The Browser Search War Winners, or The Column I Didn’t Want You to Read

So a funny thing happened on the way to publication.

I wrote the column below Sunday night. I didn’t even finish it. As I wrapped it up, I felt like it was really all about Firefox, and the rest of it didn’t matter, and there wasn’t too much of what’s new here.

So I wrote another column. One I was pretty happy with. A little lifestyle-ish, not as deep – but I thought a better read.

I sent in my column earlier than usual. Except I sent in the wrong column. Just attached the wrong file. D’OH!

Anyway, since it’s out there on MediaPost, I’ll put up the other column. It’s not my favorite. I didn’t even finish it. I’ll publish the one I meant to shortly.

Thanks for bearing with me. We’ll soon return to our regularly scheduled writing.

The Browser Search War Winners

Posted October 7th, 2008 by David Berkowitz

With
browsers turning their address bars into search bars, as we discussed
last week, which browser delivers the best search experience?

I assembled a panel of judges (OK, me) and put together a
scientifically ironclad roster of searches (what came to mind while
watching TV Sunday night) and put them to the test. All searches were
conducted at the same time. The goal was to discover which browsers
among Firefox 3.0.3, Google Chrome 0.2.149.30, and Internet Explorer
8.0.6 (the latest versions) were the best at delivering the most
relevant sites from searches conducted through their address bars. When
results led to a page of search results, I stuck with the browsers’
default engines: Google for Chrome and Firefox, and Live Search for IE8.

Shamwow
I saw a commercial for the Shamwow, a
towel that sops up everything. By the looks of it, you can put this
towel in the Atlantic Ocean, sop it all up, and then dump it out in the
Pacific. If we haven’t figured out enough ways to screw with the
planet, this might be the next best thing to cloud seeding.
Firefox: It went right to Shamwow.com, the official site.
Chrome: It brought up a search, with Shamwow.com listed first.
IE: It brought up a search, with an ad for rival cloth Zorbees advertising above Shamwow.com as the first natural link.
Verdict: Firefox is a time-saver here.

Giants
For sports fans, this is a somewhat ambiguous search. According to Google Trends,
searches for the San Francisco Giants tend to be highest March through
August (a sign of a team not often in playoff contention), and searches
for New York Giants surge August through early January (last season’s
Super Bowl run was one major exception, reaching record levels in early
February). Since 2004, searches on the generic "giants" have been 10
times either of the locally modified queries. Right now, of course,
it’s football season, so engines could presumably tweak results based
on what’s currently relevant.
Firefox: It led to Google’s search
results with a brief football box score from NFL.com followed by the NY
Giants official site at Giants.com.
Chrome: Same as Firefox.
IE: Its search results brought up Giants.com as the top link.
Verdict: For
someone who sought a quick recap of the game, Chrome won out by
providing relevant information, more than was easily evident on
Giants.com with a quick scan.

Mortgage Rates
Many now are more worried about qualifying for a mortgage rather than just the rates, but it’s still a perennially hot search.
Firefox: You’re taken directly to Bankrate.com. How’s that for prime placement?
Google: Search results have Mortgage101.com as the top natural result, under a slew of ads.
IE: Bankrate tops the search results, but well down the page under ads and a section for top news articles.

Mortgage Calculator
After the first test, I
went back to Google Trends and found this query is more than twice as
popular as "mortgage rates", and it’s typically more of a 3:1 margin,
except for Q1 2008, where rates twice briefly topped calculators.
Firefox: It brought me right to mortgage-calc.com.
Chrome: Search results had the same site up top for natural results.
IE: Its search results had Bankrate on top, preventing Mortgage-Calc.com from the hatrick.

Obama and McCain
I ran the one-word last-name searches.
Firefox: You go right to barackobama.com and johnmccain.com. I just
noticed, in a somewhat ironic twist given their demographic strengths,
that Obama’s site looks far more buttoned up and McCain’s looks much
more youthful.
Chrome: Search results have the candidates’ official sites on top.
IE: For Obama, search results have two ads on top — first for the
official site, and then, puzzlingly, for search.live.com/cashback,
where you can buy Obama books and Halloween masks. Then there are
images, news results, and then the official site topping natural
results. For McCain, there’s just the one ad for McCain’s site, then
several news results, and then Wikipedia’s McCain page topping
McCain.com.

MediaPost
Firefox goes to MediaPost.com. Chrome and IE search, with MediaPost.com coming out on top.

Apple
Same as MediaPost, with Firefox directing to Apple.com and the others searching.

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