Microsoft v Google
Times Online's verdict
By Rhys Blakely, Times Online
Bill Gates may be the world's most generous philanthropist, but the technical
teams under his charge may well experience the uncharitable side of his nature
In the 30 minutes Times Online spent test driving Microsoft's long-awaited
search engine, launched today as a test site, it broke down eight times.
It was not the most scientific of tests, but nor was it an auspicious start for
the product Microsoft hopes will capture a share of the Â£5 billion paid-search
internet advertising market. Especially when you consider the competition.
Paid-search sites make money by charging website owners a fee to have their site
appear at the top of the list when users search for certain key words. At
present the market is dominated by Google, which has continued to increase its
share of the market - even since Yahoo launched its own product in Febuary.
That Microsoft is hoping to emulate Google - and attract some of the 80 million
people who visit it each month - is clear from the new site's design. Sleek and
uncluttered, it aims to provide users with the same easy-to-use format. There is
also an "advanced search" option, which is relatively intuitive to use, an
encyclopedia function, and an option that allows you to limit your search to
the appropriate territory (in our case, the UK) Â again just like Google.
Meanwhile, Microsoft also offers a beta news service, which brings together a
selection of reports from different sources and which, if anything, is more
effectively presented than Google's offering.
But how did Microsoft's test site compare to Google in searching the web?
In the name of testing both sites to destruction, we opted to place ourselves in
the shoes of a tourist planning to visit the place with the longest name in the
British Isles, but was unsure of how to spell
A search for "Llanfair" on Google immediately brought up 94,800 websites, the
second of which included the full name that we were looking for in the
explanatory text below the link.
A search for the full name then brought up more than 9,000 websites Â again
In stark contrast, searches for both the terms caused the Microsoft site to
stall for a few seconds before the "search" engine announced: "This site is
temporarily unavailable, please check back soon"
So far so bad. But Microsoft's troubles may not end there. Experts have
suggested that the new site could spell trouble for website managers - as well
as disgruntled surfers and paying advertisers.
Deri Jones, the chief executive of SciVisum, the internet testing specialist,
has predicted that Microsoft's search "robots" - the behind-the-scenes parts of
a search engine that download pages - could slow down the whole internet.
"Problems in Microsoft robots could cause slow down for real users if they
perform too aggressively, grabbing too many pages too quickly and thus
inadvertently 'stress-testing' web sites," he told Times Online.
This could also result in users being asked to "try again later".
The problem for Mr Gates is that in an era when users have become used to
summoning reams of information in fractions of a second, you don't get very
many second chances.