Like most people in the Internet-using universe, I use Google as my default search engine, and expect it to answer pretty much any question I have. But I have noticed one large flaw with Google, and when I read this New York Times article about a new search tool called Kosmix, I wondered if it could do better.
Here's the flaw: if you search for "Should I buy GE stock" on Google, one of the top six results will be an entry I wrote for my personal blog almost a year ago. Search for "Is GE stock a good buy?" and Monogamoney is the number one result. Every day, my blog gets 15 or 20 page views just from people researching GE stock on Google. The reason, I assume, is that the wording in my entries mimics the wording of the phrases being searched.
But there are much better sources out there that can answer the same question. What about Barron's? The Wall Street Journal? TheStreet.com or Motley Fool? No ... Google thinks Monogamoney is more reliable. I am flattered, and I probably shouldn't be discouraging people from coming to my blog. But seriously, folks: I am not a good place to turn for investment advice. And please, please don't make any buying decisions based on something I wrote last April.
Kosmix doesn't just give its users a page of search results; it builds "a multimedia encyclopedia entry on the fly," according to the New York Times. That seemed promising, so I decided to give it a shot. Perhaps, I thought, Kosmix will do a better job of turning up relevant pages, even if the results don't mimic the exact wording of the search.
Then comes the "News & Blogs" section of the page, which inexplicably includes two entries from worldchanging.com, a website I've never heard of, including a story about the presidential election ... of 2004.
Then comes one of the most irritating videos I've ever seen, which some guy apparently recorded in 2007 to sell his book. Just thinking about the one-minute clip I watched makes me feel as though someone nearby is raking his fingernails across a chalkboard. Seriously, it's that annoying. Send it to one of your enemies if you want to ruin his day.
What about some of the other would-be Google killers? If you search for "should I buy GE stock" on Cuil, it comes up with nothing. Search for "buy GE stock" and you'll get a list of search results that's almost unreadable. One of the results is a link to buy-cheap-xanax-online.com! Mahalo came up with virtually nothing. AskJeeves came up with a page of results very similar to Google's, but my blog entry is on the second page instead of the first, which is a moderate improvement.
Clearly, there is room for a search engine that can turn up substantive articles on a topic ... not just web pages that mimic the wording of the phrases being searched. But what will it be?