Thursday, August 7, 2008

The search engine conundrum - Fight

I was looking through the Channel 8 Students Union earlier on and noticed an important point concerning search engines. It’s widely known that search engines are the most viewed websites on the Internet because they are the starting point to look for something. We may even know the direct link to the website we’re looking for, but sometimes people find it simpler to plug in a quick query to get there faster, after all we are getting more and more impatient when it comes to browsing.

I thought it would be a good idea to weigh up the differences and also to see which works better for students using the two most rivalled search engines in the world - Google and Live Search.

Which search engine is better for students? Which allows you access to the data faster, in a better readable format, and which ultimately benefits the user without raising blood pressure levels? I’m taking a stab in the dark at this one, with little-to-accurate results likely.

Note: for you eagle eyed nutters, people with too much time, those who hate me already readers, you’ll notice these screenshots aren’t 100% accurate. The data should be, but I’ve cropped and moved some bits around to get them to fit on screen without breaking the backend engine.

Test 1 - The Maths Question
Most of you already know you can type in a simple maths query into a search engine and get an answer, or at the very least a link to a page which will help. I tried 3x + 2 = 15, which should give me a result for x. I know by working it out in my head it’ll be around 4. I tried Google first.


It failed me. I’m impatient, I’m tired, and I haven’t had a cup of tea in a while - I want an answer straight away and Google hasn’t given it me. I tried Live Search next, with a much more desirable result.


My first result was the answer, and accurate to 6 decimal places too. It doesn’t help when it’s a recurring number, but even still, Google 0, Live Search 1.

Test 2 - The Geography Question
A student isn’t necessarily a solitary being - we need to move from place to place, normally to find more sources of alcohol. When that is the case, we rely on a good old web search to point us in the right direction. Say I wanted to get to Canterbury and I had no idea where it is (I realise now it’s stupid, because I already live here, but go along with me for the time being). I’ll tap it into a search engine. Live Search worked last time so this time it’s first up.


What? I don’t care about the news articles, I was hoping for pretty pictures telling me how to get there! I tap it into Google and get this:


Now that’s more like it - a little map telling me where about it is in the country, and one click to a full size map for better viewing. What’s better is the application of a start address, allowing me to tell Google where I want to travel from and it’ll return driving directions. Without a doubt, Google 1, Live Search 1. Level pegging.

Test 3 - The Ultimate Question
Philosophy students are well known for asking the impossible and questioning reality - but most students do that as they’re stumbling to another bar after being kicked out the last one. In the spirit of the late Douglas Adams (of which his death confirms for me - exercise is bad for you), I thought it’d be a good idea to question both search engines for the ultimate question - the answer to life, the Universe and everything.



Both produce the same result, which means philosophy students will be happy content (at least) and drunken students can sleep easy that night. Google 2, Live Search 2.

Test 4 - The Scientific Question
Everyone at some point will need to know that 26Mg is a radiogenic daughter product of 26Al but for the time being, a simple scientific answer needs to be on hand. Say you’re a budding scientist and you need to quickly find out the electron configuration of Einsteinium - plug in a few keywords and hopefully we’ll get a result straight away.


Again, except this time with Live Search rather than Google, impatience is definitely not a virtue and we want the answer here and now without any screwing around. Sure, the answer is there in the first result, but something big and bold would be nice to point it out. I try Google:


There we have it - written right at the top in bold letters to point it out to me. Considering most students seem to work well in the dead of the night, eyesight suffers and a visual indicator does help. Google 3, Live Search 2.

Test 5 - The Language Question
Every student will need to look up a definition of a word at some point - whether you’re doing a science degree and need to know what ionisation is, or studying 18th century Spanish history and don’t know what enlightened absolutism is. Forget using a dictionary, you thought you could survive on Wikipedia. You need a definition function compatible with a search engine. In this case, I want to know what “defenestration” is:


Ahh - straight away we have a definition of defenestration, and a link to an external site. What’s even better is Google returns often a .edu, or a .gov address which is deemed “more accurate” than other domains for the reason they have to be accurate. Not ruling out other search engines, I try Live Search anyway:


The define: function works in both search engines, but this is what really pisses me off. Live Search provides a link to its own MSN Encarta dictionary instead of providing links to other “more trustworthy” sites like seen in Google’s results, that of Princeton University. I’ll have you know I clicked the “No” link when it asked me whether it was useful. Even though the result was the same, the principle of not linking elsewhere shows they’re greedy. Even students have principles - granted, not many, but still some. Because of this, Google 4, Live Search 2.

Overall I’ve come to the conclusion that even though Google seems to score higher in some areas, Live Search doesn’t do too badly. They both have some impressive features, and everyone has their own person taste to which engine they prefer. I’ve always preferred Google, but the statistics don’t lie - more people worldwide prefer Google, and in my understanding, so do students…

Thanks to

1 comment:

hisubash said...

nice comparison
thanks for sharing bro,

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