Search machines are the usual tool everyone uses to find data in the internet. On the other hand, the Wikipedia is one of the typical places where you can find information (I do not judge now the quality of the information, that can be done somewhere else). So how are they connected? Which search machine delivers which search result?
The “Hommingberger Gepardenforelle” (german only, sorry)-test indicated already that MSN does not list the Wikipedia as soon as Google or Yahoo do. So I decided to take another test:
I took 500 featured articles of the german Wikipedia, and fed their titles into four search machines with different engines: Yahoo, Google, Seekport and MSN. I then checked the first ten pages if there was a link to the Wikipedia. If the link was on the first page, I gave 10 points, if it was on the second page, the search machine got 9 points, … – I think you got the idea: maximum 5,000.
What you have to keep in mind: the articles I took were the 500 oldest: that means that these are the longest existing still featured articles of the wikipedia (sometimes a featured article can be deselected). The advantage in this case is that these articles are around for a pretty long time and that every search machine had already more than enough time to index them.
So: what does it mean?
Well, Google is the Wikipedia-most-friendly – not surprising since it is somehow well known that google likes Wikipedia. They offered servers some time ago, for example. Yahoo is on the second place, close to Google, which is also not surprising since they works together with the Wikipedia Foundation. The third place belongs to Seekport, which is also close to the other two places. And MSN is the Wikipedia-least-friendly search machine, which is not surprising in a way since MSN has it’s own encyclopaedia which they probably prefer.
Without knowing the details of the ranking and rating algorithms of the search machines someone can only guess, but it is pretty clear that MSN heavily discriminates the Wikipedia compared to other search machines. Other questions come up know: who is also discriminated by MSN search? Other competitors like instant messengers? Other competitors like business software vendors? Other office suites? There can be also a hidden discrimination: imagine that you could not find howtos or something over MSN as long as you are searching for competitors software. And what is with the MSN desktop search? Does the desktop search also discriminate other things which competite with Microsoft?
And what is with opinions? Are they discriminated?
This means something for the Wikipedia, and it is nothing good: With MSN the Wikipedia falls behind the first pages, and is often listed somewhere in the back – if at all. Since the upcomming Vista will have MSN as standard search we will see the fall of Google to somewhere in the ranges of the usage of firefox today: used only by these who are willing and able to change the default settings, and this is a minority compared to the rest default-users. This has happened several times before with other companies which were attacked by the monopolist, and there is no reason why that should change this time.
Additionally there are rumors that Yahoo could be bought by Microsoft – with the result that soon Wikipedia should list Wikipedia in a similar way as MSN does.
So after Vista has spread over the most computers the Wikipedia will become more and more invisible since no one will find it through search results anymore. Sure, as with Google there will be quite a lot of people who are already used to the service and will continue using it, but no one can say at the moment how many these will be, and how big their influence will be – I’m just afraid that it will not count so much…
The conclusion: here is an advice for anyone using MSN (search) and likes Wikipedia: don’t use MSN. Or, to be political correct, you can also send the MSN team a mail that you don’t like their kind of rating and ranking in case of the Wikipedia and ask for other discriminations – would be the first time the monopolist would move ;-)