Search Engines Succeed at Stoking Frustration

By David Coursey  |  Posted 2005-02-24 Print this article Print

Opinion: Google should shape up its search capabilities or watch its grip on users slip.

Matt Hicks story about the blossoming of "vertical" search engines got me thinking about what I want when I search and what Im not getting. Like most people, I am a big Google user, though my support for that service has, as a political pollster might say, "gone soft" in recent months.
Put another way: I used to love Google, as I had loved Alta Vista, Excite and Yahoo before. But now another search engine could easily pry me from Googles grip. Or Google could win back my heart. It all depends on whether Google can improve before something better shows up.
Ive been thinking that contextual or vertical search could be the solution to some of my angst. But I have my doubts, explained below. Sometimes I also think that for common searches I might be better off with a service that actually involves humans in finding answers online, if any of those still exist. Or maybe I could try or even the Wikipedia. Click here to read more about vertical search engines on the Web. What Google needs is a rebalancing. It ought to be possible to filter out results that are merely offers to sell a particular item while leaving real content behind. While there is certainly a need to find products and prices on the Internet, those results can also clutter up search results to the point of making them useless. Recently, I was trying to learn whether a particular recording artist/composer had written a piece of music I like. (Its the main riff in Andreas Johnsons "Glorious" and Bonds "Explosive"). I searched on the name of the composer who may or may not have written the musical theme. I got a zillion results offering to sell me the guys albums (Ive since forgotten his name), but after working through several pages of results, Id found nothing about the man himself. There is a place for search engines that scoop up as much of the Web as possible, but only if they get better at tossing out the garbage. Every week it seems as though Google becomes less useful because of clutter in the results it delivers. Theres the commercial clutter I just mentioned. There is also the clutter of sites that pretend to be search results but are really search tools themselves—ones Ive never heard of but also seem to appear when I accidentally mistype a URL. Next Page: Narrowed searches and expanding problems.

One of technology's most recognized bylines, David Coursey is Special Correspondent for, where he writes a daily Blog ( and twice-weekly column. He is also Editor/Publisher of the Technology Insights newsletter and President of DCC, Inc., a professional services and consulting firm.

Former Executive Editor of ZDNet AnchorDesk, Coursey has also been Executive Producer of a number of industry conferences, including DEMO, Showcase, and Digital Living Room. Coursey's columns have been quoted by both Bill Gates and Steve Jobs and he has appeared on ABC News Nightline, CNN, CBS News, and other broadcasts as an expert on computing and the Internet. He has also written for InfoWorld, USA Today, PC World, Computerworld, and a number of other publications. His Web site is

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