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Google's Weakness, AltaVista's Strength

timothy posted more than 12 years ago | from the not-all-contrarianism dept.

The Internet 326

Cory Doctorow has a article on oreillynet called "How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Panopticon," which begins "How much ass does Google kick? All of it." (We linked to it a few days ago.) Reader Richard Seltzer writes with a reaction to Doctorow's article, below. Your results may vary, but this kind of skepticism can only make the competing search engines better.

Some people love the results they get at Google, others are often disappointed. To a large extent, both the pluses and the minuses derive from Google's ranking system, which (as the folks at Google explain depends largely on the number links to a particular page and the relevance of the content on those linking pages to the content on the target page, and the quality of the pages doing the linking.

Thanks to that complex and brilliant system, over time, the best pages often rise to the top of search lists. But that takes time -- a lot of time.

It works great for old, established sites to which many other old, established sites have linked. (It works great for my site :-) ). But new sites, regardless of the quality of their content, get short shrift. It takes 2-3 months for the new pages to get into the Google index. Then it takes time -- perhaps years -- for other "important" sites to discover the new site and link to it; and then months more for the new versions of those pages with those new links to get into the Google index.

So if I'm looking for content that is likely to have been on the Internet for a year or more, Google is great. But if I'm looking for fresh content, I'll go elsewhere.

For me, for years "elsewhere" meant AltaVista -- for two reasons. AltaVista used to add new pages to its index, for free, within two days of submission, while other search engines typically took weeks or even months. That meant they had the freshest content. In addition, AltaVista provided you with a set of very precise commands that couldn't be matched anywhere else.

Over the last year, as AltaVista has struggled to become profitable, they have destroyed their beautiful free submission process, trying to force Web sites to pay for submission. Free submissions (which typically come from the kinds of content-rich sites that I'm interested in) now seem to take three months or more -- no better than the other search engines and often worse.

Fortunately, the powerful commands remain -- for instance, the ability to exclude as well as include terms in your query. AltaVista lets you use minus signs and plus signs to indicate what you really don't want and what you do want. And for some specialized searches the exclusion is essential.

For instance, say you want to know what Web pages outside of your own site have links to your pages. At Google, I can do a search for or get the same results by going to their "Advanced" search and using their "page specific search" to find pages that link to a particular page. But my results are then littered with pages from my own site -- information I don't need and don't want. At AltaVista, I can search for and get exactly what I want -- finding out who thinks enough of my pages to have linked to me without my having contacted them: a valuable list of well-wishers and potential partners.

Similarly, Google lets me restrict a search to a particular Web site. For instance, if I include in my query the term or in Advanced search under Domains I choose to restrict the search to that domain, Yes, I get results only from that site. But to use that command, I need to have additional query terms: alone generates no results.

At AltaVista, however, I can search for and get a complete list of all the pages at my site that are in the AltaVista index. Or I can search for and get a list of all the pages in that directory at my site are in the AltaVista index. Or I can search for to see if that particular page is in the index.

In other words, AltaVista provides a higher level of precision and the ability to get information that is particularly valuable to people in charge of Web sites and Web-based marketing projects. And if they'd just fix their free submission process and provide the service they used to, they'd kick Google's ass for searches for current information.

P.S. -- The folks at Google are very proud that their system defies human tampering. In fact, what they've done is encouraged the development of bizarre business models structured to take advantage of their link-based ranking system. For instance, Webseed Publishing now has over 1000 sites, all with different domain names. These content-rich sites are each run by different dedicated individuals. (I'm one of them :-) In many cases, the content deserves high rankings for its quality. You might wonder why the umbrella business for all these sites bothers to maintain over a thousand different domain names, when it would be far simpler and cheaper to have them as directories under a single domain. But because the domains are different, the many thousands of links these sites have to one another all count toward the automated calculation of their popularity and quality at Google, giving them all a boost in the rankings and hence bringing Webseed more traffic and hence more revenue.

P.P.S. -- AltaVista appears to be making a comeback. Six years ago, when I was in the Internet Business Group at Digital and Digital owned AltaVista, about a third of the traffic to my Web site came by way of AltaVista. Whenever AltaVista had a glitch, I saw it immediately in my traffic stats. In fact, I sometimes was able to alert the engineers at AltaVista about problems before they had noticed them themselves. Over the years, due to increased competition from other search engines and also due to the business folks at AltaVista making bad decisions and jettisoning great capabilities/services (like 2-day free submissions, their affiliate program, LiveTopics, and newsgroup search), the number of people finding my pages by way of AltaVista plummeted. By January 2002, only 1% of my traffic was coming by way of AltaVista, despite the fact that as a long-standing fan and also as co-author of the book The AltaVista Search Revolution, I had lots of information about AltaVista at my site. I was actually getting twice as much traffic from the International Atomic Energy Agency (part of the UN), when I had no information at all related to atomic energy. But in recent weeks the traffic from AltaVista has climbed sharply. It now amounts to 6% of my total. I wish I knew why that was happening. In any case, I hope that trend continues.

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

fp? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3158877)

first post??? I am that lucky?

Clay Henry (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3158888)

Clay Henry
He got real big on burgers and fries!
Now he's down to a smaller size!

Re:Clay Henry (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3158943)

that is the gay'est troll old are you, 12 ?
did you just get home from school?

Re:Clay Henry (-1)

YourMissionForToday (556292) | more than 12 years ago | (#3159189)

I like this one. Please post more about the pancake-makeup smeared Jared and his army of walking corpses.

Fist Sport! (-1)

ringbarer (545020) | more than 12 years ago | (#3158881)

Search Engines help me find kiddie porn. I like the way they make me cum.

Re:Fist Sport! (-1, Offtopic)

masterkool (550633) | more than 12 years ago | (#3158935)

That is not only immoral, but jsut downright sick. Keep your mind our of the gutter and out of this forum the next time you feel like saying something like this.

Re:Fist Sport! (-1)

October_30th (531777) | more than 12 years ago | (#3159197)

Oh and who are you, Mr.(?) masterkool, to dictate what's right and wrong? Are you implying that there is, in fact, a moral absolute to which you can refer all decisions?

Why don't I get and BFA's? (-1)

by FortKnox on (563942) | more than 12 years ago | (#3158882)

Could it be because I am blocking them through my hosts file?

fp (-1, Offtopic)

JaBean (528906) | more than 12 years ago | (#3158890)

may I respond as fast as Google with a first post?

Slashdot Subscriptions and VA Software (-1, Offtopic)

Lethyos (408045) | more than 12 years ago | (#3158891)

Since VA Software (ticker: LNUX [] ) is now trading [] at a substantial premium to book value and cash (after writing down goodwill on a number of acquisitions made at optimistic dot com valuations), its cash generation or lack thereof is a much more important issue than it used to be in the days when the stock was available for less than the cash on its balance sheet. Which leaves us unsure of what to make of the latest developments.

