Better search the Internet with Google, Bing and WolframAlpha

New analytical systems, new interfaces in recent months, the news search engines has been rich. Here is what has and what will change.

Without them, the Internet would be a huge treasure hunt without a true starting point. Certainly, we could always go through "portals", somewhat similar to Internet directories. But this would still be very uncomfortable. It must admit that we simply can no longer do without search engines. The greatest among them is Google.

Near-synonymous with the Internet, it became more than 90% of world population, the number one web surfer. Just look at the panic that seizes the Web where, for a moment, Google has missed. Since January 31, 2009, when the site has, for almost an hour, all sites classified as potentially hazardous and secure links to them.

Today, Google is a reflex that even if they know the address of a site, users are accustomed to enter his name in the search rather than typing the address directly in the browser. Do not you do well to visit the station, for example? We are accustomed to the litany of blue links that appear in response to our research, and whose presentation has changed little over ten years, ie since the launch of Google in 1998.

A completely different approach:
And yet … The world of search engines is agitated in recent months. New players are emerging. Firstly, Microsoft, trying to recover some percentage of market share it has never managed to achieve with its old engine, Live Search. But also new arrivals, more strange, as WolframAlpha. Others too, such as Yahoo, trying to reposition themselves.

To support their own engine, they attempt to revolutionize the very concept of the engine by asking a simple question: do people really want to get something on the Internet? Or rather, when users search the Net, looking really sites?

Microsoft responds clearly not. For the software giant, most people want facts and that helps them make decisions. They rarely want to find sites. At Yahoo, we express it differently, speaking of the "death of the ten blue links", these ten links are now classic response to a search. In other words, it does not look that people want, but find. Responses should be better adapted, and immediately complete. When you enter the name of your city and the name of another city, chances are that you’re looking for schedules of trains or planes. Would it not evil from the search engine you see right away this information? Welcome to the world of "decision engines" in the terminology chosen by Microsoft.

Another major change underway in the research, the pursuit of immediacy: the Internet is constantly changing. The information is increasingly delivered in real time, through systems like Twitter, which allows you to send comments to 140 characters. Bing, the search engine of Microsoft, has just begun to index live reviews of personalities, while Google is preparing to integrate its search engine news.

The site is far from over, but it gives an overview of changes expected in the coming months 

Search engines on the Internet that have proven technologies resume from the early days of computing: it is neither more nor less than very large databases. Their work can be decomposed into several stages: they begin by gathering information. This means, in the case of the Internet, retrieve all pages of all sites. They follow all the links found on the pages found, to go get more and more pages. This collection is automated and performed by programs that are called "spam."

The retrieved pages are then stored on hundreds of disk drives in data centers. Programs are then charged to retrieve the data pages to "understand". The texts are analyzed, the links are listed as well as auxiliary information (author of the page, page address, etc..). All data are then indexed, that is to say that the occurrences of each word will be counted on each page, and all will be entered in a database. Finally, these data are classified. The same word can be found simultaneously on millions of different pages. We must therefore make a classification that will decide that for a given query, this site comes in first and another in the twenty-five millionth place …

The strength and reputation of a search engine depends primarily on the quality of its classification. The formulas used by each other to make this classification are jealously guarded secret. The last step is the easiest site search engine provides an input field and displays, in response to requests, the list of top ranked links. But beware, as you see in this case, the deal is changing fundamentally, and the nature of the operation of search engines is about to be changed. 

1. Bing, engine of decision
For Microsoft, the success of its new search engine is essential. Present in this area for as long as Google successively with MSN Search, Windows Live Search and Live Search, the software giant never managed to meet enough users. At no time, he has managed to exceed even that the third place, largely outclassed by Google and Yahoo! (5.5% of internet users worldwide).

On 1 June, Microsoft has launched its new search engine, which has completely replaced the existing engines.

Previously known under the code name Kumo, Bing introduces some new and has managed to attract Internet users in its first weeks of life.

But success is far from the meeting … If the United States, where it is available in final, he scored some points, reaching almost 10% market share while still remaining behind Yahoo! where it is available in beta form, its appearance did not change the classification: it remains at Live Search and only 1.5% of Internet users have chosen. However, we believe that Bing should be tested.

