Searching for document formats

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I just read the article in InformationWeek called “Microsoft’s Search Share Continues To Decline”. I use Google search almost exclusively but occasionally I poke around on the other engines to see if they turn up anything interesting. While Microsoft did lose some search share, it was only 0.2%. It’s not good to lose share, but this wasn’t a big percentage. I know we’re talking about billions of hits, but this is still a relatively small number.

I use Google because the relevance is so high. The answer I’m looking for is usually in the first few search results, so I can find what I am looking for fairly quickly, if it was there to be found. For the other engines, I can never remember who outsources to whom, though it is obvious once you look at the results.

I decided to look up a few terms of recent interest, namely “ooxml,” “open xml,” and “odf”. Not surprisingly, Wikipedia is the top hit for all of these. Indeed, Wikipedia played a role in some of the early press about OOXML.

Anyway, beyond that the results vary as you can see for yourself. I’m not sure that there is anything really significant in the order of the results returned, but you may beg to differ.

For “open xml”, the result on Microsoft Live Search is pretty much all Microsoft all the time, except for Wikipedia, though you have to read the fine print at the very bottom of the sites to see that. The same is pretty much true for Google, though others manage to get some early hits.

For “ooxml”, we have less of a Redmond love-in from Live Search but it still leans toward saying neutral to good things about this product format description. Google is pretty much balanced but does feature the article “NoOOXML: It’s the document format from Hell – Microsoft Oh-Oh XML” as #2.

It’s for “odf” that things get more interesting. I find it odd that the Microsoft Live Search doesn’t manage to produce either OASIS (the standards organization that created the standard) or the ODF Alliance (the organization of 500+ members that is supporting the standard) within the top ten. It does manage to include three entries about the open source OpenXML/ODF translator that Microsoft sponsored.

Google’s search does pick up OASIS and the ODF Alliance, as well as Sun’s plugin for adding support for Microsoft Office as #9. Microsoft’s sponsored software comes in at #11. Both searches, to their credit, include the Oregon Department of Forestry. Indeed, Microsoft has this as #3. I like Oregon and I like trees. I find it hard to believe that the Oregon Department of Forestry is the third most popular or relevant search topic for “odf” in the world at the moment.

Yahoo differs from my opinion, though, as it has it as #1. However, they still manage to include OASIS and the ODF Alliance in the top ten. They also include the two plugins. Indeed, Yahoo probably has the most important sources in the top ten, followed closely by Google. Microsoft Live Search is just off the map.

I’m not sure there’s a concrete conclusion here though it is clear to me that Microsoft Live Search has the least useful and relevant set of links about ODF in the top ten beyond the Wikipedia entry. I find that odd. Perhaps they just have a really quirky relevance algorithm.

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