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A Search Engine Mystery Solved
Monday, November 17 2003 @ 10:17 AM EST

Slashdot has a followup on the story we first broke about peculiar results on MSN compared with Google. I read through all the comments carefully, and picking through the trolls and the shills, I found that some think the phenomenon may be the result of MSN having first paid-for listings, followed by all the rest, the real results. However, it turns out there are no real results. You can't escape paid results anywhere on MSN. Moreover, it isn't results by computer algorithm alone; human editors are involved in filtering the results you get. Here is what I found out and how.

First, I noted that one person on Slashdot reported running a search for "George W. Bush" and got some odd results:

"Try George W. Bush. I just did. It'll say something on the order of 301 hits. Scroll through the pages to the last hit. Suddenly, the number jumps through the roof. I find it hard to believe that the first 300 hits are all sponsored links. I think something else is going on here: MSN has not only sponsored links, but some kind of edited directory scheme going here, and it doesn't care to let you know that the first number it quoted is of those links which are sponsored or added editorial, and the second number is a raw search result."

I did the same search and I agreed it couldn't be all paid results, unless the White House pays MSN for putting an official bio of the First Lady high on MSN's list. I don't think they'd use our tax dollars to do that. But sure enough, when you scroll through the 305 results they first promised to show you, if you continue by clicking "Next" again, it jumps to 1,153,228 results, with no explanation on how 305 just became a million plus.

I next did a search on MSN for "search engines" (with and without the quotations) and search and invariably, MSN comes up first. I never found Google at all. I stopped looking for it after the 300th result for search engines and 200 for search. Google was simply not findable in any reasonable way on MSN. Maybe you can find it, but I tried twice and I couldn't. Results don't seem to be identical when you run searches at different times.

They listed things like "Internet Public Library" and "Recipes search engines" and "Nerdworld", "Looksmart", "LinkMe.com", "Napster", and "Korean Search Engines Dot Com", and even a dead link to an old 1996 CNET article called "Can You Trust Your Search Engine?" -- but no Google. What possible algorithm could make that happen, without human intervention? There has to be something wrong when you can't find Google in a search for "search engines". They want to buy it, but they don't want you to find it?

I then went to Google, and I ran the same searches. You can find MSN on Google just fine, on page 2. It doesn't list itself first, either. They are number 4, with Yahoo and Alta Vista ahead of it when you do a search for "search." When you search for "search engines" you get helpful things like Search Engine Watch, number one on the list. By now, I'm thinking maybe MSN just isn't a good search engine if you are looking for actual information, as opposed to what MSN will let you find. Was it true, though, that after the first few hundred paid search results, you could reach the rest of the unskewed results?

Rather than assume, why not ask Microsoft, I thought? Surely they know how they built their search engine, no?

If you go here and then click on "About MSN Search results" on the top of the list, you get to their page describing the results you may get on an MSN search:

"Depending on what you search for, the following categories of results may appear:

"Popular Topics
"Featured Sites
"Sponsored Sites
"Web Directory Sites
"Web Pages
"Broaden Your Search

"If any of the above categories don't appear in your results, it simply means that no Web sites in that category were relevant to your search."

Each item is clickable to more information explaining what it means. Microsoft has it set up so that you can't link there directly, natch, but if you follow the links, here is what you will find for these items:

First, Popular Topics:

"Popular Topics results help you refine your search by suggesting related topics. Clicking one will start a new search and display a new results page. The most relevant or popular topics will be displayed first.

"Note
"Popular Topics results appear at the top of the first search results page, but won't appear for all searches."

Next, Featured Sites:

"Featured Sites are links that MSN Search editors believe are likely to be particularly relevant and useful. These sites are chosen from ones published by MSN affiliates, partners, sponsors, and advertisers, as well as other sites proven to be especially popular among our users. Featured Sites that best match your search words are drawn from:

"The top sites for news in entertainment, sports, business, and politics.
"The most popular musical artist sites for biographies and song samples.
"MSN Encarta for encyclopedia information.
"MSN content.
"MSN content partners.
"MSN advertising partners. (Microsoft accepts payment for listings from these.) "

Next, Sponsored Sites:

"Sponsored Sites are paid links provided to MSN Search and other Web search engines by a third party. The third party ranks the sites based upon bids received from advertisers, as well as their relevance to search words and phrases.