 

  • A colorful search
    They are fighting as we can, and Microsoft has chosen, first and foremost, to shake the graphical approach of traditional search engines: not white, but a full-color illustrations that changes daily. Like Google, Bing offers support for input, with a list of suggested keywords that appear gradually and when entering text.

    Regarding the results page, the interface becomes more white, with just a reminder of daily image, a textbox and a list of blue links. That’s classic, in fact? Well no, there are new, but sufficiently well integrated to avoid being annoying.

    First addition describing the relationship is, mostly, much more complete than traditional sites. The reason? Just let drag the mouse over a link for the appearance, right, a vertical gray with a orange circle in the center. Approaching the mice of this motif appears in a separate window, a summary of the contents of the site to which the link points.

 

  • Results ordered 
    The most important novelties of Bing, who commenced to assert its status as hoped for "decision engine" are related to how the results are indexed. The terms used in the results pages can automatically generate "categories" of common types of research associated with this specific request, for additional keywords that are obvious.

    For example, a search on "Charles Aznavour" allows Bing immediately arrange Charles Aznavour as a singer known. He knows that the images of Charles Aznavour certainly of interest to the visitor, and his songs, their lyrics, concerts, etc.. A list of basic keywords, ranked by importance, is placed in the left column, on gray and orange. The categorization information is revealed to use, extremely practical. And gain time to find what we seek is really appreciable!

 

  • Information provided
    Microsoft wants to go much further with Bing, providing the desired information directly, even before the user has made completely his research. Statistics do not lie: it is easier for a search engine to deduce directly the desire of a user depending on its application. Entering "cities", the user is seeking some information on transport for those cities. Typing the name of a restaurant, the user probably wants to know the details of the restaurant and its critics. Typing the name of a digital camera, he certainly wants to know the best price.

    In each case, Bing offers a service, going beyond the work of a traditional search engine. Searching "Mumbai Red Fort" is displayed an arrow pointing directly to the prediction of changes in prices of airline tickets in the days to come. Clicking on the arrow engine launches price comparison …

    The search for a product can automatically display a sheet product, with notes of review sites, etc..

    Individual records also appear to restaurant reviews, as long as we want a pizza … in Mumbai.

 

  • Most Bing
    Like Google, Bing offers specialized search engines to access the image, video, news or maps. The image search interface includes the main engine that we felt already much better than Google or Live Image Search.

    Add to this the fact that the Internet offers more choice to filter images (size, type, color, frame). Research video has a big advantage over Google: A simple overview of the mouse video thumbnails displayed in the results page allows you to play the video itself, with sound. It is extremely convenient.

 

2. Google, the perpetual renewal
Should there be a synonym for search engine, it would certainly Google. According to data from StatCounter, over 95% of searches performed uses this service. Globally, the deal is substantially the same, with a Google encompassing 90% market share. Competitors are divided so that the crumbs left by the giant.

Such supremacy could induce a certain inertia: why change a formula that worked so well. Indeed, the white home page a search box, a Google Search button, a results page with the answers in the form of blue links. But the resemblance is only apparent. For if the fundamentals have remained unchanged, significant innovations have emerged gradually. The key word: do not change habits, while being more efficient. Two services in this direction have recently emerged: the suggestion of keywords and SearchWiki.

 

  • SearchWiki: research to your taste 
    Have you noticed since April 2009, the presence of three discrete small icons that appear after every link returned by Google after a request?

    A bubble of BD, an up arrow, a cross … Maybe do you have ever seen because it is necessary to be connected with a Google account so they are visible. But even if you have identified, it is likely that you do not have yet identified. And so it is indeed a revolution, these three icons let you, for each result, to leave a comment, reassembling the results earlier in the list and finally remove the post altogether.

    Finally, you can choose to annotate your research. For this, the icon bubble allows you to leave a comment. Beware, however: while changing the link order affects only the results that you are personally proposed the feedback you leave is public and can be read by all users.