Good results

First, we have the second quarter fiscal 2002 results, released last week. These were actually really quite good. VA has reduced its cash burn to $6.1m/quarter this is not only a massive fall from the hardware services days of a >$30m cash burn, but is substantially below the target of $8m/quarter which VA announced at the time of quitting the hardware business. Having left the hardware and consulting businesses, VA was concentrating on selling its main software product, Sourceforge 3.0, and had made a number of new sales to blue-chip customers such as Stanford Universty and Pfizer. We had a few problems with their statement in the conference call [] and the press release that they had "$61m in cash and marketable securities" which is true, but highly misleading as to their actual financial position as they also have current liabilities of $18m (ie; they need this much to pay bills falling due in the next six months, so the actual cash available to burn is more like $43m), and we regard their description of the redundancy payments and lease cancellation fees which make up their restructuring costs as "non cash items" as actively ludicrous, but this is nit-picking; the facts as of a couple of weeks ago appeared to be that VA Software was on the raspberry road to profitability.

But .

Then we got this little bombshell; Slashdot, jewel in the crown of VA Software's OSDN network of Open Source websites, is moving to a pay subscriptions model a la Salon. Well, perhaps that's being a little bit too harsh; Slashdot isn't doing the full reader reduction exercise of making you pay for the only content you came to read, but it is going to be having "more intrusive" ads (by which I think we mean expanded banners and skyscrapers surely Slashdot wouldn't dare to go down the route of pop-ups or interstitials, would they? WOULD THEY? AARRGH!), and you'll be able to view slashdot without these ads at the bargain subscription rate of $5 per thousand pages. Obviously, this caused much wailing and gnashing of teeth among the assorted slashbots (2275 comments so far, nearly a third as many as's most popular article), but we can't help thinking that they're missing the point. Nobody, least of all VA, thinks that there will be material revenue opportunities from the subscription model; all this is, is a figleaf designed to allow Slashdot to accept pop-up X10 ads while giving its editors hobbyists Rob Malda and Jeff Bates, a lightning conductor of "well, why don't you subscribe?" to deal with the floods of threatening email they are likely to receive.

So fair enough. But when we read the actual announcement on Slashdot, we at got worried. When we think we're looking at a company which is on the right track, we don't like to see senior staff at its only profitable business unit making statements like:

" The large ads that you see on many other sites are coming here. We really don't have an option: these are what advertisers want, and if we don't provide them, we won't be around much longer"


" We won't create subscriber only features that cost more to maintain than they generate. But we do need support from you if we are to continue."

What the hell? Slashdot was known to be profitable and cash positive when taken over by in 1999. was known to be profitable and cash-positive when taken over by VA Linux in 2000. The OSDN group of sites was, according to the 2Q02 results conference call, the source of more or less all the revenue generated by VA Software. And now we're being told that the ad market is so precarious that the VA cash pile is likely to be burnt up imminently? What gives? Quite apart from anything, statements like "we won't be around much longer" are Forward Looking Statements. Companies with publicly traded securities outstanding should not be making forward looking statements outside of the context of a scheduled conference call or an announcement to the general public under Regulation FD. It is, quite simply, not good enough for Rob Malda to be making this kind of wild assertion about the trading conditions faced by the key media property in the only profitable division of VA Software, ad hoc and without any kind of "safe harbor" statement. We don't know whether or not this announcement was technically in breach of Section 21 (E) of the Securities Exchange Act 1934, but we do know that well-managed companies with competently run press office and investor relations functions don't leak rumors in this kind of way.

Adequacy investigates

When we at witness an informational cluster-fuck like this in the making, we want to dig and delve, for the benefit of you our readers. We're about to make a few fairly controversial statements in this report, and we'd like you to take the following on trust: all the statements we make below which are in bold face can be sourced to a prominent (as in, you'd recognise the name if we told you) employee of Slashdot. We at adequacy don't want to cost anyone their job, so we'll make the following statement:

The statements sourced to an employee of Slashdot were acquired as the result of IRC conversation on an open channel. For this reason, does not feel bound to protect its source come what may. However, on general principles, we will only hand over the IRC logs which prove the veracity of our information on receipt of a subpoena from VA Software. In the event of our receiving such a subpoena, we will do our very best to publicise throughout the Internet the fact that VA Software issued such a subpoena to us in order to track down a critical employee, something which we would imagine would not generate good publicity with the core slashdot audience.
Ok, here's the dirt

Sourceforge is not profitable and looks like it never will be. According to our source, "it's a giant vacuum". And this seems about right to us. The recent conference call with VA Chief Executive Larry "Eleven Million Dollar Man" (that's how much VA stock he's sold for cash since the float) Augustin was full of the joys of Sourceforge "Enterprise Edition" 3.0, a "proprietary" version of the popular Open Source collaborative software development tool. Indeed, in response to a question, VA's Chairman and Chief Executive told the world that VA Software (a company which, according to its CFO made "substantially all" of its revenue from the online advertising of the OSDN) was "a company in the enterprise software market". Much was made of the fact that new sales had been made to Stanford and Pfizer, two new key clients. But when you try to pin down these sales to hard revenue numbers, it kind of drifts away. The hard fact is that Sourceforge charges $1000 per seat license (there are apparently issues relating to revenue recognition over the term of the long-term licensing contracts which VA is trying to sll, but $1K was the hard number given at the conference call). That means that, before VA Software can be considered to be mainly a software company, it needs to be selling 5000 seats worth of Sourceforge per quarter (generating $5m of revenue, roughly the same as OSDN's revenue). How close is it now to that goal?

Not close. Although the reference implementation of Sourceforge; the licensing level at which it starts to generate positive RoI for its customers, is estimated to be 120 seats, the vast majority of its current customer base are installing it on trial implementations of 30 seats to see if it's any good. Two or three big sales of Sourceforge might make a quarter of a million bucks at the outside; Sourceforge revenue for 2Q02 might possibly be as low as $60,000. Since Sourceforge 3.1, with better integration with other tools and added functionality is on the way, we can't see anyone springing for a full installation of 3.0, meaning that sales are at the mercy of the development schedule. In any case, we're not sure why anyone would buy 3.0; as far as we can tell, the main advantage over the Open Source version is that you get to use Oracle rather than PostGreSQL as a back end, which shouldn't be too terribly hard an alteration to make in-house given that the source code for the biggest existing implementation of Sourceforge ( is available.

So, on the basis of publicly verifiable facts, our source appears to know what he's talking about.

OSDN is run tightly; VA as a whole is not. This is more or less a direct quote from our source, and we believe it. OSDN, for all its expensive branding and new name, is the business of, which was always the poor man's CMG, or Ziff-Davis for the technologically literate. Which is to say, a bunch of guys who knew how to sell ads for computer stuff. They're still good. Let's consider the following:

Again from the conference call, we learn that in 2Q02, Intel accounted for 20% of total revenues. That's (cue drum roll, Dr Evil voice) one million dollars! Did they buy a thousand Sourceforge seats? To put it bluntly, no. They spent this on advertising

You can't spend one million dollars on advertising

At any reasonable CPM rate (or indeed, at OSDN's quoted rates for "selfserve [] " ads recently posted, one million dollars would buy you 250 million ad impressions. According to the OSDN advertising screen [] , they serve 120 million page views a month. So, by this standard, roughly two out of every three ads on OSDN during the second quarter of fiscal 2002 would have been ads for Intel. I have to tell you, and every regular viewer of Slashdot will agree, that they weren't.

