Google Gets Bigger, But Doesn’t Say How Much

It is not uncommon for a 7-year-old to view themselves as the center of the universe and the largest persona among their peers, and search engine superstar Google is no different.

To mark its seventh anniversary, Google touted a Web search index three times that of any competitor, but despite former claims of billions and billions of Web documents indexed, the company left out a figure this time, eliminating the number from its front page.

The move comes after rival Yahoo recently touted a search index of 19 billion, but may mark the end of the search index references, which industry observers have called arbitrary and unlikely to impact whether or not users are getting a good search.

“I’ve always held that in the proportions we’re dealing with, the index number is not only irrelevant, but possibly misleading,” Basex Chief Analyst and CEO Jonathan Spira told TechNewsWorld. “In search, size does not necessarily matter.”

By the Numbers

Nevertheless, search index size has been the basis of an ongoing “bigger is better” battle among the search engines, mainly between Google and Yahoo, for the last year and a half.

And while Google has shed its search index size indicator on its home page, the company still refers to the “billions” of Web pages it has indexed, and touts that its search engine, the market leader, has grown 1,000 times as large as the original Google.

Still, the company has conceded that search indices are measured differently, and while index size is important, comprehensiveness means more than counting indexed Web pages.

“Search engines’ published metrics for index size measurement vary greatly and are no longer easily comparable,” the company said on its site.

Figures and Friction

Spira, who argued that users’ ability to construct proper search queries limits Web search effectiveness more than anything, said users tend to trust search systems more than they should.

Referring to the Basex term “Friction-Free knowledge sharing,” Spira explained that an overwhelming number of search results are a drag on effective searches and related worker productivity.

“If you have 347,698 results, that causes a lot of friction, and the greater the friction, the less likely the results are good,” he said.

Helpful Hits or Not?

Spira also said that while the leading search engines have been busy busting out their latest billion-page indexes, they have neglected to ask users whether the searches are effective or not, similar to queries that often accompany frequently asked question (FAQ) sections.

“The search engines leave out something very important,” Spira said. “They don’t ask after a search, ‘Was this helpful?'”

“It would make sense,” he added. “But they’re not asking, so they have no way of knowing if they’re providing accurate information.”

Response and Relevancy

The entry of Yahoo and Microsoft’s MSN search into the market during the last couple of years helped drive the fight for the biggest search index figure, but the big numbers are becoming less and less relevant, IDC analyst Sue Feldman told TechNewsWorld.

She indicated that the growth of all the search engines and their indexes means that response time and relevant results are becoming greater challenges for the different players. However, the analyst added that the search market remains large, with plenty of space for all the different companies, which continue to be led by Google.

“There is room for more than one business,” Feldman said. “This is a huge market.”

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