"To highlight their special nature, MSN Search labels sponsored sites as such.

"Sponsored Sites that best match your search words appear:
"Only when you perform a basic search.
"On the first page of results.
"On subsequent result pages if additional Sponsored Sites are available.
"When your search words are terms that Web sites have bid on."

Next, Web Directory Results:

"Web Directory results contain Web sites within the MSN Web Directory that best match your search words.

"Note
"Within Web Directory results, there may also be links where the Web site owners have paid for the expedited review of their site or for clicks to their site. These sites are ranked using the normal algorithm applied to all links within each section, with no change in rank due to payment."

Next, Web Pages:

"Web Page results include all other Internet-wide Web sites that best match your search words.

"Note
"Within Web Page results, there may be links where the Web site owners have paid for either expedited review of their site or paid for clicks to their site. These sites are ranked using the normal algorithm applied to all links within each section, with no change in rank due to payment."

So it seems there is no way to escape paid-for results on MSN, no matter how hard you try. That isn't the most alarming part. The scariest on the entire list to me is the Featured Sites explanation, about the "links that MSN Search editors believe are likely to be particularly relevant and useful". There's the human intervention. Now you're talking scarey. This is, after all, Microsoft.

Useful to whom? To Microsoft or to me? If I run a search for "search" I probably do want to know about Google.

If I am looking for info on GNU/Linux, I probably don't want MS editors deciding for me what is most useful. And if I am looking for facts about the government or whatever, I especially don't want humans with an agenda, any agenda, filtering for me. I have a brain that I trust to do that filtering. It's one thing for a company to want to conrol a market; it's another when it tries to control what you know.

So what, you may say? Just don't use it, if you don't want paid results. Trust me, I don't and I won't. This was strictly in the line of duty. I will never use it again, and I will explain to everyone I know what I found out about MSN Search. But if they bought Google? Then what?

So, now you know what Microsoft thinks a search engine should be: just another way to use customers to get a competitive advantage. They have no concept of the public interest, I discern, from the design of their search engine. It's all about Microsoft and their friends. That same blind spot is likely what keeps them from understanding the value of the GPL and the freedoms it affords users.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I use Google instead of MSN and will throw up if Microsoft buys Google. Then I will stop using Google. After that, some genius or other will just write another search algorithm and I'll use that search engine instead. I hope you are working on it now, actually, whoever you are. Release it under the GPL, will you, so Microsoft et al can't buy it and ruin it? That's the thing about freedom. Humans just can't stop wanting it. We're wired that way.

If Microsoft were not a monopoly, and if they didn't have MSN set as the default search engine, maybe none of this would matter much. It would be repulsive, but it wouldn't matter. But they are and they do.


  


A Search Engine Mystery Solved | 82 comments | Create New Account
Comments belong to whoever posts them. Please notify us of inappropriate comments.
A Search Engine Mystery Solved
Authored by: burySCO on Monday, November 17 2003 @ 10:28 AM EST
For what it's worth: I found google in 3rd spot when I searched for
"internet search engines" (without quotation marks). For the record
though, I prefer goodle to msn

---
My jabber handle is burySCO@jabber.org

[ Reply to This | # ]

OT - Conference Call Transcripts
Authored by: LHJ on Monday, November 17 2003 @ 10:28 AM EST

The quote pages have a small project to make text transcripts of SCO conference calls. A lot of work has already been done, but we could use a little help.

If you are willing to transcribe, we can send you a 5-10 minute section to do. In this way, the help of a few people could make the work go fast.

We have nothing right now for conference calls held on March 7 and June 6. If you have saved the audio or have a transcipt to contribute, please let us know!

