The Google-Foundem Factor

Search engine wars- Google vs. the little guy
Source: Pixabay

It would be quite difficult to come across a person in a developed country who is old enough to read and write, who has not heard of, or used, a search engine. It would most certainly border on the impossible when applying the same set of criteria, to come across one who has used a search engine but who has never heard of Google.

The company that owns the best-known search engine of them all is responsible for providing answers to an estimated 87% of all online queries, year in and year out. It processes literally trillions of searches on an annual basis, or to put the figures into a more understandable perspective, roughly 63,000 every single second of the day and night.

Despite Google’s global domination, it’s very likely that whoever you are and whatever your frame of reference, you do not cognitively consider Google at any point during the day. Not as one would a certain brand of soda, in any event. With Google, it’s a matter of simply doing without thinking.

So much so, that we have fallen into the way of using the word ‘Google’ as a verb, meaning to conduct an online search for something. It’s become commonplace to say I’m going to Google a recipe or an online casino that suits me, rather than I’m going to use a search engine to find xyz.

Is Google That Good?

The correct question to be asking, however, is Why? What makes Google all that different from other search engines like say, Bing, for instance? And comparatively speaking, is Google really the best that there is?

Consider, for a moment, the story of Foundem, the search engine brainchild of Adam and Shivaun Raff. The Raffs started out as the masterminds behind the online dating application, MatchMate. MatchMate was a mile ahead of its contemporaries in that it could perform complex groupings based on a complicated combination of search criteria.

This grouping together of a complex set of criteria, with some elements in the grouping at times appearing to contradict one or more of the others, is known in programming terms as a vertical search.  Any programmer worth their salt will tell you that it is infamously hard to master.

But master it the Raffs did, and the bright idea that this kind of programming prowess would be well suited to a search engine soon dawned on the pair. Especially since good old trusted Google seemed to battle with the very concept.

In fact, Google is built around a horizontal search instead of its much trickier vertical big brother. As such, it has no trouble with simple, broad-based searches, but quickly experiences a virtual brain-drain when confronted with questions with only one, direct correct answer.

Victory By Default

There was, however, no need to panic as help was on its way. The Raffs had applied their respective brilliant minds and came up with a much smarter search engine, named Foundem. In the beginning, Google faithfully re-routed queries to Foundem, being the true telltale mark of a well-functioning search engine. However, the golden start-up window lasted all of 2 days, because suddenly, all search traffic came to a screeching halt.

Diagnostic tests revealed that Foundem had suddenly and inexplicably effectively disappeared from all Google searches. Foundem continued to rank high on searches performed via MSN Search and Yahoo, but on Google, nothing.

The Raffs eventually started to poke around message boards and soon found other online product developers who had experienced the very same phenomena when trying to share in Google’s spoils in any way whatsoever.

It seems that Google will go to great lengths to win the race, even if it means cutting out those who offer a service that can complement theirs. It’s a case of being bigger, not better, and in time, users may find out more about search engines like Foundem and try them out too.

Source:

www.nytimes.com/2018/02/20/magazine/the-case-against-google.html