Search Engine Showdown
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Fast Keeps 1st Place!
Search Engine Statistics: Database Relative Size
by Greg R. Notess

Data from search engine analysis run on Sept. 9-10, 1999

Fast Search still in First Place
AOL Netfind added
Excite moves up
See Total Size Estimate page for actual database size estimates.

While Fast maintained first place, the gap between it and Northern Light shrank and Northern Light found more on 8 searches as compared to only 5 searches in the August comparison. Excite has been saying the it will significantly grow the size of its database. These results show it moving up in the rankings from 10th to 6th. AOL Netfind has been added since it now uses its own Inktomi database rather than a mirror copy of the Excite database.

This chart compares the size of the databases of the Web search engines. For this comparison, I used 25 single keyword and phrase searches that are processed almost identically by each search engine. Bar Chart 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. Since all language cannot be searched on Excite simultaneously, the searches were done in each language and the total results used. These and other inconsistencies between the search engines 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. As such, it provides an important measure of database coverage. For earlier comparisons see below:

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

While decisions about which Web search engine to use should not be based on size alone, this information is especially important when looking for very specific keywords, phrases, and areas of specialized interest. See also the following statistical analyses: