/ politics

Is Google Enough?

Let me Google that for you

Few days ago, two U.S. senators have proposed a bill to force Government Agencies to use Google for their searches instead of the service provided by the National Technical Information Service (NTIS).

Honestly I think this is a provocation, since the short title (Let Me Google That For You Act) is the name of an ironic site that can be used to answer people asking you for trivial questions - and indirectly telling them that they made a stupid question.

Moreover, the NTIS is focused on technical publications, that are hard to find using a general-purpose search engine.

I Bet You Like U2 (*)

But my perplexity is related to the implied concept: everyone is able to to find what he needs using Google. No Sirs, this is simply not true. Without speaking about individual abilities to use a search engine, there are three major reasons why I'm sure about that.

  1. Google database don't include all the sites. There's a large part of Internet that is not (yet) indexed by search engines. And there are many pages behind paywalls that are not reachable without a registration.
  2. About 90% of people never go beyond the first page of results. And since many results on the first page are usually there because of SEO optimizations, they might not be significant for your search.
  3. Often people don't know if they have found the best answer. People usually search things that they don't know. This is obvious. But since they don't know in deep the argument, how can they pick the best answer for their needs?

This last point has a corollary: not all the sites returned by a search engine have the same level of authority. Some experience is needed to understand if a site, an author or an article is reliable or not. In addition, you have also to consider the mass of sensationalist headlines that aim only to gain some visit (this is known as clickbaiting).

Over all these consideration there is the time factor. How long an unexperienced person will take to find what she needs in the depht of Internet compared to the time needed by a skilled guy to query a database? And how many times the same thing will be searched by different people?

To Conclude, a Quote

If, indeed, the Internet has a lot to offer to those who know what they are looking for, it is also able to complete the stupidity of those who sail without a compass

- Laurent Laplante