dimanche 1 février 2009

Rapport intermédiaire de thèse

Salut à tous,

Comme promis je vous publie mon rapport intermédiaire de thèse.
Pour le télécharger cliquez sur le lien suivant (mais il vous faudra un compte gratuit sur slideshares):
Lien pour la thèse
Le rapport final est prévu pour juin.
Bonne lecture.

Risks of search engine dependency and its influence on data quality

Thesis intermediate report submitted for the European Master in Business Studies
Institut de Management de l'Université de Savoie d'Annecy (FR)
Università degli studi di Trento (IT)
Universität Kassel (GER)
Universidad de León (SP)
Date of submission: 26th January, 2009
Master Thesis


Chapter 1: Introduction of the topic background..........................................................8
1.1 Relevance of the subject...................................................................................10
1.2 Major terms......................................................................................................11
1.3 Focus, goals and structure of the report...........................................................11
Chapter 2: Concept of data quality.............................................................................13
2.1 Data quality definition......................................................................................14
2.2 The importance of data quality.........................................................................15
Chapter 3: Search engines dependency.......................................................................16
3.1 Search engine market configuration.................................................................17
3.1.1 Search engine categories..........................................................................17
3.1.2 Search engine market...............................................................................19
3.1.3 The search engines in the world...............................................................19
3.1.4 The search engine market shares per country...........................................22
3.1.5 The search engines competition...............................................................23
3.1.6 The semantic web.....................................................................................24
3.2 Search engines dependency aspect...................................................................25
3.2.1 Search engines dependency proves..........................................................25
3.2.2 Search engines dependency aspect...........................................................27
3.3 Search engines dependency problems..............................................................28
3.3.1 Privacy issues...........................................................................................29
3.3.2 Looking for other search engines.............................................................30
3.3.3 Search engine awareness..........................................................................30
3.3.4 Other search engines existence awareness...............................................32
3.3.5 Less confident regarding other search engines.........................................33
3.3.5 Less confident regarding other search engines.........................................33
3.3.6 Even the best cannot provide you everything...........................................34
Chapter 4: Risks of search engines dependency and its influence on data quality.....35
4.1 The information has been found but is poor....................................................36
4.2 What the search engines do not tell you...........................................................36
4.3 The best way to get data quality.......................................................................37
4.3.1 The sub-search engines.............................................................................37
4.3.2 The size of the Internet.............................................................................38
4.3.3 Single search engine Internet coverage....................................................39
4.3.4 Multiple search engine Internet coverage.................................................42
4.3.5 Others search engine Internet coverage....................................................44
4.3.6 A concrete representation of the World Wide Web...................................46
4.4 The gap between search engine dependency and data quality.........................47
Chapter 5: The Google example.................................................................................50
5.1 Google..............................................................................................................51
5.2 Google's success...............................................................................................51
5.3 Google dependency state..................................................................................52
5.4 Google functions..............................................................................................52
5.5 Google added functionalities............................................................................53
5.6 Google success is his weakness.......................................................................53
5.7 Google's disappearance hypothesis..................................................................54
List of literature...........................................................................................................57