Slashdot is notorious for running ads for thinkgeek tshirts, other OSDN sites and caffeinated mints, but surprisingly few ads for the high-end server gear which is the unique selling point of OSDN to its advertiser base. And slashdot accounts for an awful lot of those 120 million pages. Specifically, according to figures given in in Malda's statement, Slashdot has "one third of a million visitors per day", and the median visitor generates ten pageviews (we guesstimate this from the statement that, at a subscription rate of $5 per 1000 pages without ads, "82% of our readers could view slashdot for a year for $20", ie, 4000 pages per year). That means that over a quarter, just about 90 million of OSDN's 120 million pages are accounted for by Slashdot. So if Intel has spent One Million Dollars on OSDN advertising without making a material impact on slashdot, then something pretty strange has gone on.

Here's our guess. Intel is the sponsor of the "Large Linux Installation Foundry" on What's been going on here is "narrowcasting" Intel isn't so much interested in serving 250 million pages to random Slashbots, but is more interested in serving about 400 pages over the quarter to a group of people possibly as small as nine or ten, who were making the decision in 2Q02 about which technology provider they would be going for in a large Linux installation. It is not at all unknown for big ticket computer salesmen to drop a seven-figure check in promotions if they're hoping to land a nine-figure contract. It's also not impossible that the sponsorship of Sourceforge Large Linux Installations during 2Q02 was the subject of a bidding war between to rivals over the same large contract. We can't prove this, but we're pretty sure that something of this sort happened (if there are any more disgruntled VA employees out there, we'd love to know if we were right). In any case, it's not what you might call "high-quality income"; although VA hope to continue doing business with Intel, this is a big chunk of revenue to be dependent on one piece of marketing whim.

Slashdot could be sold to another media organisation. We had to read between the lines to get to this one, and it's probably not fair to pin it on our source, but he certainly entertained our speculation on the subject. And the interesting thing is that, with the information we were able to glean about the decomposition of 2Q earnings, Slashdot doesn't look like the cash cow for VA that we thought it might be. Out of the $5m revenue of VA Software, we can take out approximately $750K of interest income on the cash balance and maybe $200K for Sourceforge, meaning that the Intel contract accounts for roughly a quarter of the operating income of OSDN. From the pagecount, we know that Slashdot accounts for three quarters of the pageviews (and thus roughly three quarters of the bandwidth costs); to assume that it generates three quarters of the revenue would be tantamount to assuming that the other OSDN sites make next to zero revenue. Which is a crazy assumption, particularly given the intangible benefit to VA Software of having as a promotional device for Sourceforge Enterprise Edition. And if Slashdot accounts for three quarters of the costs and less than three quarters of the revenues, it's a dog in the OSDN portfolio, not a star or a cash cow.

So, why not sell it? Although Slashdot may be a drain on the average profitability of OSDN, it probably breaks even, and in the world of magazine publishing, that's not bad. Publishing companies know that profitability has to be measured across a portfolio of magazines, not unit by unit, and it's often worth your while publishing a loss-making Talk Magazine for a while for the touch of stardust glamour it adds to a lucrative (but potentially rather prosaic) Conde Nast Traveller. Slashdot would be a perfect "hood ornament" for a profitable stable of computer magazines, dragging the kids in while they were in college and then cross-promoting them onto other titles by the time they had reached a saleable demographic. And all this could be done without compromising its "editorial integrity", which is something usually respected in the media world, though not so much in the software publishing world (" had all sorts of evil plans for Slashdot", our source reveals).

Bottom line: If Larry Augustin wants to claim to be running a company in the enterprise software business, it's time for him to walk the talk. Let's see some divestment of non-core assets like Slashdot. Otherwise, we ought to be facing facts and reminding ourselves that the company which used to be "VA Linux" and is now "VA Software" has always been "VA Media". It's a publishing company, and ought to be managed as one. If that means getting rid of Eleven Million Dollar Larry and getting a graduate of the Si Mewhouse academy, then so be it.

Wow.. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3158893)

Those new big fat ads really are just slapped in there like a fat man's shit after a Chili Festival.. the text doesn't even flow around them. Shit man, Slashdot needs to hire some desktop publishers or something.

Re:Wow.. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3158942)

I think you're being too kind. We all know a fat man's shit after a chili festival flows MUCH better than text around that ad.

More trite! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3158894)

More trite crap from JonKa.... timothy?!?!?

Sorry, it was a "Features" force of habit. Quit confusing us tim!!


Wow (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3158900)

I'm amazed, an entire article astroturfing AltaVista. Sadly, the author is a bit short-sighted, and doesn't realize how quickly stuff appears in Google's cache (often within weeks, less than a month), or that even if something accidentally ranked lower because of the number of links a given page receives, it still ends up in the first page or two anyway. *Sigh*

conspiratorial holiday (1, Funny)

cr@ckwhore (165454) | more than 12 years ago | (#3158902)

Did somebody declare a new holiday today without telling me? Is this now "Pick on Google Day"?

Re:conspiratorial holiday (-1)

l33t j03 (222209) | more than 12 years ago | (#3159021)

The reeks of a forthcoming Altavista ad.

Black magic? (0)

masterkool (550633) | more than 12 years ago | (#3158912)

This could be an autonamous anomoly just with me, but when I am looking for a certan topic, the webpage I need comes up on the first page with Google. It is not just the best web site. Alot of them really suck, but they just seem to allways have that one obscure piiece of information I have been looking for.

google works for me (1, Redundant)

envelope (317893) | more than 12 years ago | (#3158923)

I'm usually satisified with the search results I get at google. I suppose I'd say that if I find it, I find it at google.

I haven't used Altavista much, except for babelfish [] , but after reading this I may have to give it a try sometime.

Re:google works for me (1)

mizhi (186984) | more than 12 years ago | (#3158991)

Altavista was the shit before google came along. I don't think I've touched altavista's site in close to 2.5 years. But I guess that might just be me, some people still seem to find av useful.

Re:google works for me (1)

nob (244898) | more than 12 years ago | (#3159111)

Google has a language translater [] now also. Not quite as nice as babelfish, but it's Google!

Re:google works for me (1)

jsprat (442568) | more than 12 years ago | (#3159128)

I used to say the same. Now I just use Google's language tools page [] . It says it's beta, but works as well as the fish.

a lament for text-only altavista (2, Interesting)

jptwo (551230) | more than 12 years ago | (#3158926)

long after banner ads had come to altavista, you could avoid them easily by using its text-only mode.
powerful commands and no ads... what a concept!

i only switched to google after altavista finally got rid of their text-only page.

Re:a lament for text-only altavista (1)

joshsisk (161347) | more than 12 years ago | (#3158999)

powerful commands and no ads... what a concept!

Okay, I'll bite : how do you expect them to stay in business without ad revenue?

Re:a lament for text-only altavista (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3159225)

By licensing their search engine tech. to other companies.

Re:a lament for text-only altavista (3, Insightful)

cicadia (231571) | more than 12 years ago | (#3159029)

Maybe it's time to switch back :)

Check out [] . Altavista search; nothing but text.

