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November 08, 2006

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walt crawford

Without disagreeing on Google: Are there any of the major open web search engines that you regard as less broken? An honest question for which I'm not sure I have an answer...

Phil Bradley

Good question. I also like the phrasing 'less broken', with its implication that they're all broken to a greater or a lesser degree, something that I'd agree with.

I'd go with Exalead if pushed. That is to say, I put (a little) more trust in that search engine than I do in Google. This isn't to say that Exalead doesn't have its faults as well, because lets face it they all do. They are also more responsive than Google as well. I could also make the same case with an engine such as Clusty - they had a bug in their Shakespeare system that I pointed out to them and it was fixed inside 24 hours.

Consequently I don't think we can really have a discussion on what is/isn't broken until we've defined exactly what we mean (so I really should have done that in the first instance) by 'broken'. Part of that is certainly that search functionality doesn't do what it should, results are demonstrably incorrect and so on. Another part however is a much more difficult element to describe, define and quantify, and that's to do with a level of trust, the extent that problems are identified and acted upon and so on.

I see nothing to make believe that Google is taking any real notice of basic flaws in its systems, so that that extent I feel justified in saying that I think Google (both as a search engine, but more importantly perhaps as a company) is broken. And broken rather more than their opposition.

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