Search engine and terminology

Search engines are a pretty hot topic on-line. The big companies keep adding services and features. And new ones keep popping all the time, trying to present new features and techniques in order to get a piece of the market.

And they all get coverage in the news, or do their own press releases.

A couple of those I saw recently had some terminology problems that really irked me, though. I know, I know, reading something about a search engine, and being mostly bothered about a few wrong words is petty. But still.

The first one was a report on Exalead. I’ve played a bit with Exalead beta in the past (Like many other online services these days it has been in beta stage for a long time), and overall it’s pretty nice. It has some nice features and interface ideas, but it does have its quirks and problems as well.

The part that bothered me in the article (well, the terminological issue, anyway. There were a few other article parts I didn’t exactly agree with and that felt more like hype than an actual reporting or review) though, wasn’t in something about Exalead itself. It was in this paragraph describing the competition:

Bourdoncle’s ambition is to crack the top five in Web search, which is now led by Google, followed by Yahoo, Microsoft, Time Warner and Ask.

Everyone heard of Google. And yes, Yahoo is pretty big in search as well, and doing a good job at it. Microsoft has also added some changes and improvement, and are working on getting better search result. And Ask too have increased features and made significant advances, moving from what was once a rather sad search engine to one that seems to have a good chance of gaining a higher position in the top five.

But Time Warner? That made me stop in my tracks reading it. Time Warner have a search engine?! Since when? What are they talking about? Heck, I know and have heard of quite a lot of small, even tiny, search engines, and yet never heard of any Time Warner one. No way it became one of the big five.

And then it hit me. AOL. The guy who wrote that article, Dan Farber is someone with a lot of experiene in the field, and should really know better. Yet he decided that due to the AOL – Time Warner merger it would be correct to refer to AOL’s search engine as Time Warner.

The search engine is AOL. Not Time Warner. Referring to it as Time Warner shows a stunning lack of understanding, and a total lack of connection to anything going on in the search area. I really do hope that this wasn’t in the original post, but was maybe changed by some idiotic marketing guy who is in charge of “correcting” their posts before publishing (Though such a practice is a problem all by itself).

But regardless of how it got there, the second I saw something like that on the article it immediately made everything else there suspect. A reader can’t be expect to trust anything appearing on an article by someone who broadcasts so loudly that he doesn’t have a clue. If he’s capable of referring to Time Warner as a big search engine (and never mind that AOL’s search engine isn’t particularly good, it is big at least) then he’s clueless.

The second case is from a post by Yahoo, about them releasing the Yahoo Answers service from beta.

This post is on Yahoo’s search blog, where supposedly people actually have a clue about search.

And they also provide a link for adding their Yahoo Answers as a search engine in the Firefox browser. There are two problems with that link, however.

The first is a purely technical one. It doesn’t point to a place which adds their Yahoo Answers service as a search engine in Firefox. Instead it directs to the general page for adding search engines to the search bar in Firefox. If someone wants to they can search for the Yahoo Answers there and add it, but that’s not what the idea of linking to adding the search engines is supposed to be. Nor do they explain near the link that people following it will have to go on searching for it manually. Currently there’s a second link from the main page, but that varies, and can change…

The second one is the terminology item which again gave me a start. They referred to the link as one to add Yahoo Answers as a search repository in Firefox. Yes, that’s right, not a search engine, but a search repository.

I have no idea what a search repository is (Someplace where people can keep their searches?), but this is most definitly not it. Firefox doesn’t have support for search repositories. It has a toolbar for search engines. Engines.

You’d expect a company who has a search engine as a major product to know what a search engine is, and that it’s called a search engine. But they apparently don’t.

And those two aren’t all the articles, press releases, and official posts, which contain terminology errors. Just a small sample.

I can allow myself to make mistakes here from time to time. It’s a personal blog, I’m not an authority on anything, and I don’t represent anyone. But for anything official, by a news service or a large company, this is not the case. They shouldn’t make these mistakes. It leaves a really bad impression.

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