I think you can click on my profile to send emails if you want to help. If not, tell PJ. ;-P

[ Reply to This | # ]

Beholden to Micro$oft
Authored by: martimus on Monday, November 17 2003 @ 10:32 AM EST
I know that this site is about Open Source and the Law, but lurking
behind alot of the issues at hand is the adjudicated monopoly law
breaker. People look at the value that Micro$oft brings to the market and
excuse their behavior, because to attack M$ might "damage the
economy." These types forget that in the first phase of monopoly power,
we get all the benefits of competitive pricing, but in the second phase
(where M$ is now) the abuses for power and profit occur to the detriment
of the market, the consumer and other businesses. Caveat Emptor!

[ Reply to This | # ]

A Search Engine Mystery Solved
Authored by: WhiteFang on Monday, November 17 2003 @ 10:33 AM EST
Thank you for your research and concise explanation. As per your usual, you
shine a bright light in the encroaching darkenss.

:-)

[ Reply to This | # ]

Welcome to 1984
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, November 17 2003 @ 10:36 AM EST
Except instead of Big Brother, its uncle Bill, controllling what you read, see,
hear. Its uncle Billy Gates watching what your watching.

[ Reply to This | # ]

A Search Engine Mystery Solved
Authored by: mdchaney on Monday, November 17 2003 @ 10:42 AM EST

That same blind spot is likely what keeps them from understanding the value of the GPL and the freedoms it affords users.

Sigh. Bill Gates understands the value of the GPL. However, no company is going to make billions and billions of dollars (they have about $50B cash on hand right now) by selling software which can be freely redistributed. We might not like what they do, but they have a fiduciary duty to maximize profits for shareholders, and frankly they do that as well as any company out there.

[ Reply to This | # ]

A Search Engine Mystery Solved
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, November 17 2003 @ 10:45 AM EST
Odd that with all the recent talk in the tech media about search engines none of
our so called "analysts" have done a critical examination. PJ you
are setting the bar so high that you run the risk of becoming the analysts'
most hated person. You are truly proving to be their worse nightmare.

[ Reply to This | # ]

A Search Engine Mystery Solved
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, November 17 2003 @ 10:46 AM EST
The key phrase is "chosen from ones published by MSN affiliates, partners,
sponsors, and advertisers"

It's not clear to me what the difference between sponsors and advertisers is.

When search engines say affiliates and partners, they usually mean some kind of
financial relationship. I don't know this to be the case here, but it's
plausible.

Examples:
(a) If I run a search engine, and say I am an Overture partner - it means they
pay me for showing their results, and get clicks on their paid listings.
(b) If I run a search engine, and Overture says I am there partner - it means
they are paying me.

In the case of an MSN partner, we probably mean something similar to (a) -
companies are paying MSN to get mixed in MSN results.


If you break out the URLs of the top few results, you can see there is no
obvious difference between links between which you might presume to be,
affiliates, partners, sponsors and advertisers. They all look like they are
tracked in the same way, per click thru.

Once in a while, e.g. you search for a big company name. You get a differently
formatted URL for the top result. I think these are the "editorial"
results. For most searches that I tried, I get 1 or more often 0, of these.

The way one search engine usually gets paid listings from another, is by
providing data feeds (usually XML) containing the result sets, containing stuff
like link destinations, title, description, etc.

I'm guessing, but I expect that the so-called affiliate and partners, probably
work the same way. This would probably include non-MSN divisions of Microsoft,
MSN probably counts advertising revenue (and the division counts an advertising
cost) in their internal accounts. If you look at the link formatting, they
obviously want to track in detail these clicks, which is supportive of this
theory.

As for Linux searches that I tried (admittedly some time ago), they followed the
same pattern, in fact when I tried, there didn't seem to be any
"editorial" results for Linux.

While I agree this is unpleasant, it's not that different from other meta
search engines (see Dogpile or Metacrawler).

The one thing that I think most unpleasant is the results are not clearly
labelled as advertising. A couple of years ago, the FTC did look at this kind of
issue for a number of search engines. As I recall, they said Google (which does
label) is following best practise, but didn't say there was anything wrong with
a number of other search engines which don't label or don't label clearly.

The difference between MSN UK and MSN USA, is when this was last covered, MSN UK
was also showing Inktomi results lower down in the results. Inktomi is a spider
based result set (similar idea to Google), however with one significant
difference, Inktomi does have options for web sites to pay to get spidered
(whereas Google it's free, plus some luck). MSN is unlikely to get paid for
users to click on Inktomi results, so they probably prefer if you don't.

The short summary is:
(a) MSN wants you to click on a pay per click listing.
(b) The pay per click listings come from a number of sources
(c) It may be unpleasant, even obnoxious, but it's not in itself unusual
(d) While there is potential to skew the results for specific searches, all the
evidence that I could find, points that haven't really done that at all...
rather the bias is more pervasive - see (a).


Without wanting to reopen old wounds. I think that I said pretty much all this
back at the time GROKLAW first covered this, and in subsequent emails to PJ with
a lot of detail. I wasn't really popular at the time for saying it.

Quatermass


P.S.
If you have a search engine and produce shoddy results, it's well-established
that over time, you lose users. As far as I know, MSN doesn't have a spider
(necessary for good results), let alone a spider comparable to Google (arguably
the best spider). I say this is likely, because MSN has always used a third
party spider (Inktomi) for the supplemental non-paid results.

From a search engine perspective, MSN probably wants better supplemental results
(spider based) to fill out the results after their paid/monetized listings at
the top. They probably also wouldn't mind the Google Adword revenue.





[ Reply to This | # ]

A Search Engine Mystery Solved
Authored by: ExcludedMiddle on Monday, November 17 2003 @ 11:10 AM EST
Even Google has its flaws. Because so many companies want to skew the results, they try to jigger their links so that they rise to the top of Google. Because of this, I often also use Teoma now as a way to search a topic that have a strong commercial aspect. Teoma's results, at least for now, are much less skewed. I still recommend Google for if you want to do very complete search on a topic, because it gets far more webpage hits for a topic.

Not all things can be simplified to just 1 or 0.

[ Reply to This | # ]

  • Nobody's Prefect - Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, November 17 2003 @ 06:59 PM EST
A Search Engine Mystery Solved
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, November 17 2003 @ 11:10 AM EST
Here's something interesting. I searched for "google" on msn.
Google was the first thing to come up, but number two was a USA today article
about how microsoft in fact never held merger talks with google and has no
intention of buying them. The number three result on an msn search for
"google" is msn.com. With google being such a popular word that it
has almost become synonomous with the word "search" how does msn end
up being the number three result.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Nutch!
Authored by: LinuxLobbyist on Monday, November 17 2003 @ 11:17 AM EST

This project was announced a couple of months ago. Doesn't look like there's been much activity since then, but I figured it would be good to post here to encourage any capable and willing developers to join the effort to build an open source search engine.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Not much of a mystery...
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, November 17 2003 @ 11:31 AM EST

Microsoft has been wanting MSN to be their version of AOL for years. Now that AOL has been advertising that they provide the Internet ``sanitized for your protection'', it's only natural for Microsoft to follow up with their version of that. That Linux software is dangerous (in their minds) so they sanitize that. And Google? Well they actually allow you to find dangerous stuff like Linux when you use the Google search engine. so they sanitize that, too. I'm betting that they think this is innovative, too. BTW, I wonder how AOL's search capability stacks up against Google?

[ Reply to This | # ]

Microsoft, Freedom, and Choice
Authored by: GenWer on Monday, November 17 2003 @ 11:39 AM EST
The essay on The Microsoft Matrix (currently at
http://satya.virtualave.net/msmatrix.html) is my all-time favorite description
of Microsoft v. freedom. It is an older essay (1999) that looks at the original
science fiction movie "The Matrix" vs. the reality of current
Microsoft products. The original author's site (Chris Worth?) is no longer
functional but the mirror of the article is still there. It is a *good* read
for those who want to frame Microsoft, freedom, and choice in one discussion.

GenWer

[ Reply to This | # ]

Diversity on the Internet
Authored by: tcranbrook on Monday, November 17 2003 @ 12:28 PM EST
Microsoft will most certainly continue in its efforts to recast the Internet
into its own image. And for a sizable and growing segment of the market, MSN
and the internet are the same thing. This was true for a long time with the AOL
crowd. The MSN - AOL war is nearly over with for the most part now. MSN never
won market share from AOL, it just outlived it, being perpetually subsidized by
MS. This quarter is the first one that MSN showed any profit, and most of
that's due to an accounting querk.

