On the eve of Microsoft's long anticipated launch of MSN Search, Google is reporting on its home page that its index size has nearly doubled. Google now claims that it is now "Searching 8,058,044,651 web pages." Earlier today, a search for the word "the" returned nearly 11 billion results, a far larger number than officially reported on the home page. No matter which numbers you believe, it's a significant expansion of Google's web database.
Will this big increase in Google's index make a difference to searchers? Perhaps. Traditionally these volleys in the search engine size wars have meant little, but have been picked up by the media because they are tangible and easy to report.
But Google hasn't just increased the size of its index. It has also been working hard on other aspects of the search engine, dropping hints for the past six months of major impending changes in the way the search engine calculates results. Algorithm changes combined with a much larger database may ultimately result in major changes for our web searches.
So yes, this is yet another brilliant PR move by Google that will certainly steal some of Microsoft's thunder on its big announcement day. But it may also portend significant changes in Google search results. Or not. Only time will tell.