I hadn’t heard of Blekko, a search engine, till last week, so armed with a new entrant, I wanted to see how they all compared.
Blekko’s very pretty, and I’ve told Gabriel Weinberg, the man behind Duck Duck Go, just what it is that makes it attractive. Most of it is the modernist design approach it takes. But is it more functional?
I have a couple of tests. You may have heard me dis Google’s supplemental index, where pages it deems to be less important wind up. But who makes that determination? And what if there is a page in there that is actually relevant but Google fails to dig it up?
Google says the supplemental index doesn’t exist any more, but the fact remains that it fails to dig up some pages, especially older ones. So much for its comprehensive index.
The ﬁrst test, therefore, is one I have subjected every search engine I encounter to: will it ﬁnd a 2000 article on Lucire about Elle Macpherson Intimates’ 10th anniversary? It is probably the only article on the subject, and because of this test, I’ve even linked it this year so it can be spidered by the search engines. Last month, Google could not ﬁnd it, though in 2000–1, it was very easily found.
If the search engines are as intelligent as their makers claim, it should be able to ﬁgure out these concepts and deliver the pages accordingly. The page itself is very basic with no trick HTML—just plain old meta data, as you would imagine for a ten-year-old ﬁle.
Will the search engines ﬁnd it now, with a few more inward links?
Duck Duck Go: 1st
Blekko: not found, though it locates a reference made on this blog and two others in Lucire, one going back to 2001, at positions 1, 2 and 12
Google: 73rd, with blog entries from here referring to it at 5 and 42, and another link in Lucire at 6
Bing: 1st with old frameset at 2nd
Here’s the second test. In Wired, Google bragged about how its index could ﬁnd a page about a certain lawyer in Michigan (mike siwek lawyer mi). Unfortunately for Mr Siwek, most of the top entries quickly became those about the Wired article and he was lost again in the index.
Mr Don Wearing, a friend of mine, is a partner in a shoe retail chain. If I typed “Don Wearing” shoes, which of the search engines will deliver me an entry referring to Don Wearing speciﬁcally and not some guy called Don who happens to be wearing shoes? (Not long ago, the best the search engines could do was around 12th.)
Not bad: an improvement all round.
OK, how about speed of addition? Let’s see if the search engines will ﬁnd the last entry in this blog, added a few hours ago. I’ll use the search term “Jack Yan” TPPA.
This is just a quick test based on three examples that might not reﬂect everyday use. However, the ﬁrst two frustrated me earlier when I went to hunt for them on Google (and before I had heard of Duck Duck Go), which is why I remembered them, so admittedly Google was at a slight disadvantage in this test as a result. I never went to Bing or Ask regularly.
Therefore, I’m not going to draw any conclusions about who is best, but I will say that Google is quicker at ﬁnding new material. I would, however, encourage others to give these other search engines a go and see how effective they are. I’m very happy with Duck Duck Go, especially as it does not second-guess my queries with Google’s annoying ‘Showing results for [what Google thinks I typed]. Search instead for [what I actually typed]’. No, Google, I did not type my query wrong—so give me the results already!
I prefer Duck Duck Go’s approach, which is to treat the web more as a research medium. There is no hiding pages: it just delivers the most relevant result to what I typed, which is why I originally moved to Google at the end of the 1990s.
Judging by the above, I’m not convinced Blekko is ready for prime-time (which is why it still has a beta tag).
And in a year where people have shown that they care about privacy, Duck Duck Go seems to make more sense.