Earlier this week, the document-counters at Google did two silly things.
First, they announced they were ending their participation in what has become known as the “size war”. They removed the document-counter on their front page and acknowledged the size of a search engine’s index does not necessarily reflect the most important measure of a good search tool, relevance. “At Google we believe the essential quality of an index isn’t the total number of documents, but its comprehensiveness – which unique documents are in the index.”
Minutes after declaring an end to the size war, they announced that they actually do have the largest index, claiming to now be three times larger than any other search engine.
That set a number of search engine observers to talking, a discussion that was summed up by Danny Sullivan yesterday in the Search Engine Watch blog .
In a telephone interview with the Reuters news agency, Marissa Mayer, Director of consumer web products said, “ We believe that we have an index that is three times larger without counting duplicate pages.”
Google recommends web users test obscure search terms producing less than 1000 results to evaluate the usefulness of Google’s increased depth. As stated on their Sizing Up Search Engines page,
“To see for yourself, try searching for something very specific, or try a query that previously returned very few results. For example, you could enter your name or hometown, along with your favorite color or animal. Navigate to the last page to see how many results the search engine really delivered. (On the last page, you may have to click the “repeat the search with the omitted results included” link to see all the results.) Do this on different search engines for several queries and see what you come up with.”
Yahoo has not responded to Google’s not-so-subtle pokes at the time of this writing but if they do, the war of perceptions will be back.