They still have text-only (3, Informative)

drew_kime (303965) | more than 12 years ago | (#3159143)

Go here [] .

All I know is this... (2, Insightful)

decipher_saint (72686) | more than 12 years ago | (#3158928)

What I don't find on one, I look for on the other, if I can't find what I want on either I change my critera. And so on until I either find what I want, something close to what I want or fall asleep trying.

I use both of them as well. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3158936)

Whenever Google results have been disappointing, I hop over to AltaVista and search there.

For me, Google doesn't have to be the perfect search engine - it's already enough. I type in and it loads damn near instantly. There's no annoying advertisements, and I can search in h4x0r or Sveedish Chef, bork bork bork.

If I can't find what I want on Google, fine, I'll use another engine. And what's wrong with that? We honestly can't have too many search engines (Well, business problems aside), because each one ends up with different ranking systems, different data pulled up from queries, etc.

Block BFA's (Big Freakin' Ads) (-1)

by FortKnox on (563942) | more than 12 years ago | (#3158937)

insert this into your hosts file...

No one actually wants ads from doubleclick any way, right?

Don't forget the /. ads (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3159093)

also insert:

Re:Don't forget the /. ads (-1)

by FortKnox on (563942) | more than 12 years ago | (#3159136)

fxd, thx

So waitaminute ... (5, Insightful)

SirSlud (67381) | more than 12 years ago | (#3158938)

.. are you suggesting that different goals require different tools, possibly made by different companies? Don't let the OS market know this, or we will kill the thriving flamebait OS war scene. :(

Actually, there is lots of good information you provide on the capabilities of search engines. I, for one, would love to see more "A is good for this, B is good for this", instead of simply grouping and competing A & B, suggesting that one can only use one.

IMHO, this is where (free) web services really rule - I can't buy 5 different cars for 5 different reasons I use cars, but in the case of these types of services, the cost of using and switching between these services is very next-to-nil. Hopefully, web services will start encouraging companies to share again, as Google and Altavista may very well demonstrate that sharing market segments with other players makes everyone happier in the long run.

Re:So waitaminute ... (2, Insightful)

commonchaos (309500) | more than 12 years ago | (#3159087)

I for one have not used Altavista since google came out. I do lots of research, on many differen't topics (I used to do debate). And I have never had any reason to go back to Altavista, Indeed this article has encouraged me to try out Altavista again, but I would have liked the author to show exactly in what respects Altavista is better than Google.

A is best for... (2, Informative)

bmooney28 (537716) | more than 12 years ago | (#3159173)

In my experience, Google websearch is best for specific web searches... directory is best for broad Directory style searches, where you know the broad category that your search fits into, and you wish to find several sites that have this topic in common. (Yahoo, prior to advertisement bombardments held first place in this category) Google websearch is also among the best for file searches... try including "index of" (with quotes) in a search for a specific file.. (example: "index of" passwords.doc for interesting results) Google websearch is best for up to date news story searches... (try including "news" in the search query.) Limewire is best for music and video searches, both general and specific. Overall, Google is best for nearly all searches, in my opinion... and is usually more effective than using search boxes on specific websites...

why google is flawed (1, Interesting)

Dr Kool, PhD (173800) | more than 12 years ago | (#3158951)

Google returns search results based on the "rating" of a site. The rating is mostly based upon how many other sites in Google's database link to that site. While this scheme is more tamper-proof than the "greatest word match" that some search engines use, it isn't invincible.

It's quite easy to get your site rated high: Create a hundred free web sites on geocities and post a page full of nothing but links to the site you want to pump up. You'll get rated "10/10" in no time.

Re:why google is flawed (1)

TrollMan 5000 (454685) | more than 12 years ago | (#3159025)

Yes, it's flawed, but there has to be some way of ordering search results. Google's method isn't perfect, but is there any method that will please everyone? The answer is likely to be: No.

IMHO, Google does a fine job of taking me to the information I desire. Google's text-based [] searcing beats the alternatives hands-down, especially for the obscure.

Re:why google is flawed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3159053)

Wrong because Google filters out links from the same domain.

Like the author of the response said, you'd need to create free sites from different domains.

Re:why google is flawed (2, Insightful)

gst (76126) | more than 12 years ago | (#3159099)

wrong.... yes... google doesn rate your page upon the pages which link to your page.

but the higher the pages which link to your page are rated, the higher your page is rated.

this means if you just link from geocities pages which are "bad" rated themself (cause there is no content), links to your page doesn't give you any advantage.

Re:why google is flawed (3, Funny)

Happy Monkey (183927) | more than 12 years ago | (#3159210)

Just have all of the geocities pages link each other, too.

Block BFA's (Big Freakin' Ads) (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3158959)

insert this into your hosts file...

No one actually wants ads from doubleclick any way, right?


Google va altavista (-1, Insightful)

Steveftoth (78419) | more than 12 years ago | (#3158960)

I like google better because the name is better and the pages it gives to me are very clean looking. All the other search engines seem too complex to me.

Re:Google va altavista (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3159001)

Judging by the eloquence of your post, I'm going to be honest when I say that Sesame Street is probably too complex for you.

Re:Google va altavista (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3159045)

So basically you are saying that you are simple.

Re:Google va altavista (0, Flamebait)

sammy baby (14909) | more than 12 years ago | (#3159064)

(Warning: moderation bitching follows.)

What the fuck? When I tuned in to this thread, the parent to this post was marked 4: Insightful, because the author liked the name and thought it looked pretty.

Don't get me wrong: those are two of the same reasons I use Google. But seriously, think of better uses for your mod points, people.

Re:Google va altavista (1, Redundant)

Steveftoth (78419) | more than 12 years ago | (#3159218)

Damn straight. I couldn't say it better myself. I only said what I think everytime I goto google, I'm not looking for karma.

The name is better? (2, Insightful)

billybob (18401) | more than 12 years ago | (#3159135)

Because the name is better, and because it's clean? But no mention of it returning the most relevant results.

Are you telling me that if google switched names and interfaces with a terrible search engine (like, say, excite or lycos), you would start using that?

You, sir, are stupid.

Re:The name is better? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3159243)

Hey don't call the guy stupid, he's just providing really honest user feedback. I've supervised user testing on some great products, and except for programmer geek types like us who like tinkering with things, most people *will* prefer something if it looks nice and has a good name, even if it doesn't work as well as something that looks crappy. That's just a fact of life.

Re:The name is better? (2)

Steveftoth (78419) | more than 12 years ago | (#3159252)

I'm not saying that at all, I'm just saying that all the other search engines are about the same, they all generally return me good results. But google has the cleanest interface of them all.

And actually yes the name does matter because I could never remember altavista's web address. I used Yahoo for awhile, never liked Lycos. Ask was neat, but the style of results was too messes up for me. They kept on adding more types of results to their page and it just didn't make any sence to me.

Google, has a simple, orginized resultset that (to me) makes sence. And their pages are so simple that they take no time to load, even on an old modem. (unlike ask, or other search engines)

Windows va linux (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3159199)

I like windows better because the name is better and the windows it gives to me are very clean looking. All the other operating systems seem too complex to me.

Mod me up to +4 now, please.

