Search engineer

Those of us who use the internet are familiar with most of the big search engines. Indeed, Altavista, Yahoo, Google and the rest are frequently referred to as invaluable tools, but how useful are they to the design engineer? Is one better than the other?

We put some of these search engines to the test by asking them for information on UK bearing manufacturers.

Here’s how they got on (all scores are based on the first 10 results given by each site): (10/10)

The great thing about this site is speed coupled with an unnerving knack to return exactly what you’re looking for.

Google didn’t fail here, coming up with ten links to UK bearing manufacturers, or at least UK companies who, amongst other things, manufacture bearings. (6/10)

The big granddaddy of them all, altavista gave links to 6 UK bearing manufacturers, including SKF and NSK-RHP, neither of whom got a mention from any of the other sites.

Disappointingly, this site did throw out some chaff: the most surprising link was one to `household goods and toys’! (6/6)

This ageing bastion of all things weblike only came up with 6 results – remarkable when other sites returned thousands of references. However, Yahoo proves that it’s quality not quantity that counts. None of these six links contained anything spurious, but all directed me to the web-sites of – thank you yahoo – UK bearing manufacturers. (3/10)

This site, which claims proudly on a banner to `search the search engines’ may be well advised to add the words `not very well’ on the strength of this exercise.

Considering that metacrawler searches some of the sites already mentioned, I’m not sure why it only returned 3 links to bearing manufacturers. (2/10)

Easily the biggest disappointment, Infoseek returned references to only two bearing manufacturers, and neither were in the UK (one was in India, the other in the US). Other links were ridiculous and included Teddy Bear Manufacturers and a review of Thomas Hardy’s Far From The Madding Crowd.

No-one could ever call the results of this brief foray conclusive. To find what you want, it’s worth experimenting a little: vary the case, use + signs, try using quotation marks, why not see how you get on with brackets?