    Finally, the last possibility: in a footnote, an input field allows you to add the Internet address of a site you really want to see appear, in addition to normal links for a given query. So with those few extra features, Google does change fundamentally the approach of conventional search engines: you are now really in control.

 

  • Research squared
    Some users note while on an organized form of lists. Google will charm with one of its latest innovations, Google Squared, available at http://www.google.com/squared.

    The bet? Construct from a search, not a list of links, but a perfectly formatted list of facts. When someone asks, for example, Google search for "Indian presidents, what he wants, it’s probably a list of Presidents of the India, with their date of birth, photos, etc.. Squared Google will automatically generate these lists, in tabular form. Columns and rows can then be easily removed or added by the user.

 

  • Try the basic options
    The images associated with the outcome or the freshness of the sites returned is data that can be vital for research. So far, it was possible to tighten a little queries in Google by clicking on the Advanced Search link. New ways to identify the right information, or make his request, have now emerged. See box on Google.com, two little words on the page of results: Show Options ….

    When clicked, a column appeared in the top left, with several topics. The first one allows to specify the type of results desired (normal videos, from forums, or comment) and "freshness" (all results, results not older than 24 hours, more details one week …). We may also ask what, in summary links appear more images from sites that text, and vice verse.

    But this is all over the last two entries in this column that mark the real change: under the classic view (standard view) are proposed Wonder Wheel Timeline and then presents the results of a search in the form of a timeline, where the information is not placed according to their date of publication, but compared to the dates on which events are cited reference. Bars smaller or larger can locate in time the most important events related to the term searched. Thus, a search on "Michael Jackson" allows, in the twinkling of an eye to capture the key moments of his life.

    More gadget but also more innovative and ambitious, the Wonder Wheel option offers a new approach to research. The Wonder Wheel is the display, in graphic form, concepts similar to those entered as initial query terms. In a circle appear search terms, with suggestions of related queries orbiting. The research results are, in turn, displayed in the right column. Simply click on one of the requests for satellite it becomes the main query. We can therefore use a search to another. Very playful, the Wonder Wheel is even more effective when the user knows the least about the search start …

 

3. WolframAlpha, the calculator of knowledge
And if absolutely everything, could be equated? It’s sort of the thesis of Stephen Wolfram Columbia, engineering and father of Mathematica software.

In March 2009, at least, the Web was buzzing strongly about a new search engine. More than again, he promised to be revolutionary. Its designer promised he would finally do what people expected of computers for fifty years to answer all their questions. The buzz was successful. The site was launched in May 2009, at www.wolframalpha.com

 

  • In search of natural language
    No real surprise on the side of the interface: a simple page with a textbox. And yet … First major innovation introduced by WolframAlpha: research in natural language. That is to say that the issues can be raised by constructing a normal sentence.

    Thus, for the size of India, for example, simply enter "What is the size of India?". The answer appears in a summary sheet, which outlines the 3.288 million square km.

 

  • They spoke with one engine  
    WolframAlpha capacity to understand questions, with normal syntax, prompted its designers to decorate a "conversation engine". It is thus possible to have a fun conversation with WolframAlpha. For the most banal "Who are you?","How old are you?", etc.., WolframAlpha responds by making himself phrases.

 

  • Universal motor
    After the surprise of natural language, the real revolution is WolframAlpha nevertheless, search engine requires, content of information that provides the engine does not a series of links as search result, but is present Facts! WolframAlpha, by shooting at a very complex program, based largely on the software Mathematica, using the Internet as a huge database from which it can "calculate" responses.

    A date ? WolframAlpha returns all important events that occurred that day, the phases of the moon at that moment, etc.. A city ? There you locate, you give its people the time he did … The name of a company ? The history of its actions will be presented. A famous man ? He will find his main biographical information. A mathematical formula ? There you will trace the curves function. You want to compare data ?

    Practice WolframAlpha offers even download the answer sheet in PDF format. The evidence is that WolframAlpha is extraordinary … In any case, it does not replace Google or Bing, but it may eventually become a fierce opponent for Wikipedia. Its only real limitation is that it stops at the knowledge " computable. "But the test – You’ll be surprised at the extent of things WolframAlpha estimates calculated.

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