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Last Updated: Friday, 12 November, 2004, 11:40 GMT
Search wars - which is the best?
By Tom Geoghegan
BBC News Magazine

As Microsoft enters the internet search engine market, users find themselves overwhelmed with options. We compare the big players on five key areas.





Ask Jeeves

The verdict

The test

  • First a search for "raleigh" - chosen as it is a word with several meanings including the bike company, the US city, the expedition charity and the Elizabethan explorer.
  • How fast? Although engines can be slowed down by problems in receiving networks, searches made within minutes can give a comparison.
  • Then how did it look and could it tell us an Alsatian's IQ (reportedly 60 - whether this is true or not is irrelevant). Finally, the simple question - what is the time in Sydney?
The verdict

I was a slave to Google although only a basic user who rarely used the advanced tools.

It's clear how it's become the market leader with its reach unrivalled since it doubled its index this week. And it got the obscure fact easily.

But the basic search could be a little more refined - a triumph of mass over classification, perhaps?

The new competitor MSN has had teething problems and we should bear in mind this is a test mode.

But it failed to home in on some of the raleigh references picked up by its rivals and the search builder tool is time-consuming if you're in a rush.

The mechanisms designed to trump Google, such as the Near Me and direct questions, seem limited at this stage.

Yahoo! did try and help me with its "also try" section and it answered the Sydney question too. But it is cluttered on the engine's front page.

All three could take a leaf out of the butler's book. Ask Jeeves gave a great classification of raleigh into its different definitions. And it got the question and the obscure fact.

A9 looks like a good bet for the popular culture references, with its access to the vast Amazon retail cupboard.

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