Google to Overture: Mine’s Bigger

Overture and Google have fired new salvos in the search engine size wars, expanding their databases of searchable web pages by millions of pages.

Overture announced last week that it had increased the size of its AlltheWeb database to 3,151,743,117 pages, claiming the title of world’s largest search index. The new index was about 68 million pages larger than Google’s claimed 3,083,324,652 pages.

Yesterday, Google upped the ante, updating its home page to report “searching 3,307,998,701 web pages.” The change was made without comment by Google.

The two companies have a history of competing for bragging rights over their index sizes.

Although the search engine size wars have been going on since the early days of web search, the competition between Google and AlltheWeb started in January 2000, when AlltheWeb announced that it had indexed more than 300 million pages.

Google responded in June of that year, announcing that it had increased its index to more than 500 million pages. Google subsequently made two more announcements, in June and December 2001, when its index passed the one billion and 1.5 billion marks.

The most recent skirmish between the engines was in the summer of 2002, when AlltheWeb increased its index size to 2.1 billion documents, narrowly edging out Google’s 2,073,418,204 reported web pages. Google responded in November, claiming 4 billion “searchable” documents, with 3 billion fully indexed.

It’s a safe bet we’ll continue to see the rivalry continue, especially as Overture moves forward with its plans to integrate the AlltheWeb and AltaVista search indexes. While AltaVista’s web index is significantly smaller than AlltheWeb’s, AltaVista claims it has the largest multimedia index of audio and video web content, consisting of more than 550 million files.

Though Overture’s announcement last week focused on AlltheWeb’s enhanced index, it also included an intriguing, easily overlooked passage: “…the launch features several significant relevance enhancements that will improve the ranking of URLs. These features include a new method of determining how authoritative a page or site is on a specific topic as well as overall page quality.”

Now that’s good news. Stay tuned — we’ll be following up with Overture to learn more about these enhancements to AlltheWeb’s relevance algorithms.

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