2-3 Months for Google? (5, Insightful)

baptiste (256004) | more than 12 years ago | (#3158961)

Seems a bit extreme to me. My sites have shown up in Google fairly quickly AND I've found the Google tends to index the most - grabbing new stuff faster than the others.

Now it took months to get into DMOZ, but we did. Yahoo - still hasn't accepted us into our proepr catagory even after 2 or 3 tries over a year and a half.

I think Google could benefit by adding some more advanced filtering command slike Altavista has - I agree they are nice. But the bottom line is, for obscure sites, once you get in Google, look out. Months later we finally got into the other mainstream search indexes (we submitted to them all at the same time) and in teh end Google is THE place for referrals. By orders of magnitude. YMMV, but it seems the other search indexes blew it when tehy killed free submits since folks knwo that they will only return paid sites (plus rank skewring, for $$$, etc)

Only time will tell, but I use Google daily and am happy with the results and performance - no other search engine comes close IMHO

Re:2-3 Months for Google? (2, Informative)

d-e-w (173678) | more than 12 years ago | (#3159195)

For certain types of links, Google can take as little as a couple of days. I know that I can find articles (from many different news sites, who allow individual articles to be spidered) usually within 48 hours. Sometimes within 24 hours. That's wonderful for me, if I can remember a news article I've seen recently and wish to reference, but can't remember the site I saw it on.

As for new sites, it's been taking a week or so recently. Usually if I don't see it in a week, I head over to their add URL page and submit it.

Talking about Google only using ratings (via number of links) is simplistic. Their index/search algorithms are obviously much more complex than that, and appear to utilitize a wide range of methods beyond simply rating.

I'm sticking with Google... for now (3, Insightful)

kb3edk (463011) | more than 12 years ago | (#3158975)

Altavista used to be my search engine of choice, but I gradually abandoned it around 3-4 years ago - shortly after it was spun off from DEC I noticed a general decline in quality.

The one thing I've noticed about these "flaws" in Google "exposed" on ./ today is that they are being done in an organized fashion by intelligent (and somewhat witty) people. I agree that there is significant potential for Google-bombing to be exploited for commercial gain in the coming years. But I don't think it can nearly as bad as some of the awful stuff that's done with meta tags. I'm sticking with Google (for now) because it is still lightning fast and doesn't put a bunch of crap up on my screen.

google toolbar makes them the obvious choice. (5, Interesting)

edrugtrader (442064) | more than 12 years ago | (#3158981)

i wish more sites would develop tool bars similar to google... it is extremely convienient.

on all my windows boxes it is one of the first things i install.

google is probably the best search tool right now, and they make using it a breeze. altavista used to be the best search tool, but they made it harder and harder to use, and then search tool lost its top spot. totally different situation. if google looses its top spot in the search tool field, i'll still use it for its ease of use.

Re:google toolbar makes them the obvious choice. (0)

Dax_is_a_geek (415041) | more than 12 years ago | (#3159113)

This is also why I added a google search bar to the top of my webpage wich I use as a homepage. It makes searching easy, everytime I open a browser its right there.

Re:google toolbar makes them the obvious choice. (3, Informative)

Agthorr (135998) | more than 12 years ago | (#3159139)

You can add your own toolbars for any search engine. I have several samples for Mozilla [] on my webpage [] . I also include a very brief description on how to add other search engines, and/or add them to IE.

-- Agthorr

Not only that... (5, Informative)

SlashChick (544252) | more than 12 years ago | (#3159165)

...but you can also make Google pop up when you click the "Search" button in IE. [] This makes Google searching even easier since you can have the search window open on the left and hit your search results on the right. (Yay for "tabbed browsing", IE style.)

Also, the coolest feature of the Google toolbar IMHO is not even the instant search, but the "Highlight" button. Gone forever is hitting Ctrl-F and typing in a search term. Just search for something in Google, go to a result, and hit "Highlight" -- the search terms are instantly highlighted. This saves me an incredible amount of time when I'm searching through, say, mailing list archives.

The Google toolbar is one of the biggest reasons I use IE. (Well, that and the fact that page developers, including myself, follow the rule of thumb "Design so that it looks good in IE and works in Netscape.") But anyway, I digress. If you're using IE, check out [] and download it.

Re:google toolbar makes them the obvious choice. (1)

vr (9777) | more than 12 years ago | (#3159241)

on all my windows boxes it is one of the first things i install.

the Opera web browser is one of the things I install on all my boxes. Opera doesn't need a Google-bar, because it has it bultin.

i simply type "g whatever" in the URL-field, and it zooms off to Google and searches for whatever. very useful.

it can use several other search engines too, with their own prefixes, like "a" for AllTheWeb..

one of my favourite features in Opera.


Faster and Faster (5, Insightful)

erasmus_ (119185) | more than 12 years ago | (#3158989)

Perhaps AltaVista is indeed better (or used to be, as the author points out) at indexing new content, but I'd never know, as I have been using Google exclusively almost since its public debut. However, I think that this point will become less and less important.

Yes, it's true that Google's algorithm prevents new content from being ranked high, because no one has linked to it yet necessarily, but that's by design - it is indeed at that point unproven in terms of quality. However, the spidering process can use improvement so that when many many people link to this new site just a few days later, it now ranks higher.

Google specifically mentions (in previous interviews I read with employees) that they're always working on updating the speed, as well as the precision. The longterm goal is to significantly decrease the amount of time it takes to respider everything, and therefore make the info more relevant faster. I trust that they will continue to improve, and eventually this differentiation between "Altavista is better for new stuff, Google for old" will go away completely.

I love AltaVista (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3158992)

Boolean mumbo-jumbo? That's the best PART of AltaVista. Google limits querys to 10 words? That stinks! Google is great for simple querys about common subjects. AltaVista's boolean query is great for finding that site whose link you can't remember but you remember some of the words that were close together. AltaVista's boolean query is great for finding information on little-known subjects that you can pretty well guess what keywords will be near each other. I used to use AltaVista's boolean query exclusively. Now, I find it's best to try both AltaVista and Google. Each find content the other won't.

Linuxes Weakness, WindowsXP Strength (-1)

DonkeyHote (521235) | more than 12 years ago | (#3158997)

Linux has a userbase of wildly unpredictable ass pirates, and Windows userbase is mostly composed of the IT professional type. Is linux the OS for you?
I guess that depends on how much you value the sanctity of your ass cavity.

RWD 2002

Another Google Weakness (1, Interesting)

KenSentMe (528496) | more than 12 years ago | (#3159004)

I dunno, this may be off topic, but according to this link [] , Google does not accept any ads for companies that have websites or products in any way affilliated with firearms or knives.
This comes as a dissappointment for someone who regularly visits Geeks With Guns [] .
Say it ain't so...

Fucking moderators on crack (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3159275)

Offtopic? Get a fucking life. The comment was on-topic.

Live in fear of metamod, asshole.

Open Source? More Like Openly Racist (-1, Offtopic)

Lethyos (408045) | more than 12 years ago | (#3159010)

The Open Source movement [] , otherwise known as 'Free Software [] ', has been a topic of considerable debate on the Internet's [] most controversial site [] . The majority of this debate has centered around the technical merits of the software, with the esteemed editors argueing against adopting Linux by employing the full depth of their considerable intellects, and the other side hurling death threats and similar invective. This has allowed many who would not otherwise receive quality information about Open Source software to be made aware of many of its ramifications, but one issue has been left alone: The overt racism that is deeply embedded in the movement.

