In Google we Trust

Larry Osterman asks, “Where do you go to get answers to your technical questions?”

I know it is going to seem like I’m picking on Larry or Microsoft, but I’m not. I want to use this opportunity to point out something remarkable about Google, and about the search biz in general.

Just about every comment on Larry’s post gives the same obvious answer, to which he responds, “…for those of you proposing “Google” as the generic answer, what happens when the answer isn’t on the search engines?

Here’s my answer (prepare yourself): If Google doesn’t turn up the answer, I believe with very high probability that an answer simply does not exist.

Here’s how I Google: I enter a minimal combination of fairly specific search terms (ie, “nvidia vista rotate”) and scan the first page of results. If I don’t see what I am looking for in the first page of hits, I try different search terms. Stop and think about that for a minute. Google is so good that I readily blame myself for poor results. I think, “Google can’t be wrong — I must be using it stupidly.”

When I’m forced to make more than a few search attempts, or to look past the first couple pages of results, I have high confidence that the information I am seeking does not exist on the web*.

You can’t buy trust like that. This is the insurmountable challenge facing all competing search engines: search is a solved problem.

*Note: Sometimes this is because I am attempting to ask a very hard question. More often, it’s because I’m asking a question so stupid that the web can’t be bothered to answer it.

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