As most of the students who has a computer one of my first move when I
wake up is to switch on the computer and to spend my first twenty minutes of the day
on the Internet.
From there I have a look at the last news, I check my e-mails and eventually
exchange some few words with a couple of friends by using online chat applications.
I also check my other email account as well as my blogs and analyze the traffic I got
during the last few days, to finish this process I consult my advertisement account to
see if I got some revenues. I often use as well search engine to look for information
which just came up into my mind during the night.
In the paragraph you just read was the description of my morning routine on
Internet. There is nothing special except that most of the moves I described above are
in fact done on two to three major search engines: Google, Yahoo and Microsoft.
I hardly ever use Yahoo or Microsoft for search purpose but Google is for
sure the website I visit the most to crawl the web but... is Google the Internet?
I got the idea to write about: « Risks of search engine dependency and its
influence on data quality » not because I was using all those Google applications
everyday and was scared about what will happen if I get in troubles with Google
such as privacy issues or if Google just closed. I just write about it because one day I
found Google results not accurate enough.
And from this observation a lot of questions came to my mind:
· Is it me who is not good enough at performing research on the Internet?
· Is it because no one wrote about the information I am looking for?
· Is it because the information is not on the first pages in Google that I have to
browse all the pages in order to find it?
· Is it because Google is not good enough?
· Is it because the information is hidden in some other documents such as PDF,
pictures, videos?
· Is it because I have to use another way to crawl the web and if yes how?
You see here how a simple observation can raise a lot of questions.
I hesitated a lot about writing on this topic, the main problem I got was that I
was not convinced that there is a potential risk of being search engine dependent. The
reason is that companies such as Google are working hard in order to fit Internet
users expectations and the vision we get is that they are doing a wonderful work. The
problem is that there could be a difference between perception and real facts and this
is exactly what I am eager to discover here.
Can we measure how huge is the gap between the information we were
looking for and the one of search engines as Google are providing us?
Search engines are set up to find information on the Internet, information
being the basis of any good decisions making we can then understand how important
and interesting it is to write on this topic.
I hope you will appreciate this reading as much as I did when making my

Chapter 1: Introduction of the topic background

I will not surprise you if I say that Internet has been created to share
information and to communicate with each others.
It is hard to evaluate how big is the Internet, estimations among companies
are very different, it varies from 15 to some 30 billion Web pages1. The number of
websites is increasing everyday and estimated at 185,167,8972 with a constant
augmentation since the creation of the world wide web.

Illustration 1: Total Sites Across All Domains August 1995 - January 2009

Habits have changed since the creation of the Internet and websites are used now in
diverse manners if it comes to be a standard for companies (recognized as a mark of
trust, seriousness and quality) it is also a space for many individuals (blog
phenomenon). As an example regarding France, in June 2008 14% of French people
above 12 year-old which means 22% of French Internet users are authors of a blog or
a website3.
The banalization of the Internet and the fact that anyone can create his own
website for free increase the feeling we have regarding the Internet: a true jungle of
information and even sometimes real “dump” regarding information accuracy.
Websites can be accessible through three channels:
· Direct access (for example you know the website address by heart, you put it
in your favorites or you find a website on a business card and you are typing
it in the address bar);
· External links (you access to a website which has the link of another
website, this is the case in most of websites, catalogs, advertisement);
· Through Search Engines (you use a dedicated application by typing in some
keywords in order to get suggestions of what you are looking for);
As you can see from this list if you use only the first two ways to crawl the
web it comes to be too rigid and not wide enough. It has been said as well that the
first way is disappearing more and more in profit of search engines4.
So one could say that there is currently two main ways to crawl the web, from
link to link and by using search engine.
This last one being indispensable in order to crawl the web properly.
More and more information are put on the Internet which makes it
come a true jungle. The only way to crawl those information properly
is to use search engines.

1.1 Relevance of the subject

Internet is becoming more and more our information provider. "In 2002 a
study from the U.S. Department of Commerce estimated that 36% of the American
public over the age of 3 used the Internet to search for product and service
information in 2001. This usage represented a substantial increase in information
search behavior from 2000, when 26% of the American public reported using the
Internet to search for product and service information."5
Between 2000 and 2008 the USA got an increase of Internet users of 130,9
%6 we can then imagine how important is searching information through Internet
The number of Internet users is estimated to 1,463,632,361 (world population
6,676,120,288) with a growth rate from 2000-2008 fixed at 305.5 %7.

1.2 Major terms

In this thesis you will hear a lot about the following terms: search engines,
search engine dependency and data quality.
Search engine is the most flexible technology which has been created in
order to crawl the web. A search engine is no more than a web application which is
processing data. A search engine does not create data it just process some
information it has in his index.
I describe search engine dependency as the fact that one does not make the
choice between one search engine and another. Search engine dependency is very
relevant in most of the countries. Most of the people are using only one single search
engine when performing requests on the web. I will speak as well about bad habits
when dealing with search engines. For example you can be dependent of using a
search engine but using it badly.
Data quality is the quality of data. Data are of high quality "if they are fit for
their intended uses in operations, decision making and planning ". Alternatively, the
data are deemed of high quality if they correctly represent the real-world construct to
which they refer. These two views can often be in disagreement, even about the same
set of data used for the same purpose8.

