Google会被打败么?

Not so very long ago,at the turn of the century, Google went from an obscure start-up to the Web’sdominant search engine. It accomplished this feat in remarkably little time bybeing vastly better than established contenders like AltaVista. And Google hasstayed on top ever since, the beneficiary of both its own never-ending effortsat self-improvement and the fact that humans are creatures of habit. In theU.S., Google currently gets nearly twice as many searches as all of itscompetitors combined.

在这个世纪开始的几年间,Google从一个名不见经传的小公司一跃成为互联网搜索引擎的霸主。Google在很短的时间内就将其竞争对手,比如AltaVista公司远远地抛在了身后。Google之所以坐上搜索引擎头把交椅,是因为受益于其永不停止自身发展的理念和人类是习惯性的生物这一事实。在美国,Google的市场份额几乎是其所有竞争者加起来的两倍。

Over the years,plenty of companies have labored to put a dent in that massive market share.Recently, however, a couple of Google’s rivals — Yahoo! and Ask.com (née AskJeeves) — have waved white flags. In August, Yahoo! started delivering search results based on Microsoft’sBing.Then last week Ask.com announced that it would focus on its question-and-answer feature, outsourcing search to an unspecified third party.

多年来,许多企业试图在这庞大的市场中占得一席之地。然而最近,Google的两大对手雅虎和Ask.com已经彻底投降。八月,雅虎将其搜索结果全部建立在微软的Bing之上。上周,Ask.com宣布公司未来将专注于问答方面的服务,并将其搜索引擎外包给了未经证实的第三方。

I find these developments disheartening, even though I cheerfully admit to being a member ofthe Google-using majority. History keeps showing that enormously successful tech companies grow fat and complacent unless they face real competition. So Iwant the search wars to rage on even if the category has only one true superpower.

我觉得事态发展让人沮丧,虽然我也是用Google的多数派之一。历史证明,除非面临真正的竞争,那些成功的高科技公司将日益臃肿并骄傲自大起来。所以我希望搜索引擎大战继续下去,即使这当中只有一家独大。

That means I’m paying close attention to Microsoft, the last major Google competitor that sees search as a smart investment rather than a fool’s errand. Since relaunching its LiveSearch last year as the more peppily named Bing, it has signed that deal with Yahoo! and pumped resources into improving and promoting its offering. Most important, it has managed to give Bing something few Google alternatives have ever had: a distinct identity.

这意味着我正密切关注微软,Google最后的主要对手。微软将搜索服务视为一项明智的投资,而非一件愚蠢的差事。自从去年重新启动智能搜索服务(现在叫Bing)以来,微软已经和雅虎签订了协议,投入资源优化和推广它的服务。最重要的是,微软赋予了Bing一些Google所没有的东西:分类搜索功能。

Whereas Google is famous for a home page that’s mostly white space, Bing’s trademark is a fancy photographic backdrop. Google responds to every query on any subject with a list of links to other sites; Bing uses a “decision engine” that has some features tailored to specific topics, such as travel, health and shopping,and sometimes provides information about those things right on the site rather than suggesting where to look elsewhere. (Its travel section is particularly rich, with features like advice on whether it’s smartest to buy a plane ticket immediately or to wait for prices to drop.) And while Google and Facebook are squabbling, Microsoft has worked with Facebook (of which it owns a small chunk) to let Bing users see recommendations from their friends within search results.

与Google几乎空白的主页不同,Bing的主页以漂亮的图片作为背景。Google将用户的搜索请求呈现为网站链接的列表,而Bing运用“决策引擎”将请求细分为许多具体的话题,比如旅游,健康和购物,有时还将提供一些网站的具体信息,而不是简单给出链接让用户自己去寻找。(旅游板块信息量丰富,甚至能够对机票价格和购买时机给出建议。)在Google和Facebook大打口水战时,微软和Facebook合作,以便其用户能够在搜索的结果中看到好友的推荐。

Nimble, inventive and extremely well financed, Bing is the sort of search engine you would invent if your goal was to keep Google on its toes. And Google does seem to be paying attention. After years of making only subtle tweaks to its results pages, it has spent much of 2010 rolling out changes that are impossible to miss. In May,it added a Bing-like left sidebar of options. September brought GoogleInstant, which starts displaying links without waiting for you to finish typing. And instant previews — pop-up thumbnail images that let you peek at pages before you leave the results page — showed up last week.

