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Google drops search boasts

Google calls to halt the increasingly meaningless size --'number of Web pages'-- competition with Yahoo.

india Updated: Sep 29, 2005 19:13 IST
Eric Auchard (Reuters)
Eric Auchard (Reuters)

Google Inc said late on Monday that it was tripling the number of Web pages that its system can search, seeking to upstage rival Yahoo Inc in claims to be the world's widest Web search.

But Google also said it would no longer publicize the number of Web pages available from any search -- calling a halt to what analysts say has become an increasingly meaningless size competition.

Instead of focusing on the millions of page results that broad-based searches can generate, Google is asking readers to compare searches done on Google and Yahoo for the relevance of search results to the individual user.

"We believe that we have an index that is three times larger (without counting duplicate pages)", Marissa Mayer, Google's director of consumer Web products and product manager for, said in a phone interview.

"We are asking our readers to test for themselves," she said.

To check relevance Mayer encouraged Web users to evaluate for themselves by testing relatively obscure search terms that produce less than 1,000 results. This is where tripling the depth of Google's search database is most useful, she said.

Google had previously estimated it searched 8 billion pages. Mayer declined to offer specific numbers to back up Google's new claim of three times that figure.

"Absolute numbers are no longer useful," Mayer said.

Google's move follows Yahoo's claim in August that it had significantly boosted the scope of its search results to some 19.2 billion pages, topping Google in the total size of its Web search database for the first time in years.

Google has contested Yahoo's claims, saying that its own staff and a variety of independent experts are unable to replicate Yahoo's assertion. Yahoo pioneered Web search in 1994 but was upstaged by Google's search system in the late 1990s.

Analyst Danny Sullivan, editor of, said that counting pages -- either by company reported index counts or by anecdotal user checks of actual queries -- does little to prove who offers the more comprehensive search.

"Users will be the best judge of which search engine is the most appropriate," Sullivan said.

"The fact that you have picked up more content in a particular search result doesn't mean you have found better information. It just means you have found more pages," the search expert said.

September is the seventh anniversary of Google, since itlaunched operations in September, 1998. Google said its search system now indexes 1,000 times more Web pages than it did in its first month of operation.

"Dropping the home page count is a positive move that I think helps defuse the entire 'size wars' situation," Sullivan wrote on his site after being briefed by Google on the move.

First Published: Sep 29, 2005 19:13 IST