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Search Engines for you

December 2004

The world of search engines is changing.  The next “big thing” is likely to be what’s become known as “Integrated Searching,” and at the moment there is a mad rush from all the industry players to persuade us to use their version.  As I write, Google is winning the race.

This is not really surprising, as they are used to moving fast. opened its door for business in 1998.  The door in question came with a remote control, as it was attached to a garage belonging to a friend of the two founders.  The garage owner retained access to his tumble drier.

Six years later the company has 2,000 employees, offices all over the world and a stock market value of about $36 billion.

That’s all pretty impressive, but they can’t afford to relax.  None of us has any real loyalty to a particular search engine; we just use the one that normally finds what we want, and that we find congenial.  For most of us, using is just as good as Ask Jeeves (, Amazon’s, Microsoft’s, or any of the others.  If it made life simpler we would change allegiance in an instant.

However, just think for a moment.  Computer memories keep getting bigger and faster, and we have all rapidly accumulated a vast archive of files and emails that are especially relevant to our lives.

So isn’t it pretty odd that, until now, it has been easier to search ten billion pages on the internet than it has been to find a single email or document in your own computer?

This is where Integrated Searching software comes in.  By using it, as well as searching the Internet as usual, you search what is already in your computer and, most importantly, a record of websites you have looked at in the past.

Google is one of the first to produce a bit of software that does the job.  You can download it for nothing at, although you’ll need a computer using Windows 2000 or Windows XP for it to work (that rules many of us out for the moment), and they have not yet developed a version for iMacs either.

They describe it as being “how our brains would work if we had photographic memories.”  It builds up an index of the text of almost everything on your computer, including the content of websites you’ve looked at since it has been installed, and the titles of things like music and pictures.

This should be very good news.  I do a lot of internet based research and frequently grind to a halt trying to re-find something that I looked at a while ago, but I’m dashed if I can remember where.  Integrated Searching changes that, and ploughs through everything I’ve been up to it on my behalf to find that little nugget I’ve lost.

What are the disadvantages?  Not many, that I can see.  I think it’s all good news.  There may be some privacy concerns; for example, it makes it easier for the person at the next desk to look through your computer when you are at lunch, but you can exclude specific sites and files from the index if need be.  It also sends some data back to Google – but you can opt out of most of that.

A new era of searching is being ushered in.  Microsoft and Yahoo are not far behind Google, and there are several independent software developers offering the same sort of thing ( is a good example).  In a few months time, I suspect we will wonder how we managed without it.