1.3 Focus, goals and structure of the report

The focus of this work is to show if there are some risks of being search
engine dependent and if there are some, is the gap of information significant
between a search engine to another?
Goals are numerous:
· to put in evidence how bad it is to be dependent of an unique search engine;
· to show how important it is to have reliable information;
· to show how big is the gap between a general search engine and a specialized
· to look for alternatives if tomorrow the main search engines disappear;
· to show the weaknesses of general search engines;
· to show and discover other search engines and put in evidence their
· to show that general search engines are not well used;
· to discover the future expectations people have regarding search engines and
what are the coming technologies in this field;
The structure of the report should be done as follow:
The first idea is to introduce the concept of data quality. We all go on
search engines in order to find information whatever it is or at least to find the
answer to one of our question (how much does a Paris-Berlin train ticket costs? What
is the weather in New York? What is the last result of our favorite soccer team?).
The second point is about Data quality which is very interesting in order to
understand why search engines exist.
The next point is dealing with the world of search engines and the
dependency which is outcome from them.
Analyzing the world of search engines is fundamental to understand how
Internet is not as rational as we could think (search engines may be not the Internet,
search engines may be different from a country to another).
Then we will have a look on figures which show quite clearly that people are
not using several search engines when making research on the Internet but an unique
one that I will define as the dependency concept.
Once this definition given I will focus on the heart of this work which are the
risks that this dependency provide and its influence on data quality.
Google being in Europe the most used search engine I will use it as a major
example in my last part.

Chapter 2: Concept of data quality

When I firstly decided to write about the concept of data quality for search
engine I did not mean at the beginning that data has to be perfect. I just meant that
when I write a request on any search engine I expect to have as results some
answers which fit to my expectations. The last example I have in mind is when on
the 31th of December a friend of mine looked for the « average height of Korean
people » (request were made on Google) and all the results on the page were dealing
about the « average size of the sexual organs of Korean people ». I have high doubts
that no information regarding the average height of Korean people does not exist on
the web it however has been what Google seemed to tell me.
Here as you can see in this example it raises a lot of issues regarding data
quality. My first expectation regarding data quality was then to get some results
which fit to my request. But looking it deeper what is the value of a supposed correct
answer that I could have found written by someone like you and I (not specialized in
this topic).
In fact here everything depends on how professional the data as been written,
this is what I am explaining in this chapter.

2.1 Data quality definition

“This part needs additional information and improvements and is then not
finished yet.”
Data quality is defined by four criteria:
· Accuracy: it means that the information has to be true so based on real facts.
Here we see the importance of having the source of the document.
· Timely: the data given has to be dated. The most striking example could be
the one with stock exchange, what is the value of a data regarding a currency
change without the date?
· Meaningful: here it comes back to what I was explaining in the introduction.
Does the result fits with my request? What is the color of a frog? The answer
is green, is it useful? Yes but is it complete?;
· Complete: an information can be for sure useful but will be far more useful if
it is complete.
Here is then the minimum vital of data quality.

2.2 The importance of data quality

“This part needs additional information and improvements and is then not finished
As I mentioned it there are two levels of data quality:
· Poor quality one: for example you and I are looking for information
whatever it is in order to get a quick answer or even a mere comment. Here
two theories are facing each other:
▪ An information should be given even if it is possibly wrong. It of
course can be useless if the information is a hoax but will it be in the
case of a warning of a terrorist attack?
▪ An information should be given only if it is 100% accurate. Here it is
interesting in order to not create polemical situations for nothing.
There are no rational choice to make here, sometimes you need to use the first
theory and sometimes the other one.
I would describe poor quality data as mass consumption information which
mean good enough for “lambda” people but not that useful for businesses and even
less for researchers. With the increasing of Internet users more and more mass
consumption data are created and of course their number is bypassing the one of
quality ones.
· High quality one: here we find the data which fits the four criteria I
described above. High quality data are useful in order to take complex and
rational decisions.

