What Is A Search Engine? You Have No Idea Apparently

One of my favorite blogs, that I read just about every day is readwriteweb, a sterling tech, web 2.0 and search blog. Not so long ago their AltSearchEngines regular article was turned into a fully fledged blog in its own right headed by Charles Knight who knows about the existence of more search engines than probably anybody else on the net.

I checked it out this morning and spotted an interesting article:

Today we launch Part I of our 3 Part Series

Part I: What is a Search Engine? by Nitin Karandikar (Mon)

Oh glominy! I thought, glibbily. This is right up my street so I settled in for a powerful, thought provoking read.

Alas, the writer was a complete nitwit and I felt compelled to post this raging comment:

You’re completely wrong, I don’t know why on earth you’d try to reclassify what a search engine is when we’ve known what search engines are for a long time.

A search engine is simply “an information retrieval system designed to help find information stored on a computer system” (Wikipedia).

1. It enhances findability of relevant web content for the user

It doesn’t need to have anything to do with the web. Findability is not a word, even in italics.

2. It searches the entire web or a large subset thereof
(this excludes publisher search engines that search only a single site or group of sites)

No search engine searches the entire web. Don’t listen to the Google PR machine so much, and again, it doesn’t need to touch the web to be a search engine. Plus you’re on AltSearchEngines here… how many verticals do you guys cover?

3. Searches are specified using a keyword, phrase or question, or using input parameters, without the need for undue navigation
(I don’t consider pure directories like dmoz to be Search Engines)

So you’re saying you need an input to get an output? That’s genius.

4. It provides search results on demand, not periodically

I don’t even know what the hell you’re trying to say this for. It’s still wrong. Why does it have to do as a person asks it?

5. It provides some kind of unique or special processing of its own: either in the search algorithm, or in UI improvements, or both
(this excludes pure Rollyo or Google Coop-based search engine subsets)

This is far and away the worst thing you’ve written, you’re clearly grasping at straws. That is until you said:

The criteria described above will not remain static; as technology progresses, Search Engines will need to support increasing levels of functionality to be taken seriously.

No, i’m afraid a search engine, will always be a search engine. No matter how technology progresses it will still be a search engine.

The article you should have written is, “What search engines should have on my holidays”.

Yakov: A search engine doesn’t need to have its own index of the web or build it. A crawler of some description is responsible for building an index – that can take many forms and is often included in the search engine software itself. If you want examples of search engines without their own index, then take a look at the recent Digg API contest for some examples.

I’m hoping Charles gives you a massive kick up the backside and stops you writing what essentially is a load of bollocks.

Yes, it was a little scathing, but I get extremely irate when I see article written by someone who clearly is just trying to write for the sake of saying something. Especially on a source I have a lot of respect for because I don’t want to see them letting it through to the front page, that’s their role as editors – to weed out the rubbish and go with the quality content right?


7 Comments on “What Is A Search Engine? You Have No Idea Apparently”

  1. Phill,

    The obvious next step is to invite you to post “What is a search engine?” on ASE. When can you have it ready? 🙂

    Charles Knight, editor

  2. Phill says:

    I already wrote this one : http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/is_google_a_semantic_search_engine.php

    it’s close enough, just chop out everywhere it says semantic, no problem!

  3. NitinK says:

    Phill! You don’t like my article on Search! Woe to me …

    Actually, you make some good points – although that gets obscured in the dramatic personal attack. You can find my response in the comments on the original article.

    If you were disappointed that this particular article was too lightweight, not rigorous enough, check out these two articles for more detailed and technical content: Top 17 Search Innovations on Read/WriteWeb and A Conceptual Architecture for Search on the Software Abstractions blog, respectively.

    You say that I’m “trying to write for the sake of saying something” – that’s it, exactly – I think you’ve captured the very essence of my blogging activities!

  4. Phill says:

    I confess, I called you a nitwit.


    Seriously, I posted a longer comment over on your article, enjoy!

  5. I’d volunteer to help Phill (the reference to Salton gave you away as having a clue ;)). But i’m bound by my current work contract and can’t discuss stuff in too much detail. 😦 Needless to say, when our service goes live, I’ll be willing to talk all about it 🙂

  6. Phill says:

    Ach David, you found me out! I’m reading through your blog there’s some good reading there, let me know when you come out of stealth 🙂

  7. Falafulu Fisi says:


    I have just posted some messages at Alt Search Engines regarding the same topic. I agree with what you said there.



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