If you're like most computer users, you search the Web in one of two ways. You use the default search engine that comes with your browser. Or you use Google.
Either approach can get you the information you're seeking. But sometimes there are better ways.
Google has been the online search leader for so long that it has changed the English language. To "google" something, spelled in lowercase, is to search for it on the Internet, according to popular dictionaries such as the Random House Dictionary.
In the latest findings of the Internet analytics company comScore (www.comscore.com), nearly exactly two-thirds of searches in the U.S.--66.7%--are performed using Google. Bing at 17.4% and Yahoo at 11.9% are significantly behind. Ask.com at 2.7% and AOL Search at 1.3% in turn are behind even further.
Google wasn't always the search market leader. In the mid to late 1990s, the search engine to use was Alta Vista. After Google was founded in 1997, Alta Vista went through five different owners before being acquired by Yahoo in 2003. Yahoo made news in July by shutting down Alta Vista, which virtually nobody was using anymore anyway.
Search engine companies pay browser and device companies lots of money to be their default search tool because searching brings in huge profits through advertising.
Microsoft initiated a big marketing push late last year to promote its search engine, Bing. Microsoft's "Bing it on" campaign was an attempt to prove to people that Bing search results are more relevant than those of Google, with relevancy being Google's claim to fame from its inception.
Apple in June announced that its Siri voice recognition system, popular with users of iPhone smartphones and iPad tablet computers, will use Bing instead of Google as the default search engine with the release of iOS 7, scheduled for release late in 2013.
Bing also made news recently because of security concerns. In April the German antivirus testing company AV-Test evaluated searches on different search engines and found that Bing delivered five times more websites hosting malware than Google.
According to pundits, however, this is no cause for alarm. The overall fraction of malware-infested sites was a tiny 0.012% of those found.
Ultimately, though, you want to select the search tool you use, not have it selected for you because the company behind it paid big bucks. One way is to simply go to the website of the particular search engine you'd like.
Another way is to change the default search engine used by your browser.
In the latest version of Microsoft Internet Explorer, click the gear icon in the top right of the browser window. Choose "Manage add-ons," then "Select Search Providers." Select the one you want and click "Set as default."
In Google Chrome, click the Chrome menu in the top right of the browser window--it consists of three short horizontal lines. Choose "Settings," then "Search." Select the search engine you want, then click "Make Default."
In Mozilla Firefox, click the small down-pointing triangle to the left of the search bar, which is to the right of the address bar at the top of browser window. Choose "Manage Search Engines." Move the search engine you want to the top of the list.
Sometimes using a specialized, lesser-known search tool can bring you better results than one of the big three. Here are seven more worth considering:
In the lucrative world of online search, abuses sometime take place. The Federal Trade Commission in June issued new rules designed to make it clearer to consumers which search results are returned because the company behind them paid for top placement.
As a result, search sites should do a better job in the future of distinguishing search results from advertising.
Reid Goldsborough is a syndicated columnist and author of the book Straight Talk About the Information Superhighway. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or reidgold.com.