Chapter 3: Search engines dependency

In order to understand well this part we should have firstly a look at the
search engine market configuration. Even if for a lot of people search engine is a
synonym of Google it may be not true for some other people. I made a strong effort
during this work to make it as global as possible. Europe is good as well as the
United States but we will never got the all answers of our issues if we always
consider these two parts of the world.

3.1.1 Search engine categories

3.1 Search engine market configuration
3.1.1 Search engine categories
The world of search engines is not as uniformed as we could have think. I
until now identified three kind of search engines:
· Standard: the most well known search engines such as www.google.com,
www.livesearch.com (Microsoft) , Ask (http://www.ask.com/?o=312) they are
looking for any kind of information through the Internet and are characterized
by a very light interface:

Illustration 2: A light interface: the homepage of the search engine www.ask.fr

· Portals: may be the most complex search engines to analyze on a figures
point of view. Portals are characterized by a lot of information on their home
page including the search engine function. It is then difficult to make the
difference here between the success of the portal and the success of the search
engine on this web page. The best example I found is the one of mail.ru
which is the most visited website in Russia far before Google. It seems when
looking at the search engine statistics that the research made on Mail.ru are
not accounted or that no one is using the search function of Mail.ru. So it is
sometimes hard to measure the success of some search engines. The most
well known portal is Yahoo.
Illustration 3: Home page of the Mail.ru portal

Specialized search engines: they to my point of view belong to a
subcategory of the first group. The major problem of standard search engines
is that they are too big. Specialized search engines are then no more than a
special function which is working as a filter. It is then far more easier to find
the information you are looking for on a specific website rather than using
standard ones. A good example of it can be the one of Ebay, it is of course far
more convenient to go on the Ebay website and use the search engine directly
from there rather than going on Google and writing a request such as 'Ebay
buying socks'. I mentioned it again but in most of the cases specialized search
engines are not a revolution they are just one part of standard search engine
and are not a new technology by themselves.

3.1.2 Search engine market

The search engine market is segmented by an enormous leader: Google, a
follower who is far from him: Yahoo and a large amounts of small search engines.
The dominant position of Google may stay for years and years and only a technical
revolution could really jeopardized him.

Illustration 4: Top 10: Search websites in the world August 2007
As you can see here I identified what we could call « The big four » which
represents the four major search engines. Then comes three specialized search
engines (7,49% all together) but their success are limited to the size of the website
they are browsing. Then came in last positions what I would called the dead
champions which once have been great and well known search engines but which
are nowadays in decline and will one day probably disappear.

3.1.3 The search engines in the world

The more I study the E-world and the more I realize that the web is exactly
the reflect of our society but in a non-physical aspect. Internet did not break cultural
differences and search engines really show it.
As we just saw Google represents 6 research out of 10 in the world but does it
mean that each country in the world has a population of 60% Google users?
To answer this question let's have a look at the following map:
Illustration 5: The most visited website by country