The important thing is that other alternative systems and uses on the Internet
are not prevented. It must remain open and and free, as in freedom. But it has
been observed, "the price of freedom is eternal vigilance." In this
case, there are two fundamental things that we need to be vigilant of. The
first is the very basic physical infrastructure that creates the Internet, the
tcp/ip routing system. The second is the availability of software, code, that
lets us use that physical infrastructure. The freedom afforded us by the
Interenet is under attack at these two pivotal points.

The threats to the infrastructure are not that well known or documented. One
important threat is reduction of port access at the ISP level. It is
increasingly common that ISP accounts close all ports for an account except a
few of the commonly used ones, (http, ftp, smtp, etc). Presumably, this is to
protect people from port attacks. It also pretty much limites users to existing
services. New services, using other ports, can not be created and provided to
the general public. Full internet access frequently requires a primium or
commercail account, at much higher cost. Other threats deal with the details of
ipV6 and the arise of firewalled segments of the net at national levels. And an
ever greater threat is unfolding with "Trustworthy Computing" in MS
speak.

The freedom of software to use on the Internet infrastructure has been provided
us by the GPL. In the past, it has given us the means to create the software in
the first place by the Open Source development process. This created Linux and
Apache, amoung so many others. It also has provided protection from attack,
confiscation and distruction by corportate interests. That threat, of course,
we are all quite familiar with.

Perhaps we are seeing the time when we need a GPL'd serach ability. One
example is:

www.nutch.org

I suspect that the 'itch' to deal with the search problem is getting a lot
more intense of late. I just hope that Google can hang on long enough for a
Open Source alternative to arise.

Our best defense against Micrsoft and its intents is to preserve the freedom of
the Internet, and to insure that people have the ability to know about
alternatives, and the ability to choose them.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Remember the anti-Google FUD?
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, November 17 2003 @ 12:34 PM EST
Some time ago, I recall a flood of complaints about Google's sponsored links.
Various posts appeared on the subject, questioning Google's morality, worrying
about the comfusion that Google's users would experience, and advising people
to change to another search engine.

But then I went to Google, and the sponsored links were clearly separated from
the regular links. So, trusting the evidence of my own eyes, and remembering
that Google was a competitor of Microsoft, I dismissed the complaints as
Microsoft FUD. In fact, I was encouraged that Google was making money, and
doing it openly and honestly, without trying to trick me.

With MSN Search, however, we now see Microsoft doing the very things of which
Google was accused, and worse. As this "search for an explanation"
shows, most people are fooled by Microsoft's method of prefacing the real
search results with sponsored and MS-selected links. As usual, Microsoft has
foregone the honest route to wealth, and has chosen, instead, trickery and
market manipulation.

But the odd thing is how we are calmly (and jokingly) discussing it.

Where are the outcry and moral outrage that we saw earlier against Google???

It's a rhetorical question, of course. That Microsoft cannot be trusted is no
longer the subject of debate -- it's simply an accepted fact.

[ Reply to This | # ]

A Search Engine Mystery Solved
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, November 17 2003 @ 12:38 PM EST
I've read stuff about Google having problems because their database
uses a 32-bit index for records. They're expanding it, but there have
been growing pains.

If the worst happens and you need an alternative, try
www.alltheweb.com. It's not as good as Google, but it's pretty
reasonable.

[ Reply to This | # ]

A Search Engine Mystery Solved
Authored by: geoff lane on Monday, November 17 2003 @ 12:44 PM EST
I have NO idea what the internal design of MSN search is but I think the results
can be explained quite simply

1. Lousy design
2. The search takes place in three parts
a) quick search through small sponsored database
(and initialise full search in general database)
return search results
b) quick search through affiliates database and
return results
c) start displaying results of full search which are
now available.

