Looking through some stats on the blog recently I noticed that someone had searched using this phrase:

tfs cc.net versioing

Note the missing N in versioNing.

Now if you put the same query into Google, Live.com, Yahoo you get interesting results:

First: Live.com


Now Yahoo!


And finally Google


So why is Google the best? All 3 search engines typically return results with clean layouts, let you look at cached versions of the page and return results quickly.  But only one engine is truly usable.  Only one engine is forgiving of typing mistakes.  Only one engine returned results.

Google found that there was a typo and went ahead and searched on what it thought the word was meant to be.  If you searched with the word versions instead, Google will give you results that contain both version & versions.

Live.com detected the typo, but didn't offer anything further than a message telling me I can't spell. Click again doofus!

Yahoo! couldn't even tell that there was a mistake!

And as for the little "help" tips that Yahoo! and Live.com show when there are no results?  Well, with a bit of programming computers can spell better than people, they can tell what more general forms of words are, and they can lookup synonyms for what you typed.  In fact, this is what Google does when you screw up.  The only time you get no results from Google is when you type in something so badly misspelled no-one can tell what it should be.

It's this massive usability edge that keeps Google on top.  If another search engine showed up with better usability than Google people would start switching.  Remember AltaVista anyone? It was the dominant search engine of it's time, and then Google came along and showed how easy search could really be and everyone switched.  (P.S. AltaVista is still there - and it also returned nothing in the search, but then again it's owned by Yahoo! so that's to be expected) There's nothing that would stop the same from potentially happening again, though it would be quite a mountain to climb. There's an extremely large dominance factor to overcome. Have a look at these web stats from the last few weeks of my blog for an idea:


Yes indeed. That's a huge lead to try and overcome.