As we can see here the world is not covered entirely by Google. We clearly
have some Google countries, Yahoo countries, Mail.ru countries and so on and so
We can however notice some striking information such as almost all the
American continent is using Google as well as Europe, Northern Africa and
Southern Africa, Australia, India. In one word almost all countries which have strong
links with the Anglo-Saxon culture.
Then comes what I would qualified as a cultural wall which is starting in
Eastern Europe and which is finishing in Russia. Here are the ex-soviet countries. I
unfortunately have no concrete proves of what I am saying but I suppose that there is
a kind of a « boycott of American technologies » and support of Russian
technologies. The recent partnership between Yandex (main search engine in Russia)
and the browser Firefox raised those suspicions10.
Russia is not the only country in this situation, China also. The recent
advertisement broadcast by Baidu (the leader search engine in China) shows clearly
the will that Chinese public institutions are ready to protect their territory.11
As you can see Asia is the region where Google is the least present. It is also
the continent where are gathering a lot of different search engines.
I may not emphasize the diversity of the Caribbean area as well as Center
Africa which are areas where Internet is not that well implemented which mean then
that the battle to take the lead is not finished yet. For example is it really relevant to
say that Yahoo is the leader in Cameroon which is a country with less than 500,000
Internet users?
I however will highlight that the Pacific area which is containing all the
« Tigers » (Taiwan, Thailand, Singapore...) are all in red: Yahoo.
The search engine world is then divided in two parts:
· The Google world: which is composed of all the Anglo-Saxon countries as
well as countries which have strong links with the United States or Great
Britain. It is clearly showed regarding India and Australia. We can at the date
of today still identify two countries which are not under Google control:
Czech Republic and Iceland but actually by looking at the figures and the
forecasts it is just a matter of time12.
· The Asian – Pacific world: Asia is composed of a lot of countries and of
course a lot of cultures. Among them we can identify four players:
◦ Mail.ru which is dominating all the ex-soviet countries;
◦ Baidu which has a total control over China;
◦ Naver, a 100% South Korean product which is the best example that
search engines work by culture;
◦ Yahoo which is leader in all the “Tigers” Asian countries.
Yahoo being an American technology such as Google, how is it possible
that Yahoo is so successful in the Pacific area and not elsewhere? The
reason I found is that Yahoo is a shiny portal and that Asian culture on
Internet recognize a quality website to the number of animations on it13. I will then
add that Japan is a strong pole of Internet with one of the highest rate of Internet
integration in the world per capita14. This is why I think Yahoo is so popular in this

3.1.4 The search engine market shares per country

One of the most complete work I found on this topic after mine is the
« Global Search Report 2007 »15. What stroke me the most in all the countries
studied in this report as well as in all the report and research I made until now are the
search engines market configuration which looks like very often to this:
Illustration 6: Search engine market shares in
Czech Republic
It is very rare to find a country where there is a close competition among
search engines. Even if in the High Technology world things change from a day to
another you have often the following configuration where the first search engine
is leading the game by more than 30 points on its followers.
This is typical from the search engines market or you are adopted by a
population or you are not. This trend seems quite relevant in the
software industry, people seem to look for a standard used by all. This is the case for
the Operating System industry, the browser industry, the e-learning industry. The
explanation I found for the success of search engine within a population is the word
to mouth, this is how Google has been so successful isn 't it? How never heard
sentences such as « you just have to Google it » Google is even nowadays in
dictionaries as a verb16.
As a conclusion I would say that in the world of search engines you are first
or you are nothing.
I have to mention as well that the market has a lot of small local search
engines which are if original enough bought by the big ones or if not will disappear
quickly (some example are coming in the news every month). The only key of the
success on the short term seem to be advertisement but on the long run you need the
technology behind in order to compete.

3.1.5 The search engines competition

Google has been created in 1998 and at that time search engines were already
in place, it did not scared Google and one after the other Google bypassed all of
them. In fact among the big four Yahoo is the oldest (1994) and Microsoft the
youngest (2003). Even if the battle seems to be finished it will take a lot of time to
Google to be the number one in all countries (everything being linked to culture
rather than rationality) which in fact is giving hope to its followers.
At the time I am writing this thesis discussions are still on the way between
Yahoo and Microsoft in order for Microsoft to buy Yahoo search technologies. We
can understand how strategic a such acquisition could be. Yahoo having the research
knowledge and Microsoft the funds as well as the software ownership.
Regarding Baidu we cannot clearly see how they could compete against
Google outside of China.
As I said previously specialized search engines are limited to the website they
are linked to.
We could then think about new comers who starting from nothing could beat
famous search engines in a small period of time, it could have been the success of
some products such as Cuil launched in summer 2008 which received a lot of
advertisement through the news17. But search engines is a very ungrateful world
where visitors are giving no more than one chance: the product works or it does not.

