Why Google is still #1

Funny story on TechCrunch today. Seems like Bing’s popularity is on the decline now, just a few days after its launch and short lived run at #2 search engine. Looking at the StatCounter chart, it’s interesting to see how Bing’s big influx of users seemed to have come from (and now apparently returned to) Google.

I say its funny because that’s pretty much what I did… When Bing launched I changed my default search engine from Google because, at first glance, Bing seemed kind of cool. A lot of searches were producing good quality results, sometimes besting Google in what I considrered most relevant. And hey look, it even ranked my Zune on Windows 2003 post #1, versus #4 on Google – so it must be a great search engine, right?! Well it is pretty good…

But here’s the thing… When you’re not using Google, you start to feel like you’re missing out on the “full” internet. It’s almost, in fact, like Google is the internet. It’s nothing new really, I mean the name is synonymous with the web; but truly the scope of what Google knows does seem (even if it is mostly psychological) to be the “definitive guide” to what’s out there. On every search I’d do Bing first and then use Google just to make sure I wasn’t missing out on anything. And since in most cases the Bing results would appear somewhere in the list of Google results, I just usually ended up going from there. So in the end searching Google first and bypassing Bing altogether would be the most efficient workflow.

The difference became especially apparent during the course of my work day where I’d be looking for a lot of more obscure IT/programming topics. The more unpopular the topic, the more Google proved it’s worth. For example I’m doing some PDF work with Ghostscript and encoutering some errors. If I search Google for “ghostscript error codes” I get the official ghostscript documentation page as the first result. That doesn’t even appear on the first page of Bing results – which contain a lot of irrelevant forum topics.

In the end, Bing is still a good tool and no doubt it’ll occupy the second slot on my search list. But if this little experience proves anything, it’s that any new search engine is going to have serious challenges matching Google’s usefulness and grabbing their market share in the long term. It will be interesting to see what happens when the “real” semantic web takes hold, but I have little doubt that Google’s already well ahead of the competition there, too.

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One Comment

  1. Alex

    August 27, 2009 at 12:17 am

    Don’t forget the search aggregators such as Dogpile which give you the best of both worlds – you get results from Google and Bing (and Ask and Yahoo!), and you don’t have to worry about whether you’re missing the good stuff.

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