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Northern Light Moves to First Place

See also Total Size Estimates
Search Engine Statistics:
Database Relative Size

by Greg R. Notess

Data from search engine analysis run on Jan. 5, 1999

Bar chart

This chart compares the size of the databases of the Web search engines. For this comparison, I used 15 single keyword and phrase searches that should have been processed identically by each search engine. Since Infoseek and Northern Light automatically recognize word variants and plurals, those terms that could be pluralized were OR'ed together in search engines that do not support automatic plural searching. This may skew the results slightly.

This comparison is based on the reported number of hits from each database, verified by visiting the last page of results when possible. This is not a measure based on precision, recall, or relevance but only on the raw database size. For earlier comparisons see below:

Older Charts with Largest Three at that Time
January 1999:
August 1998:
May 1998:
February 1998:
October 1997:
September 1997:
June 1997:
October 1996:
Northern Light, AltaVista, HotBot
AltaVista, Northern Light, HotBot
AltaVista, HotBot, Northern Light
HotBot, AltaVista, Northern Light
AltaVista, HotBot, Northern Light
Northern Light, Excite, HotBot
HotBot, AltaVista, Infoseek
HotBot, Excite, AltaVista

While decisions about which Web search engine to use should not be based on size alone, this information should be part of the decision. See also statistics on the lack of overlap between the search engines, unique hits, dead links, and the change over time.

Note 1 *Since Google! does not do phrase searching, the total number of hits on Google! is estimated using the known total hits from ten search and averaging the others based on how Google!'s percentage compares to the other search engines on the known searches.

Note 2 *With HotBot now grouping hits under the site, it is nearly impossible to calculate a total number of hits. The number reported as of the date of this comparison is actually the number of sites, or an estimate thereof. After consulting with technical people at both HotBot and Inktomi, the numbers were obtained by running the same searches on Anzwers and According to Inktomi, on the date of the comparison, both of these databases were running on the same cluster as HotBot. The results were compared from the smallest searches on HotBot and showed the same hits as on Anzwers and While there is no guarantee that the same will hold true on any other date, it should provide an accurate representation of the HotBot database for the date on which these comparisons were run--Jan. 5, 1999.

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©1999 by Greg R. Notess all rights reserved