Illustration 7: Results page of Cuil

This is a point that I discovered very quickly and that you can test by
yourself. People want the information as soon as they can. They are
ready to test the product but in a certain amount of tries. When you
move from Google to another search engine you are often intransigent. At the first
result which does not fit your expectations you will go back to Google. But is the
search engine wrong or is it because it is responding differently that on what you
were used to?
In order to conclude this part I would say that with the search engine history
we have and the search engine market configuration, I cannot see how Google
could lose its position. Until now only one company succeeds to make a such gap in
the world of search engine and it is Google itself and it was in a period where
everything had to be created on Internet.
So I would say that on this field I don't see how Google can be beaten and
even worried.
A new technology regarding research is however more and more recurrent in
this field and is called semantic research.

3.1.6 The semantic web

“This part needs additional information and improvements and is then not finished

The semantic web is another way of crawling the net. We all know how to
make a search on the Internet isn't it? We just type in some keywords and press the
return key in order to get the answer. In this configuration you have to feed the
search engine with the request.
With semantic Web the concept is a bit different and based on suggesting you
the request instead of typing it entirely. Each time that you are starting to type your
request a list of suggestions are coming to you. We are recently seeing more and
more this technology on the biggest search engines.
The purpose is in fact to guide you as best as they can in order to put you on
the right track and trying to avoid you to reach the labyrinth of the web.
This technology fits one of the main drawback of search engines and that I
call « search engine technology awareness » which consists in how to write good
requests for search engines.
The main drawback of the semantic web is that this is a very new technology
which then have a lot to do before reaching his maturity point. Here we are speaking
about a maximum length of a decade. We can also complain about the rigidity of the
system but it is true that with length and experience this issue could be fixed.
It said that Ask is one of the search engine which based a lot of R&D on this
new technology but according to me and without being a technician I think that
Google can have better results because of its huge database of requests. Future will
tell us what is going to happen.

3.2 Search engines dependency aspect

As I mentioned it in the introduction I define search engine dependency as the
fact that people are swearing only by one search engine when looking for
information on the Internet.

3.2.1 Search engines dependency proves

“This part needs additional information and improvements and is then not finished

This is not the studies which are lacking on this topic. When looking for
information regarding information literacy on the Internet you arrive on different
sources of studies and this regarding all the countries of the world. Information
literacy is a relevant topic and an issue. I focused on some very recent and
francophone research that I found on the Internet regarding Canadian students18,
French19 and Belgium students20. I also found information regarding Germany on this
topic. Many sources are as well saying that such research have been made in mostly
all Europe, China (Hong Kong)21 and the United States22.
All the studies I found until now (all done on students panels so literate
people) are all saying the same thing: search engine are the first source of
information when looking on the Internet and all students seem to have receive not
enough training on how to look for information on the Internet.
The best study I found on this topic is one made on all the registered PhD
students (2,218 with an answer rate of 23,4%) last year (2008) on a whole region of
France (not a high technological developed country but far to be the least on a
worldwide scale)23.
As we can imagine PhD students have a high requirements regarding quality
of information.
The study shows that 67,5% of the respondents have never received a training
regarding how to look for information during their whole stay at the university which
could explain the fact that people are running toward search engines directly.
Search engines are used in 96% of the cases when performing research
(which emphasize the necessity of how to well use those technologies).
94% of them do not use blogs which I take as a good thing (even if the survey
is saying the opposite, blogs being written by professionals as well).
The most used search engines are Google (85%) and Google Scholar 37%
(which is a sub search engine of Google).
60% of them do not know what is a meta search engine and only 5% of them
use them.
46 % do not know the search engine of their field and only 20% do use them.
Those figures are very interesting because they show clearly how people are
not adapted to the technology they are using. PhD students should be some of the
most search engines awarded people and it seems that for France they are not. They
are strictly dependent of a single search engine which is here Google. They know
very few of his sub search engine and as written above they do not know how to use
the technology. They are also not aware massively about other search engines.