Allow me to explain.

Alan Cox [] ; Richard Stallman [] ; Bruce Perens [] ; Wichert Akkerman [] ; Miguel DeIcaza [] .

What do you see in this list of names? Are there any African-Americans [] on it? Absolutely not, none of those names sound like one a self-respecting black person would have [] ! No Maurice, no Luther, no Lil' Kim. There are many other lists such as this, you can see one here [] . Flip through each page, do you see anything other than white faces? Of course you don't, because Open Source and its adherents are ardent racists and they absolutely forbid access to the sacred 'kernel' by any person of color [] .

Lets look at another list [] , this time a compendium of the companies using Linux. Are there any black [] owned [] companies [] on that list? Nooooooo. How about these companies [] ? They all have something to do with Open Source software, any of them owned by an African-American [] ? No again. Here [] is an extensive collection of photographs from a LUG (Linux User Gathering) meeting, more [] can be viewed at that link. What is odd about these pictures, and every other photograph I have ever seen of a LUG meeting, is that there is not one single black person [] to be seen, and probably none for miles.

More racist overtones can be found by examining the language of Open Source. They [] often refer to 'white hat' hackers. These 'white hats' scurry about the Internet [] doing good, but illegal, acts for their fellow man. In stark contrast we find the 'black hat' hackers. They destroy the good works of others by breaking into systems, stealing data, and generally causing havoc. These two terms reflect the mindset of most Linux developers. White means good, black means bad [] . Anywhere there is black, there is uncontrollable destruction and lawlessness. Looking further we see black lists [] that inform other users of 'bad' hardware, Samba, an obvious play on the much hated Little Black Sambo [] book, Mandrake [] , which I won't explain except to say that the French are notorious racists. This type is linguistic discrimination is widespread throughout the Open Source culture, lampooned by many of its more popular sites [] .

It is also a fact that all Unix 'distros' contain a plethora of racist commands with not so hidden symbolism.

It can hardly be coincidence that the prime operating system of choice of the 'open source supremacists' - Linux, features commands which are poorly disguised racist acronyms. For example: 'awk' (All White Klan) , 'sed' (shoot nEgroes dead), 'ln' (lynch negroes), 'rpm' (raical purity mandatory), 'bash' (bring a slave home), 'ps' (persecute sambo), 'mount' (murder or unseat nubians today), 'fsck' (favored supreme Christian klan). I could go on and on about the latent racist symbolism in Linux, but I fear it would take weeks to enumerate every incidence.

Is there a single unix command out there that does not have some hidden racist connotation ? Suffice it to say that the racism pervades Linux like a particularly bad smell [] . Can you imagine the effect of running such a racist operating system on the impressionable mind ? I don't have to remind you that transmitting subliminal messages [] is banned in the USA, and yet here we have an operating system that appears to be one enormous submliminal ad for the Klan [] !

One of the few selling points of Open Source software is that it is available in many different languages [] . Browsing through the list I see that absolutely none are offered in Swahili [] , nor Ebonics [] . Obviously this is done to prevent black people [] from having access to the kernel [] . If it weren't for the fact that racism is so blatantly evil I would be impressed by the efforts these Open Sourcers have invested in keeping their little hobby lilly white. It even appears that they hate the Japanese [] , as some of these self proclaimed hackers [] defaced a web site with anti-Japanese slogans. Hell, these people even go all the way to Africa [] (South Africa mind you, better known as White Africa) and the pictures prove that they don't even get close to a black person. []

Of course, presenting overwhelming evidence such as this is a bit unfair without some attempt to determine why these Open Sourcers are so racist. Much of the evidence I have collected indicates that their views are so deeply held that they are seldom questioned by the new recruits. This, coupled with the robot-like groupthink that dominates the culture [] allows the racist mindset to continue to permeate the ranks. Indeed, the Open Source version of a Klan rally, OSDN [] (known to the world as Open Source Developer's Network, known to insiders as Open Source Denies Negroes) nearly stands up and shouts its racist views on its demographics [] page. It doesn't mention the black man [] one single time. Obviously, anyone involved with Open Source doesn't need to be told that the demographic is entirely white, it is a given.

I have a sneaking suspicion as to why their beliefs are so closely held: they are all terrible athletes.

Really. Much like the tragedy at Columbine High School [] , where two geeks went on a rampage to get back at 'jocks', these adult geeks still bear the emotional scars inflicted upon them due to their lack of athletic ability during their teen years. As African-Americans [] are well known for their athletic skills [] , they are an obvious target for the Open Source geeks. As we all know, sports builds character [] , thus it follows that the lack of sports destroys character. These geeks, locked away in their rooms, munching on stale pizza and Fritos, engage in no character building activities. Further, they interact only with computers and never develop the level of social skill [] that allows normal people [] to handle relationships with persons of color [] .

Contrasted with the closed source, non-geeky software house Microsoft [] , Open Source has a long, long way to go.

Join me in my next article where I will lay bare the rampant anti-semitism [] in the Open Source community.

Google is slightly better, but still not good (3, Interesting)

AdamBa (64128) | more than 12 years ago | (#3159015)

It is amazing how much lameness people put up with from search engines right now. It's one of those things where people will look back in ten years and be amazed. Think of all the fiddling around you do with search terms to try to find what you want...gak! Search engines need to figure out what a page is actually about -- only then will they be reasonable.

Of course you can find things with search engines now. Google's "trick" of counting links helps a little bit for a particular class of query, which is when you know the name of an organization and you want to find its works well because more people will link to the site as opposed to other sites that discuss it. But as I have written elsewhere, if AltaVista is 99% lame, then maybe Google is only 97% lame...which is three times better, but still terrible if you take a step back.

Now Google is doing a lot of good things outside from its basic search engine, which should be applauded. The caches, saving old Usenet posts, the image and catalog searches, etc. are all good things -- but they don't affect its basic ability to search well.

Further karma ho' expounding can be found right here [] .

- adam

MSN is better (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3159016)

I don't understand what the big fuss is about Google. I find that the MSN search engine suits my needs perfectly. If I type in "Slashdot" on MSN, for example, the first 19 results are all from When I do the same on Google, the third listing is from some Japanese site. How ridiculous is that?

Re:MSN is better (1)

bob_clippy (562460) | more than 12 years ago | (#3159178)

It appears to be from a Japanese site.

I could say more, but then I'd have to kill you.

This look strangely familiar. (-1, Redundant)

Bartacus (40172) | more than 12 years ago | (#3159017)

Perhaps because it was posted three days ago [] ?


Re:This look strangely familiar. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3159158)

Maybe if Google had indexed the article faster we would've been able to avoid this repeat!

