Dry As Dust

A Fortean in the Archives

Battle of the Search Engines

Like most people in the UK - and I suspect elsewhere - I've been bombarded for the past few weeks by a plethora of TV and poster ads for the ask.com search engine. And like many people - I suppose - I've logged on to give the revamped site a second chance. (It was once "Ask Jeeves", and boasted, too ambitiously as it turned out, of returning industry-standard results to queries entered in plain English.)

And is it any good? Ask certainly produces more results than Google, but that's seldom a good thing. And the results themselves can be surprisingly different: type "Charles Fort Institute" into Google and you get 609 hits, the first three of which are the CFI homepage, a Wikipedia entry, and a mention on Dave Walsh's Blather blogsite. Type the same search into ask.com and it comes up with 1,180 hits, the third of which is a credit report concerning the CFI's financial solvency - which is certainly a novelty in my experience.

In the end, the thing that damns ask.com for me is its intrusive way with ads. Type in anything that registers as a keyword with the site and it produces search results bookended top and bottom with at least half a dozen sponsored sites that are difficult to distinguish from the genuine returns. To me, that's confusing and intrusive, and the quality of results ask.com returns is far from spectacularly good enough to make up for that problem.

I may run an ask.com search from time to time, on topics I'm concerned to cover properly, but on the current evidence I'm not going to be switching permanently from Google any time soon.

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