R. Fink | Search vendors looking for trouble?

The Packet Rat

Packet Rat

Michael J. Bechetti

The summer slump has arrived, and on Fridays it seems the Rat's network command bunker is empty of all but a skeleton crew.

With most of the budgetary concerns done for the year, and with accumulated leave reaching a critical mass, the whiskered one's agency has released many of its denizens into the wilds of the Outer Banks, Rehoboth and other beaches far from his network.

Which means one thing to him: a lot less trouble.

But it appears that there's going to be plenty of trouble this summer for the sultans of search ' and their lawyers. Google's busy defending its search turf, taking Microsoft to task for its Vista integrated desktop search. When a judge declined to hear their complaint about how Microsoft isn't playing fair, they moved on to the Justice Department.

'As if Microsoft's legal department wasn't busy enough coming up with things to beat on Linux with,' the cyberrodent sighed as he reviewed the weekly news crawl (between sessions on Second Life tormenting people as a grim-reaper rodent avatar named Pestilence). 'Maybe they could send me some work.'

The search market on the Internet is squarely in Google's favor, since the company's name is now practically synonymous with looking something up. Yahoo, meanwhile, has waxed something less than jubilant about its relative market position, kicking Chief Executive Officer Terry Semel up to a nonexecutive chairman position and purging his sales minions. Now it's Jerry Yang's gang that's in charge, and although that may not matter much to anybody in government doing anything besides collecting spam in a My Yahoo! Mail account, it has at least refocused the company on technology so it can figure out where it fits in the search race.

And Microsoft is hardly in the race, its MSN search site a forgotten backwater for all but those who enter the wrong domain name in Internet Explorer. So, it's no surprise that the company has been reluctant to open up its surefire stronghold ' the Vista desktop ' to let other companies' search tools play on a level field.
Of course, that depends on what 'level' means. Microsoft had agreed, as part of a consent decree, to make Vista more friendly to Google's desktop search and other products. Google complained to a judge recently that those changes are 'only vaguely described.'

'Haven't they ever read documentation before?' the cyberrodent snickered. 'Everything is only vaguely described.'

Of course, Google might be nervous about its Internet search dominance as more vertical search engines appear, and other Internet search companies try to follow the path of editor-guided search ' where real people, instead of an algorithm, decide which items are relevant to a term the way they do on Mahalo, a new search service.

Mahalo might mean 'thank you' in Hawaiian, but it comes off sounding a lot ruder to the Google gang.

'Maybe someday we'll even have an army of search experts,' the Rat cackled. 'They'll call them ... librarians.'

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