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20 August 2009

New kids on the block

By Staff Blogger

Unveiled in May 2009, Bing is Microsoft’s new web search engine, replacing Live Search. The name is meant to evoke “the sound of found” (although it is unfortunately also an acronym for “But It’s Not Google”). In June, Bing leapt ahead of Yahoo! Search to become the number-two search engine in the United States. However, considering that Google handles more than 65 per cent of web searches in the US each day, Bing has a long way to go before it becomes a significant threat to Google’s dominance.

Founded by the London-born scientist Stephen Wolfram and released to the public in May 2009, WolframAlpha describes itself as an “answer engine”. It aims to address some of the deficiencies of current search engines by understanding people’s questions and answering them directly, rather than providing a list of web pages or documents that might contain the answer. Wolfram claims that this new way of searching for information online is “going to be pretty exciting. A new paradigm for using computers and the web.” Fans have complimented WolframAlpha for its understanding of “ordinary” and “day-to-day” language.

At the time of its launch in July 2008, Cuil (pronounced “cool”) was the subject of much media attention, promoted as a new and exciting alternative to Google. Some even called it a “Google-killer”. However, in the months since its release, Cuil has been criticised for its irrelevant search results
and slow response times, and has suffered a dip in its share of the worldwide search market. The company has fewer than 30 employees and operates on a slim budget; Cuil’s chances of becoming a serious threat to Google appear to be rather slim.

Google “Caffeine”
This month, Google announced that it has been developing a new search engine of its own. Still in the testing phase, the updated version, Google claims, will “push the envelope on size, indexing speed, accuracy, comprehensiveness and other dimensions”, and will eventually replace the current Google completely. Those who have tried it report that, so far, Caffeine looks and behaves much like the existing version. But since the current Google is regularly subject to tweaks anyway, many are expecting great things.

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Will Trott

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