灵活,富于创造性,信息量丰富,如果你的目标是打败Google的话,那么Bing绝对就是你想创造的搜素引擎。Google似乎也注意到了这一点,多年来Google只对其搜索结果进行细微修改,但2010年大部分的时间里,Google都在致力于找出那些不能被忽视的改变。五月,Google增加了一项与Bing类似的左侧选项工具栏。九月,Google推出了即时搜索功能,能够在用户未完成输入的情况下就呈现链接。还有上周推出的即时预览功能,能够让用户在离开搜索结果页面前预览一下网站的主要内容。

Google’s single biggest defense against Bing isn’t anything new and splashy,though. It’s the fact that it’s still better at the basic job of responding toqueries with a list of the most relevant sites, ranked in the most logical order. When I search for “Canon S95,” for instance, it’s smart enough to make its top listing a link to Canon’s page for its PowerShot S95 camera. On Bing, that page is the second result — the first one is an obscure site that mentions the S95 only in passing. Gaffes like that leave me using Bing as asupplement to Google rather than a replacement for it.

Google对于Bing所作出的最大规模的回应毫无新意,一点也不吸引人。但是事实上它仍然在搜索结果的相关度,排序的逻辑程度等基本问题上优于其他搜索引擎。比如当我搜索“Canon S95”时,它能够很聪明地把佳能公司关于PowerShot S95的页面放在首位。在Bing上搜索时,该页面排在了第二位,排在第一位的是以前提及过S95的网站页面。诸如此类的失误让我只是把Bing当做Google的补充,而不是首选。

Of course, Microsofthas the wherewithal to go on refining its search engine indefinitely if it chooses. Start-up companies don’t have that luxury, and more than one has proven that targeting Google is a little like opening a hamburger stand with the express goal of shattering the McDonald’s hegemony. (In Silicon Valley, one failed would-be Google killer, Cuil, is practically synonymous with overweening ambition.)

当然,微软有的是财力来继续优化它的搜索引擎。刚起步的公司就没有这样的雄心壮志,对他们来说,把Google当作对手就好像在街边开个汉堡包摊子,并幻想着要撼动麦当劳的霸主地位一样。

The founders of a newsite called Blekko wisely deny that they’re out to crush Google. But their service — slightly unappetizing name and all — sports the freshest approach of any all-new search engine to come along in quite a while. The big idea behind Blekko, which launched on Halloween, is the slash tag, a keyword you append to your query to restrict the search to a specific list of sites — ones with reputable information about a particular topic, for instance, or those of a particular political bent or specialists in a particular type of content like video.

Blekko搜索引擎的创建者明智地否认了他们的目标是打败Google。但是他们的服务提供了把所有新型搜索引擎汇集在一起的新方法。Blekko在万圣节前夜发布的这一功能是标签功能,用户可以将关键词附加在搜索请求里,将搜索限定在更为详细的网站列表中,比如那些关于某个特定话题的优质信息,某个政治话题的信息或者是某方面(例如视频)的信息。

Searching Blekko for”california /news,” for instance, pulls up different links from thosefound with “california /travel.” Likewise, entering “glenn beck/conservative” or “glenn beck /liberal” will get you wildly varying results. And when you don’t include a slashtag, the engine aims to put the most trustworthy sources up highest on the list. Search for “lungcancer,” for example, and you’ll get links to the National Institute ofHealth, WebMD, and the American Medical Association.

在Blekko里搜索诸如“california/news”(加州/新闻)的词条,会出现不同的链接,其中又会有“california/travel”(加州/旅游)这一的词条。同样地,输入“glenn beck/conservative”(葛林·贝克/保守)或者“glenn beck/liberal”(葛林·贝克/自由)也会出现很多不同的结果。当你没有加入标签的时候,搜索引擎会把最值得信任的搜索结果放在首位。例如搜索“lungcancer”,你会得到美国国立卫生研究院,医学网站,和美国医学会的网站。

The niftiest thingabout slashtags is that they’re not the result of Google-like automation.Instead, Blekko is taking a Wikipedia-style approach, letting its users create and edit tags. The results are still rough — my search results on Blekko aretoo often thick with stale links rather than up-to-the-minute stuff — but the idea is bursting with potential. (I didn’t use Wikipedia a couple of weeksafter it launched in 2001, but I’ll bet it was a tad spotty then too.)

标签最可取之处是它们不像是Google那样的自动化的结果。相反,Blekko运用了维基百科的方法,让用户自己创造和编辑标签。尽管搜索结果还略显粗糙,但是这个想法很有潜力。

Google may be abehemoth, but its market share is more fragile than you would think. There’s absolutely nothing stopping you from immediately dumping one search engine fora superior competitor — hey, just ask AltaVista. And even if you go back to Google again and again, as most of us do, it’s reassuring to know that alternatives such as Bing and Blekko are out there.

Google或许还是庞然大物,但是它的市场份额比你想象的要脆弱的多。没有什么能阻止客户摒弃一个搜索引擎转而使用另一个更优质的引擎,这一点只需要问问AltaVista就知道。如果用户一次又一次地回归Google,那只能证明其他竞争者,例如Bing和Blekko也只是昙花一现罢了。

 

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