Neat commands! (5, Funny)

graveytrain (218936) | more than 12 years ago | (#3159034)

After reading this article, tons of /.'ers are now hitting altavista and doing a

to see how many people have linked to them :) (myself included) :)

Google is still my first pick (4, Insightful)

ACK!! (10229) | more than 12 years ago | (#3159036)

Sure I go to AltaVista and others after hitting a brick wall with Google but that is very rare for me. Perhaps the issue is when I do searches I am looking for info on technical issues usually revolving around compiling this or that GNU package or Service.

No tool is the best tool for every purpose and perhaps many people should give other search engines a try and see the strengths.

However, I don't really see that point of an article that is simply a Hoorah for one service over another with differing models of profit and aims.

The author had simply pointed out that AltaVista as opposed to other search engines has advanced searching abilities including the ability to exclude terms. No, it has to be an AltaVista over Google article.

Different tools for different times and different uses.

________________________________________________ __

Wild idea - Dump DNS! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3159041)

What if all the altavista and google links
used IP addresses rather than DNS names. Then
we wouldn't need DNS any more.

-- ac

luck (5, Funny)

Deanasc (201050) | more than 12 years ago | (#3159046)

If it wasn't for the "I'm feeling lucky" button then some day's I'd have no luck at all.

How did this article get published? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3159063)

I don't know about you, but this guy's article didn't even seem coherent. He seemed to jump all around different points to come to some conclusion. I'm a little disappointed in O'Reilly's publishing standards. I'm accustomed to seeing good content at sites like, but not this rubbish.

Google has power features too. (5, Insightful)

Brecker (66870) | more than 12 years ago | (#3159080)

Google has exclusions, site and link queries too.


Altavista has a long way to go (2, Interesting)

geordie (258181) | more than 12 years ago | (#3159081)

5 years ago Altavista was my search engine of choice. Both for my own searches and as the number 1 engine for getting my clients websites ranked in.

Back then you could submit to Altavista, and have a good ranking within a week.
Over time, the relevance of the returned results dropped dramatically and the time to get a site listed plummetted, quite often taking longer than Yahoo!

Then Google came along and I haven't looked back since. I've consistently been able to find the results I'm after thanks to the way Google indexes sites.
I'm now able to almost guarantee clients that their sites, whether old sites that are being revamped or new sites that are freshly hatched, will be ranked well within Google and also ranked within a short period of time. I think the longest I've ever had to wait for a site to be fully indexed is three months.

Plus the indexing of database generated pages and PDF documents by Google is a life saver. Without this feature a lot of the content I develop would be lost.

I think it will take a miracle to get Altavista back on track. I wish it was as great as it once was, but for now it's relegated to one of the less important engines both from a searching and a submitting point of view.

Sometimes I hate Google... (5, Interesting)

tiltowait (306189) | more than 12 years ago | (#3159082)

... because it is so good.

I'm a librarian. It is the most difficult time in history to do library research. There are hundreds of overlapping commercial databases out there, each with their own coverage, interface, and search engines.

Students used to locating information with Google are appalled at the steps it takes to locate a scholarly journal. You need to browse a list of subject databases, search them, then locate a printed copy of the journal via our catalog (a growing but still small percent of journals are available online).

Someday searching the various literary databases may be as easy as Google, but in the meantime there are drastic capitalist impediments to making it easy to do library research.

... so ask a Librarian if you ever need help ...

The right tool for the job (2, Insightful)

billybob (18401) | more than 12 years ago | (#3159098)

I've used google exclusively for the past 2 years. Never, not once, have I had to go to another search engine. 99% of the time, what I search for with google, I will find what I am looking for within the first page (10 results), very very often in the first 2 or 3 results.

I have no need for altavista. I don't care if yo use altavista. Google works just fine for me. If altavista works just fine for you, so be it. Use it. No one cares.

All this speculation on the future of google recently is ludicrous. "google bombing" poses no threat. The people who work there are extremely talented. If it becomes a problem, they will undoubtedly fix it.

Google is the most popular search engine in the world, and with good reason. They are not going to give that up.

So will everyone please just sit down, shut up, and stop bickering. Use whatever tool works best for you.

Just out of curiosity... (1, Flamebait)

Reality Master 101 (179095) | more than 12 years ago | (#3159101)

Are there any hard-core Free Software advocates who are hard-core enough to boycott Google because they don't release the source to their search engine?

After all, isn't it your right to view the source code to any application you use?

And if your response is, "well, Google isn't an application, it's a service delivered over the web". Well then, does the freedom of an application depend on whether the processor is accessible to you or not?

Giggle Test (1)

_J_ (30559) | more than 12 years ago | (#3159110)

Could google extract Whois info and IP Address ownership info to determine if linked sites are related? I don't know about the IP Address info but the Whois info could probably be extracted by a spider. Eliminating internally linked sites would be a way if revising the rankings to better reflect their value....

Just a thought


Yup Google Rocks, (2, Funny)

smoondog (85133) | more than 12 years ago | (#3159117)

Here's a very relavant /. example:

The other day /. posted that netscape 6 is supposedly spyware [] . one poster replied that
He was going to screw up the spyware system by searching google for "CROSSDRESSING MONKEY PORNO" a bunch. I replied with a physical link for search google for this [] . Sometime later an anonymous coward posted that the /. article had become the #1 result for those search words. It has since fallen back to the original results, but it shows that google can be tampered with using lots of hits.

But these posts on /. today can argue all they want, but IMO Google's results are qualitatively more relavent than altavista. So if this is going to be problem, we haven't seen it yet.


Re:Yup Google Rocks, (2, Funny)

graveytrain (218936) | more than 12 years ago | (#3159157)

Then I bet that /. is the number 1 result for mentions of goats....

(go ahead, mod me down just for bringing up that site..)

Did you even read Google's tip pages... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3159131)

Sitting right here [] is how to get links that refer to your page. If you bothered to read, it clearly states that site: is a modifier, ie. needs more input to work. Once again, a pointless argument because someone couldn't do a little research. It took me all of five seconds to get this info.

Abuse of Google's service. (2, Interesting)

j-turkey (187775) | more than 12 years ago | (#3159134)

I don't mean to be a reactionary or anyhting, and I could be totally misreading this...but the author describes Webseed Publishing's business as very much the same kind of "Google Bombing" discussed earlier today.

The way I'm interpreting that is abuse of Google's ranking system. Its an inherently dishonest business practice and I'm led to the conclusion that (Webseed Publishing && affiliates)==dicks.

Copernic (2, Informative)

ZaneMcAuley (266747) | more than 12 years ago | (#3159161)

I use Copernic 2001 Pro search client, So i get the best (and worst) features of them all :D

I have speculated on this problem for some time... (4, Interesting)

SkyLeach (188871) | more than 12 years ago | (#3159170)

I would like to see a program and specification that dictates a formal data format for information in a mathematical schema. This could be the foundation for a universal translator and certainly a decent means of doing a search engine.

The idea is pretty simplistic, although the implementation is complex.

Any communication takes place by translating an idea into a sensory input form.

Examples: Sight (written language, video, sign-language), Touch (brail, texture), Sound (conversation, music), Taste (Like water for chocolate?), Smell (pheromones?).

Obviously, not all of these mediums are easy to work with, but we can certainly start with written language.

All languages use the same basic principle: convey relevant information about a central subject. How they go about doing it is different even between versions of the same language (British English vs. American English).

