Google: big where it counts

The company has indexed the full text of 560 million Web pages and partially indexed another 500 million Web pages, for a total of over 1 billion pages, according to a written statement. A full text index includes all the words on a page, whereas a partial index contains only some information about a page, relying on links and data related by other pages, Google President and Co-founder Sergey Brin said.

One billion pages was not an overnight achievement, because, according to Brin, Google does not add new pages daily. Rather, the search engine scours the internet, building a new index which is added to the existing one every few weeks. At the time of the previous update, Google contained over 500 million total pages, with over 200 million of them being full text indexes.

Started at Stanford University with only 20 million to 30 million pages in its index, Brin says Google now offers users the ability to "search as much of the Web as possible with one search engine."

In comparison, rival search engines NorthernLight.com and Excite.com indexed 260 million and 214 million pages, respectively, as of June 2, according to data on searchenginewatch.com (http://www.searchenginewatch.com/reports/sizes.html), a website devoted to tracking search engines. Lycos announced on June 14 that it had indexed 340 million pages. Altavista.com weighs in at 600 million pages and Inktomi at 500 million pages, according to Paul Hagen, an analyst with Forrester Research.

Reports of index sizes ought to be looked at skeptically, says Hagen, because "everybody plays with the numbers." However, size is not even necessarily the most important factor in the success of a search engine, Hagen says. Instead, he suggests that overall site traffic, return visitors and frequency of use are more telling statistics, because such information is a better gauge of quality.

When viewed this way, Google's sheen is somewhat dulled. Hagen notes that Google does not rank in Media Metrix's Top 50 Digital Media/Web Properties - though as of the end of March 2000, it was the fifth most used search engine according to Media Metrix - and only receives 10 million queries per day, compared to Inktomi's 50 million and Altavista's 55 million.

That Google has powerful admirers despite these numbers was made clear when the company also announced on Monday that it has entered into a partnership to provide search services to Yahoo. The agreement will install Google's engine as Yahoo's search tool within 30 days, though Yahoo will retain its traditional browsing interface.

Yahoo's selection of Google as its main search provider comes at the expense of Inktomi, Yahoo's previous search partner. Though Inktomi's search technology will remain as part of Yahoo's corporate site, its stock was trading down $24.88, at $115.50 as of late Monday trading.

The agreement with Yahoo does not signal a move toward more formal portal status, said Brin. Google will still remain largely unadvertised, he said, preferring to rely on "word of mouth and quality of product" to bring users to the site. The site, whose traffic is growing by 25 percent a month, Brin says, is content to remain a player working behind the scenes of such higher profile sites as Yahoo and Netscape Netcenter.

"After seeing the results of other dot-coms who spent tens, or even hundreds, of millions on advertising," said Brin, "(becoming a portal) doesn't look appealing."

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Sam Costello

PC World
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