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Google   (3-1/2 of 4)
In many ways, Google the search engine has truly made it to the top. When they inked a contract with Yahoo to provide the results for search phrases not found in Yahoo's human compiled directory, it was like they had finally gotten the recognition they deserve. And according to Web culture, once Yahoo pays you to do anything, you've made it.

Google earns three and half stars (see below) because they do one thing really well: provide excellent search results. Other search engines/portals got away from their core business — providing relevant search results — and look what happened. Disney has closed down their entertainment portal Go.com (formerly Infoseek) reorganized their datasbase and recently reopened. AltaVista also has relaunched with renewed focus on search results to restore what had once been a robust engine with great breadth. In contrast, Google's focus has always been on providing get great results through their simple, refreshing home page.

Funny as it may seem now, many people scoffed at the idea that a search engine should give preference to web sites that have lots of high quality, popular sites linked to it. This model has proven itself, at least for now. Useful sites tend to have lots of other people linking to it, "So," they reasoned, "Other people should know about this site, too." The only argument against this model is that it leaves out the little known but well-designed page with useful content in the dust. This argument has some merit. In a perfect world, good sites with good content should always rank higher. However, if the unknown site does become popular, it will eventually rank higher with Google and others anyway, since most of the major search engines now use some type of popularity algorithm to help rank the searches.

And the 3-1/2 stars instead of four? Well, if you enter a phrase in Google's search box without putting double quotes around your search phrase, it treats the words as if they are separate and not a phrase. Search statistics have shown that most searchers enter phrases when they enter multiple words, so Google might be missing the boat here, in my opinion. Even more frustrating, the search algorithm has been tweaked even more to include results from all words, even when you use the quotes technique decribed above.

-Craig Burgess, Channel Editor
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