The point being that while the user is reading through the results from a) and
b), the full search is running. The effect is that the search engine appears to
run very much faster than it really does. The disadvantage is that the results
can be very poor unless the page you want is in the results from a) and b)

Google does a simple parallel search using 10,000(?) PCs, each searching part of
the complete database. I suspect that MSN has nowhere near that kind of
resource and so they fake it.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Antitrust complaint
Authored by: Thomas Frayne on Monday, November 17 2003 @ 01:08 PM EST
I would like to file an antitrust complaint against Microsoft for illegal unfair competition against web search engines. That would be with the FTC, right?

I think I might have standing because I own some search engine stock indirectly via mutual funds, but I would buy some search engine stock, if necessary.

I also plan to include this information in a letter to the San Jose Mercury News, telling the readers to visit MSN story for more information.

Among the penalties for conviction, I would advocate a ruling that Microsoft must ship all new Windows systems with no default search engine, and with run-once code to display an independent page listing all known search engines with result statistics for each, and check boxes to select one for the default, and others to be on a search engine list configured for the user's machine.

If MSN is not on the search engine list, it must be removed from the machine's configuration with no trace and no automatic notifications to re-install it.

Microsoft should be forced to send a critical patch, labeled Anti-trust Resolution Critical Patch, to install the above fix, together with run-once code to deselect MSN, if it is the default search engine. The comments on this patch must state that Microsoft was required to send the patch when it admitted or was convicted of unfair trade practices against competitive search engines and other products, especially by its practice of limiting search results to paid web sites.

If I designed this correctly, most Windows users will automatically get the information needed to select a search engine, the reason for avoiding MSN, and an easy way to select an alternative.

[ Reply to This | # ]

A Search Engine Mystery Solved - Censorship
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, November 17 2003 @ 01:37 PM EST
Is it possible that how they have it designed could be a form of censorship? If
so, is it possible that it potentially infringes on the constitution?

Just a couple of questions someone may want to look into. If they end up with a
monopoly on search engines, it may be possible to hold them on providing the
information they don't want to provide.

[ Reply to This | # ]

A Search Engine Mystery Solved
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, November 17 2003 @ 04:43 PM EST
For the record, just did a search on MSN and Google for "Linux" (w/o
quotes). Here are the top five for each.

MSN search:

1. Amazon.com
2. eBay
3. Introducing Linux @ tech.msn.com
4. Alternatives to Linux-Apache-MySQL-PHP
www.microsoft.com/serviceproviders/migration
5. Linux Online - www.linux.org

Google:

1. The Linux Home Page at Linux Online www.linux.org/
2. Linux.com - www.linux.com/
3. Red Hat - www.redhat.com/
4. Debian GNU/Linux - www.debian.org/
5. The Linux Documentation Project - www.linuxdoc.org/

Hmmm, I do a search on an OS and I get offered a chance to spend my money and be
brainwashed about why it is evil. Or I can Google and get what I thought was
looking for.

Can't wait until Bill is president so I will know what is best for me.

[ Reply to This | # ]

  • MSN linux link - Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, November 18 2003 @ 08:29 AM EST
To Be Fair
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, November 17 2003 @ 05:19 PM EST
I googled for Search Engines without the quotes

MSN came up 47th
Goggle came up 5th

[ Reply to This | # ]

  • To Be Fair - Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, November 17 2003 @ 07:48 PM EST
More information
Authored by: Nick Bridge on Monday, November 17 2003 @ 05:20 PM EST
"Google" isn't merely missing from the results of a search from "search engine".

Google is listed as a "Featured Site" - except they will only feature it under strict search criteria - excluding "search" and "engine"

It appears that "google.com" is weighted heavily, ensuring that most wont find it - unless you include "google" in your search!

But it also appears that they have failed to weight it in certain types of search - as indicated by the following:

Google will appear - with searches such as:
"Advertise with Us" "Business Solutions" "Services & Tools"

This seems to me, in part, because www.google.com does not have the term "search engine" anywhere in it's welcome page, even in meta tags.

Searching msn advanced search for "internet search engine", you get google listed like this:

google
Search engine returns keyword search results based on relevance of content and the number of links to a particular URL from other sites.
If you search for the following in google itself:
"Search engine returns keyword search results based"
The list returned contains "search engine directories", and more interestingly does not contain anything within "google.com" - which can be verified with a "site:google.com" search.

