Searching for the right engine

So, you’ve had it with Windows failing on you just when you need it the most? Want to give Bill Gates a piece of your mind or commiserate with others experiencing similar problems? So you type in a search for “Bill Gates” in AltaVista Co.’s search engine.

While a search engine like Google Inc.’s will first list serious sites for those genuinely interested in finding out more about the computer mogul, a search on AltaVista will bring up slightly different results.

In AltaVista, the first pages listed were sites called Bill Gates Deconstructed, Bill Gates Net Worth Page and Punch Bill Gates. When you click on the last one, a picture of Gates and the words “Let him have it!” appear. When you click on Gates’ face, a hand comes out, punches him and knocks out his two front teeth.

A search for the same topic using Lycos Network’s HotBot turned up a site curiously titled Bill Gates: the Man, the Myth, the Lovin’ Machine.

Those interested in finding more serious information may be better off using Google. Its search engine is based on a circular mathematical theory that good authorities on the Web point to each other. The first sites listed are Microsoft’s Home Page, Bill Gates Web Site and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. (However, More Cream Pies for Bill Gates does make to the top 10.)

But Google’s theory that good authorities point to one another might have a flaw in it if the opposite is also true – if bad sites also point to one another.

A search for the words “great movies,” for instance, turned up some unexpected results. The first site listed was Ebert’s Great Movies, which, depending on your opinion of Roger Ebert, may or may not be a good authority. But the second site came with an adult contents warning, which probably isn’t what comes to most people’s mind when they think of the greatest movies ever made.