Top 10 Epic Phail PC Technologies: Search Engines
To apply the vernacular of the modern online PC enthusiast: Search Engines are an Epic Phail. Why?
Google has been the undisputed leader, if not outright regent, king, emperor, and deity of the search engine world coming up on a full decade now. Sure there are various alternative search engines to the almighty Google such as Yahoo and MSN Search but the bottom line is why bother using them? They're not as comprehensive as Google and since they're all equally free and take just as much time, why would anyone in their right mind choose to drive to the Prom in a rusty 1981 Chevette when they can go in a 2009 Bentley Continental?
The onset of the online world's Googlization has effectively wiped from the face of the Earth a vast number of former competitors, such as AltaVista, Lycos, HotBot. Cuil, and many many many others who found themselves trying to fight off Godzilla with a pop gun. As much as I had very high expectations for Wolfram Alpha, I've found it a vastly counterintuitive ineffective conglameration of pointlessness. Although I'm well aware that it is little more than Mathematica with a web interface, out of the first 10 very statistical and quite common queries I put to Wolfram Alpha, nine times it returned a:
Wolfram Alpha isn't sure what to do with your input.
Then followed by:
Tips for good results
which had not a darn thing to do with my query in any way, shape or form.
So what the heck good is Wolfram Alpha? It turns out no good at all. Pretty well any calculation such as square root of pi or statistical query as the population of Zimbabwe is going to give you the same result in Google as Wolfram Alpha. However, Google has the extra added advantage that it will also understand when you're looking for that braciole recipe, where Wolfram Alpha is completely clueless.
Therefore, is Google the end all of all search engines? Only if we apply the drastically limited expectations that modern personal computer users have in their online search facilities. Google is dumb. It cannot tell the difference between a term that has more than one meaning without inordinately restricting it with additional terms that may or may not be present on the particular indexed webpage. The incredibly complex criteria it utilizes in prioritizing its search results is arcane at best. After Paul Newman passed away, the number one result was still a hoax from two years earlier which claimed the actor died in a plane crash.
The number of results that Google returns is also ridiculous. It's easy to come up with a search term that will provide one million, ten million or even more references. But just try to go through them, and you'll find that the listings die out after a few hundred at best. So where are the other millions? Are they really indexed, or is it just some Google Hype? If a page is indexed in the forest but no one can see it, did it really exist?
Pointless, misleading, and atrocious spam is still finding its way onto Black Hat SEO sites and still occupying extremely prominent positions. You would think that Google's vastly complex and advanced algorithms would be able to figure out that any page on quantum physics would not include the terms BUY VIAGRA NOW, but a precursory examination of various searches that have absolutely nothing to do with erectile dysfunction still bring up junk sites in the very top of the results page.
One of the worst offenders in the current Google Culture is the so-called "instant credibility" that it gains to anyone engaging in a forum discussion. Sure, anyone can easily Google the description of hafnium-based high-k gate dielectrics in a microprocessor but how many people can actually incorporate their findings into a coherent discussion? Since a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, we find forums stuffed to the gills with idiots throwing Google results at each other without the slightest clue of what the context is, or how to interpret it, or indeed, how to spell:
C - O - N - T - E - X - T !!!
Google's caching has likely caused more misery than any other single factor in the online world. In a fit of anger call your ex a few choice names on a forum and five years later it will still be readily accessible by her, her friends, and her attorney, even if you went back the next morning and deleted it in favor of a post that stated that she is a wonderful person, a great cook, loves small animals, and should be a role model for women everywhere.
How many millions of people have been denied employment for positions that they would ordinarily been accepted for when some photo of them prancing naked with a lampshade for a hat, or some tirade against their current employer or for underage sex, cannabis use, or the joys of cutting notches into their forearms surfaced on some monitor in the Human Resources Department?
Google should restrict itself to reasonably recent pages, leaving the archiving to the Internet Wayback Machine. But the single greatest fault that this Google Age has foisted onto our lives is the firm conviction to the individuals who were raised in front of a monitor that everything that has ever occurred has been captured by the Google bots. As it turns out, Google is next to useless in researching anything that happened before the mid-Nineties. I can rather easily find out the exact number and precise topographical distribution of zits on the butt cheek of a number of people I know, but major publishers from the Eighties who were responsible for millions of globally distributed books and magazines that I had a hand in are completely invisible, thus the uninitiated automatically assume that they never existed since "Everything's On Google!"
Most searchers don't want ten million obtuse and unrelated results. They just want a handful of accurate, relevant ones. And that's where all search engines available today Phail Epically.