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Automatic Evaluation of World Wide Web Search Services

Users of the World-Wide Web are not only confronted by an immense overabundance of information, but also by a plethora of tools for searching for the web pages that suit their information needs. Web search engines differ widely in interface, features, coverage of the web, ranking methods, delivery of advertising, and more. In this paper, we present a method for comparing search engines automatically based on how they rank known item search results. Because the engines perform their search on overlapping (but different) subsets of the web collected at different points in time, evaluation of search engines poses significant challenges to the traditional information retrieval methodology. Our method uses known item searching; comparing the relative ranks of the items in the search engines’ rankings. Our approach automatically constructs known item queries using query log analysis and automatically constructs the result via analysis of editor comments from the ODP (Open Directory Project). Additionally, we present our comparison on five (Lycos, Netscape, Fast, Google, HotBot) well-known search services and find that some services perform known item searches better than others, but the majority are statistically equivalent.

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