuff I know is in them. (Search for "topica linn 2250". I know there have been a lot of recent discussions about the 2250 amplifier on the Linn list on Topica, but Google doesn't.) The same goes for countless other quiet little corners of the net, which contain some of the most useful content, pertaining directly to what people search for. Instead, Google points me to dummy pages that redirect me to eBay. EBay doesn't sell what I'm looking for, if what I'm looking for is information about a system software problem, or how a new amplifier performs.

I don't mean simply to attack Google, but then, there's not much competition these days; attacking web searches is starting to be the same as attacking Google. Whose site does the little search bar in practically every modern browser go to? On Safari and Firefox, it's Google's. Yahoo's still around, but the other players have faded and, it appears, stopped trying, once Google took over. I guess that's the evil part of being so successful you blot out the competition. Yeah, Google Maps and Google Earth are really cool and cutting-edge and trendy, when or if they work with Safari and the Mac; but I just want a search-engine that works, and I don't have one.
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