This implies that msn search augments it's database with information from outside sources, and in this particular case they didn't artificially reduce google's rank.

[ Reply to This | # ]

A Search Engine Mystery Solved
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, November 17 2003 @ 07:21 PM EST
If Google goes the way of all success, try www.mooter.com

[ Reply to This | # ]

explanation of Google not appearing at all
Authored by: unsubtle on Monday, November 17 2003 @ 10:12 PM EST
i tried searching for "web search" (without the quotes) on search.msn.com.

209 results ... lots of them are for msn, their "partners", etc. i kept clicking "NEXT" until i came to:

Results 196-210 of about 150946868 containing "web search"

and then i actually found google at no. 277.

i'd guess the first 209 results were a mixture of advertising, self-promotion, editors' selection, and so forth; and the real search results stared at no. 210. that would imply google came 68th in the real search: too low, but possible if msn are using a low-quality search engine.

i should really have tried doing this for "search engines" (instead of "web search"), since that's what PJ tried. my bet is that would give the same kind of results.

conclusion: no evidence of suppression of sites in the pure search results. however, there can be an awful lot of impure results before you reach the pure results.

the impure results are poor for various reasons, including the weight of money, technical weaknesses, and - yes - corporate bias. obviously it's better to use a real search engine - and getting the message across to people who don't know about alternatives to msn.

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Honestly, PJ, What Mystery?
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, November 18 2003 @ 01:18 AM EST

I like everything you do, but this took far too much of your very valuable time.

Here's the solution: Microsoft, as an oraganization, is incapable of doing anything honestly. Their corporate culture is to do anything they can get away with, and then some.

Simple. Complete. Demonstrably true.

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Special Math
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, November 18 2003 @ 02:33 AM EST
Your little problem
"with no explanation on how 305 just became a million plus"
could be easily explained by the SCOG. They do such math every day. Marc

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  • Special Math - Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, November 18 2003 @ 07:50 AM EST
Alternative search engines
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, November 18 2003 @ 01:17 PM EST
The Infopeople Project recommends the following search engines: Google, Teoma, Alltheweb, and AltaVista. MSN is not on their recommended list, I wonder why :-).

The good news is that there are alternatives, the bad news is that the one considered the best (by most) cannot be legally copied (at least, in the U.S.). Google owns a patent on its PageRank system (which is bizarre, since it's simply executing the old count-the-citations technique widely used by academicians for "how many people reference my paper"). Thus, whoever owns Google has a monopoly on using (or not using) that approach to implement a search engine, which currently appears to be the best approach.

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A Search Engine Mystery Solved
Authored by: John on Tuesday, November 18 2003 @ 03:21 PM EST
The worry is what will happen when Google gets listed and shares can be bought
by anyone, Microsoft included.

With each share sold, it will lose a little bit more of its independance.

Well, that's in the future. By then GNU might have invented a newer, better
search engine.

---
JJJ

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A Search Engine Mystery Solved
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, November 19 2003 @ 01:52 AM EST
heh heh. i used "best keyword search engine" w/o quotes, google came
first, msn is nowhere to be seen :-) now i can sleep well!

--

ato

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A Search Engine Mystery Solved
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, November 19 2003 @ 04:10 PM EST
Has anyone ran these searches on AOL to see what kind of rediculous results come
up there? MSN is a paid for service, and as you point out in your article,
they defined what thier search results consist of, including, but not limited
too, paid results, and results designed to keep a user within the MSN network,
again, this is speciifed on thier site. I don't personally use, or care for,
the MSN search engine, because it uses paid, screened, and weighted results.
However, I do not complain that they are trying to manipulate anyone when they
explain it quite clearly that these results are scewed...first of all, it's a
major commercial company (M$ in this case), second of all, they do not try to
pretend that they do not mess with the results (which is actually better than
some companies out there).

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A Search Engine Mystery Solved
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, November 19 2003 @ 04:20 PM EST
Do a search under MSN for 'GPL'. The first result is an article by SCO
claiming that IBM can't enforce the GPL.

Sad....

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