Search and Destroy – The Battle For Search Engine Supremacy Between Microsoft and Google

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At first there were WebCrawler, AltaVista, Excite, Lycos, and many others. As the algorithms that run them became more complex and technology evolved, a Darwin-esque process began killing off the ones who did not adapt to an ever-changing virtual climate. And then there were two.

Microsoft knows this stance all too well. They are in a constant deathlock with Sony to see who will become victorious in the video game arena. Then there is the never-ending battle of PC vs. Mac, fueled by Apple’s constant barrage of top-selling innovations (iPod, iPhone, iPad…you get the iDea). Microsoft bought out Yahoo! in an attempt to narrow the playing field against the competition.

Enter Google. On the heels of the release of their Google Chrome search engine and Android OS, a company from humble beginnings has grown into a technological juggernaut. Google outlasted its search breathren and did it through a simplicity…well, at least to the naked eye. Google’s search relies on a series of complex formulas that really no one knows, except Google. Whatever it is, they work…because more people use Google search than any other search engine.

Microsoft’s story is one we all know. Founded by college dropout Bill Gates with friend Paul Allen in 1975, Microsoft was the world’s first computer language developer. The Redmond, Washington based corporation has since grown to become one of the largest and most influential companies in the world.

They also hold the patents for Internet Explorer, Microsoft Office, and Windows. 20 years after the start of Microsoft, Bill Gates released his “Internet Tidal Wave Memo” to the company and the rest was history. MSN (Microsoft Network)launched on August 24, 1995 to compete with AOL and has gone on to dominate all of its competitors…except one.

Google was started up by two college buddies, Larry Page and Sergei Brin PhD, in March of 1996 as a research project for school. Google wasn’t always Google. It started out with another name, “BackRub”. Page and Brin decided that it should be renamed the year after its conception to something a little catchier…Google. Google comes from the word googolplex, meaning 1 followed by 100 zeros. This was all part of the philosophy the Google founders wanted to convey to users. They were going to change the way we search and they weren’t going away anytime soon.

The first search engine ever created did not belong to Microsoft or Google. A Montreal student named Alan Emtage created Archie in 1990. Archie, short for archives, was a database of filenames on the internet that it would match to users searches. Later on, two other search engines were created with the names Veronica and Jughead, both characters from the popular Archie comics.

Start of a New Era

The World Wide Web was born in 1991 when Tim-Berners Lee decided to merge hypertext with DNS and FTP servers. The first website in the history of websites (http://info.cern.ch/) went online August 6, 1991. Berners-Lee went on to found the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) at MIT in 1994. By the end of the year, there were around 10 different search engines including Excite, Lycos, Yahoo!, LookSmart, and WebCrawler.

Feeling Lucky?

By the time Google hit the net in 1996, they were one of many portals people could use to navigate through the increasing number of websites. Many people were confused by Google’s strikingly simple page. It had the Google Beta logo and a search box with no pictures, only a few links, and two buttons: “Google Search” and “I’m Feeling Lucky”. Google’s homepage has remained largely unchanged to date. Microsoft’s MSN search was already ahead of them by about a year, but still not their biggest competition.

To make way for progress, Google had to beat out the little guys. They did this very effectively by indexing more web sites and returning more relevant results for user queries. Their lack of frills and fast, concise answers lured in 84.7% of all web searches between its homepage and partner sites in early 2004. This led Yahoo to take their name off Google’s list of partners and strike out on their own. Not by force, but through smarts Google prevails. Google’s code of conduct is “Don’t Be Evil”.

If you Buy the Sites People go to, You Can Control the Web.

YouTube is one of the most viewed sites on the internet, due to user submitted clips and viral videos spanning virtually every topic imaginable. Google purchased YouTube in 2006 for a whopping $1.65 billion. That was not their only key power play. Google also bought Pyra Labs, maker of Blogger, back in 2003, a small part of AOL in 2005, and more recently, 3D Desktop software maker ClickBump in 2010. This has been just a part of Google’s push to stay on top.

Locked and Loaded

It wasn’t until 2010 that Microsoft swooped in and bought out Yahoo! and changed the game with what they billed as “the first decision engine,” Bing. Bing takes a more visual approach to searching the web and even has the comedic TV spots to prove it. All things considered, it is very apparent now that Microsoft has their sites set on Google. $47.2 billion to stay at the table and see the cards. Microsoft can do that. Bill Gates was recently downgraded to the world’s second richest man.

What does this mean for those of us who are innocent bystanders merely searching the web for fun and work? For now, better, faster search results. As Microsoft and Google battle it out, both companies will have to strive to provide better services to corner their share of the market. If you don’t like either search engine, the other guys like Excite and AltaVista are still out there. They just don’t get used as much anymore. As for the surrender of Google or Microsoft, they are far too entrenched in technology for this to be likely anytime in the near future. There is too much ammunition and too big of a fight in the hearts of both sides. The battlelines have been drawn and now all we can do is watch the carnage unfold-

Article by Peter Boimare

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