About a decade ago, Google revolutionised search with its “PageRank” system under which it uses a mathematical weightage-based method under which Internet pages increasingly linked to other sites get higher priority in the results, taking search beyond a random soup of keyword-based crawling and indexing.
Now it is finally getting serious competition, though I would not call them threats yet.
In recent weeks, we have seen Microsoft’s Bing throwing its hat into the ring, after Wolfram Alpha joined the fray. Now comes Topsy. I tried all of them for a quick view, and my verdict: None of them is a Google, but each has something special to offer.
I played around a bit, and also used the sites to search the same string (“Indian economy”) to get an idea.
Bing has cleverly married Microsoft Office software’s “MS assistant” features into search. This is good if you do not know what exactly you are looking for, or lack the imagination to try out new strings. “Related searches” pop up like an office assistant with a suggested set of alternative strings. Bing and Google threw up similar results but Bing had on top Microsoft’s own Encarta (encyclopaedia) results while Google gave results from its news site (news.google.com). Wolfram Alpha calls itself a “computational knowledge engine” and hence scans only recognised databases and throws up intelligent spreadsheet-like results.
My “Indian economy” search gave me basic data like GDP numbers on India. But I was floored when I typed “infosys wipro” — it gave me a comparison of the two companies on key indicators like revenues, employees and stock movements and enabled me to capture all that in a PDF document. What we have here is an automated research assistant!
Topsy tops them all in a unique way. It is the cool-new search to tap into the emerging wave of “Twittering” — social conversations and chats on the Web. This is particularly good when you want to catch the “buzz” on latest news etc. I call this the “spy” because Topsy evesdrops on the social buzz!
Try them all. You could be pleasantly surprised.