If we described an objective hierarchy of physical objects described by pure mathematics and implanted them into a central, world-wide database then open-source parsers for each language could handle the task of translating any written text, in any supported language, into this common language. If correctly implemented a search engine could enter into a short dialogue with a person performing a search and then return information very specifically relevant to what the user was searching for.

Example dialogue:
[user]I want information on Mary Jane Carpenter.
[google]There is a very famous person by that name. Her official website is [here]. [Here] is a list of fansites and [here] are some other sites which discuss her. That name is mentioned in [these] sites, but it is unclear if they are talking about the same person. [Here] is a list of other people with that name.
[user]The person I am looking for isn't famous.
[google]Then you are probably looking for one of [these] people.
[user] Are any of those people from St. Lewis?
[google] [Here] is a sight dedicated to a Mary Jane Carpenter from St. Lewis.

This may sound like an impossible streatch but it really isn't. The famous Mary Jane Carpenter has a unique id on her object and many thousands of attributes which uniquely identify it from any other Mary Jane Carpenters. Ambiguity is dictated by the same rules that govern conversation: context.

If I have a page that contains no content other than Mary Jane Carpenter sucks! then a simple fuzzy logic routine should be able to infer that the Mary Jane Carpenter I am talking about is probably the famous one. Other clues could be gained from other parts of my site or other documents which have me as a source.

I realize that I am talking about a HUGE database, but it sure would be handy...

Re:I have speculated on this problem for some time (1)

znon (535503) | more than 12 years ago | (#3159220)

It's called XML

Re:I have speculated on this problem for some time (1)

SkyLeach (188871) | more than 12 years ago | (#3159236)

XML requires a DTD which isn't mathematical in nature and XML is inherantly bound to the english language.

What I am talking about is a mathematical DTD for every type of object in language. A truely universal language.

only one thing seperates them for me (3, Interesting)

afidel (530433) | more than 12 years ago | (#3159171)

And that is that I sometimes NEED to use the near keyword in altavista to get a complex search to work correctly. If google added the near keyword I would get rid of my quicklink bar entry for altavista's advanced search.

the advanced search page is all text, not even a banner ad so it's almost faster than google to load.

Google site: workaround (5, Informative)

nstrom (152310) | more than 12 years ago | (#3159172)

Similarly, Google lets me restrict a search to a particular Web site. For instance, if I include in my query the term or in Advanced search under Domains I choose to restrict the search to that domain, Yes, I get results only from that site. But to use that command, I need to have additional query terms: alone generates no results.

You can use the following workaround to do a site: search on google without any keywords. Just do " -stuff" where stuff is gibberish (bang on the keyboard a bit). For example, this search [] shows 1,290 pages from On the other hand, an altavista search for that site shows 1,090 hits for pages on that site.

I don't know why Google doesn't allow simultaneous "site:" and "link:" searching, as that is something many users would like to do.

Slashdot's new Context Advertisting Scheme (4, Funny)

socratic method (15936) | more than 12 years ago | (#3159174)

Holy shit! That guy got to plug his website NINE TIMES in an article. I can't imagine how much he had to pay for exposure like that. Next we'll be seeing ads like this:

Features: ICMP echo requests are 37337!
Posted by CmdrTaco on 03:35 PM -- Wednesday March 13 2002
from the leet-nettools-impress-chicks dept.

Hey, Slashdotters! I just found this 37337 tool called pign. You can use it to send an ICMP echo request to IBM.COM. You just type "ping"...
And it pings IBM.COM! Check it out:

Pinging [] with 32 bytes of data:
Reply from : bytes 32 time 80ms TTL=128
Reply from : bytes 32 time 80ms TTL=128
Reply from : bytes 32 time 80ms TTL=128
Reply from : bytes 32 time 80ms TTL=128
Reply from : bytes 32 time 80ms TTL=128
Reply from : bytes 32 time 80ms TTL=128
Reply from : bytes 32 time 80ms TTL=128
Reply from : bytes 32 time 80ms TTL=128
Reply from : bytes 32 time 80ms TTL=128

(Read more...)

Seriously -- I'm sure more curious people clicked over to than clicked on any of the other ads on the screen (thinkgeek and ibm for me). Maybe there is something to text ads on community sites (ala kuro5hin)


Re:Slashdot's new Context Advertisting Scheme (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3159276)

I usually ping when I want to see if the nameserver/net connection is working, just 'cause it's short.

The best thing Google did (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3159183)

A lot of people ignore the single biggest innovation for quality results that Google did: default 'and' states for keywords. I worked at AltaVista for a year and tried to convince people that it was the way to go but no one would listen. When combined with their ranking technology [which is impressive but not infallible] it yields the best results.

fun fact: I also tried to get a proposal started for AltaVista to acquire Google in the summer of '99. Aren't you glad I failed?

Don't see how Alta can be more current (4, Informative)

wytcld (179112) | more than 12 years ago | (#3159202)

For a text-intensive site [] that's been around a few years, and that the search engines were informed of years ago, 4 of the top 10 most frequent visitors are Google bots. None of the 10 is from AltaVista. And Google searches send a lot more people our way too.

Now I just don't see how AltaVista can give anyone more current results if their bots are featherbedding.

You're overlooking Google functionality (3, Informative)

Cheshyre (43113) | more than 12 years ago | (#3159204)

At AltaVista, I can search for and get exactly what I want
In Google, does the same thing.


by FortKnox on (563942) | more than 12 years ago | (#3159206)

I have submitted this story, and (of course) it keeps getting rejected. Read this article on Yahoo [] about how someone has stolen all of the Slashdot User names and Passwords.

How to beat the Slapdork ad system (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3159229)

Read all about it right here! []

Meta Comment to the Editors/timothy malformed link (2, Insightful)

gnugnugnu (178215) | more than 12 years ago | (#3159245)

The mailto link "Richard Seltzer" is woefully malformed.
" or http://www.samizdat"

Please fix it.

When it is fixed, please dont fuck up my karma by marking this as redundant.

I would consider subscibing if it would gaurantee proper links and spellchecking.

Typical user? (2)

Quixote (154172) | more than 12 years ago | (#3159246)

Mr. Seltzer thinks that the shortcomings of Google are that it doesn't allow for more "powerful" or "expressive" queries like "" or "". The question is: how many people really use such queries? How many times have you (also not the typical user, but lets assume so) wanted to see who links to a particular site? Typically, someone who knows that site well or has already found it will look for such information. As far as I'm concerned, Google does a tremendous job of finding informative sites for me, quickly. Usually when I search, I have a keyword or two in mind, and start with that. Within a couple of clicks (or just 1, if "I'm feeling lucky") I'm on my way. Probably Mr. Seltzer is biased because he is ex-Digital or something, and was pleasantly surprised at the uptick in Altavista referrals to his sites.

Teoma (1)

cameldrv (53081) | more than 12 years ago | (#3159251)

When google doesn't work for me, I go to Teoma.

Plus, We Can Keep An Eye on the "Enemy"... (3, Informative) (84577) | more than 12 years ago | (#3159266)

What would you do if your best friend [] cuddles up with your biggest enemy [] ?

It's alive. []
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