Q: When are search engines at their most prophetic?
A: When you start typing the first letters into the
browser's search box and it races ahead to guess your query,
probably based on what others in your region have searched
for, says Swapnajit Mitra in "IEEE Spectrum" magazine, who
ran ABC tests on Google and Microsoft's Bing, the two most
popular engines. "The results can be surprisingly accurate
or amusingly off base," depending on the search engine used.
"But together Google and Bing offer a snapshot of the
world's 536.6 million English-language-using Internet
Some interesting Mitra findings: Of the initial
letters of the alphabet, 11 were the same for both engines,
including C (Craigslist), F (Facebook), G (Google), N
(Netflix), T (Target) and Y (Yahoo). Also, 21 (81 percent)
of Google's suggestions were names of organizations and
products, while Bing's total was 24 (about 92 percent).
"And it seems search engines don't like people very much:
Google's list shows only two, known mostly for their
notoriety. Recently Osama bin Laden and musical flash-in-
the-pan Rebecca Black shared this rare honor (and she was
soon gone). Bing's list is person-free."
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