Data and Information

Changing Search Behavior on the World Wild Web


We’re been witnessing a co-evolution, a civilizing of people, tools, & environments on the World Wild Web.  The last twenty years of the networked big bang have been exciting, as will be the next twenty. Just now, you no doubt have heard about Bing with its own big bang.  We can compare side by side and blind, and we hear Bing Is Not Google, even if it is a bit Ask or Altavista or All the Web.  Nothing new in the ideas exactly, but the discussion that takes over, not suprisingly, is whether Gorilla can steal from Goorilla.

My opinion, Yes, but first a descent to surface again.  Consider how many people have crossed the 10k line on Internet searches (you get there in 10 years if you do a search for breakfast, lunch & dinner).  People are intelligent in how they adapt their behaviors in interactions with their environment whether they seek food or information or you know what else.  In this, we have not left the state of nature even as we live predominantly in built, social, virtual spaces. Clearly a person behaves differently at 10k life-time searches than in their first 100.

One way to expose adapation is to probe what a person might not do across time and in different contexts.  This not-doing reflects a learning of what will likely not pay off.  Not just on the simple act isolated, but given all, and I mean all.  For example, what might you have not even attempted to search for in different periods and why? Listing such cases, you’d have the factors catalogued and considered in the search wars and a picture of the revolutions of co-evolutions.

Early on, you might not have searched because you didn’t think it was out there (universe), whereas now a bigger factor is not wanting to wade through all the, uh, stuff that would be brought in here (result). Then there’s the next steps after the search box as ignition key.  Bing story-telling certainly aims there, i.e. the decision engine.  I don’t quite see the big difference yet over the full picture of what people do after submit already.

People do stick to many olds for a long time until an accumulation of factors trigger a shuffling.  The real question here is whether people will open the door on a new thing and whether it’s a big deal (really) to switch.  Right about now, there’s considerable fade on the wow factor certainly and even the "it works" belief on Google.  And the cost of both the try and the switch is quite small here, not like with an email system, an OS, or a house, or horrors, an ERP system.

Personally, I’ve changed the Firefox search box default on different machines.  When unsatified on an attempted search, I try the other one.  Though I can see Google’s nuances comes through in a number of tests, I’m really not satisfied more nor dissatisfied less with either in my naturally arising searches.

Try for yourself on your next 10 real queries, splitting which one you try first.  Love to hear what happens.

Join the Discussion (0)

Become a Member or Sign In to Post a Comment

The Latest from CACM

Shape the Future of Computing

ACM encourages its members to take a direct hand in shaping the future of the association. There are more ways than ever to get involved.

Get Involved

Communications of the ACM (CACM) is now a fully Open Access publication.

By opening CACM to the world, we hope to increase engagement among the broader computer science community and encourage non-members to discover the rich resources ACM has to offer.

Learn More