3.2.2 Search engines dependency aspect

Search engines dependency can however comes from different ways:
· Search engine satisfaction: you are using a specific search engine which
give you entire satisfaction, so why should you change?;
· Search engine patriotism: you are using this search engine in order to
support your local technologies;
· Search engine convenience: the search engine is providing you all kind of
services which made it very convenient to use or even made the other ones
not convenient to use;
Of course the trend for all search engine is to go for convenience because it
gives to customer everything they need. The main drawback is that for the search
engine companies you have then to dedicate less people to your core activity and
then there is a risk that your search activity will pay the price.
So being search engine dependent means using massively a search engine for
one of those reasons and ignoring all the other ones. Search engines dependency
reach very high rate in Europe:
Illustration 8: Search engines figures for
France, Source: XitiMonitor

Most of the European countries have like France a strong addiction to Google with
more than 90%. What does it concretely mean? Almost all European when making
search on the Internet are fed by using the same way to process information.

3.3 Search engines dependency problems

At the first sight when using a search engine we are not thinking about all the
issues which are coming out from them. We make our research and we get results
from this and then we try the results one after the other until finding the one which
fits the best our expectations.
The first main problem is that when addicted to a specific search engine
which normally gave you satisfaction the day when the result will not be the one you
want you may think about different possibilities:
· The information is not displayed so the information you are looking for does
not exist yet;
· The request was not good enough so let's try with other keywords;
The main issue to highlight is that people are so confident with some search
engines that they will not normally look for alternatives or even consider that their
favorite search engine can be wrong.
People are so confident with their search engine that they are not
thinking that the search engine can be wrong.

3.3.1 Privacy issues

I am a bit divided on this topic because I consider it as the mass public
« scarecrow » which is only good to animate polemical debates for nothing.
It finds its explanations in the way that search engines are collecting
When analyzing search engines we have to consider that it is a free
product for all of us (in fact search engines get paid by displaying
advertisement on each web page). Each time you are making a
research on the Internet the search engine you are using registers the IP
number of your computer and of course the research you just made. All these data are
of course supposed to be confidential but some are used in order to make some
statistics such as how many Internet users from a specific country have visited this
website. It can be used for other purposes such as the rank of the most used research
and others data such as those. Of course the more information you give and the most
they collect so if you open an email account on a search engine for example they will
collect your name, address. Until now few are the cases where we got the proof that
information collected by search engines have been given to third parties. The most
famous one is the one of Yahoo in China which filtered some emails and gives the
names of some Chinese journalists who were denouncing things about the Chinese
To make it clear until now no mass exploitation of data have been observed
and the recent news given by major search engines (Microsoft and Google) are
saying that the trend is to eliminate those data as much as possible in the fear of
losing confidentiality25. We however have to consider an additional element the more
search engine know about what we are looking for and the most they can fit our
expectations, so I personally do not think that reducing the collection of data is in
people interest and I will qualify the privacy issue as a global scarecrow in order to
bug the major search engines and putting on the first row some alternative ones
which on the long run may will not fix those issues.

3.3.2 Looking for other search engines

A recurrent question often asked is « Why people are not looking for other
search engines? ». Why do people knowledge regarding search engines is so low? If
you ask to someone how many search engines he may know he will for sure answer
you « Google » maybe « Yahoo » he may add « Microsoft » without telling you its
real name which is « Live Search » and it will for sure stops right here.
Many others search engines are however present on the market. We should
then conclude that people are satisfied by the current search engines.
However studies are showing that regarding Google people when getting their
results are only considering the first three results and not the others giving far more
importance to the first one.26 By just this observation we could then say that there are
things to improve in Google's interface. I guess again that people are looking for
something new even if it is not their priority. This is why I would like to raise another
issue which is search engine awareness.

3.3.3 Search engine awareness

Search engine awareness is for me the key issue of this all work and reveal
two parts:
· Poor search engine awareness regarding how to use a specific search engine;
· Poor search engine awareness regarding the existence of other search
Both parts are fundamental. The first one deals with what we call search
tools. It consists of a combination of keys in order to fit a specific request.
If you are on Google typing the following request:
search engine dependency
is different from:
« search engine dependency »
In the first case you will look for pages which are containing the words:
search engine dependency as well as all the others combinations such as pages
with search dependency, engine dependency, search, engine, dependency. Whereas
in the other cases you are restricting the pages which include only those three
words and in the same order.
It exists dozens of those tools per search engine, the most famous ones are
called « boolean operators ». Some websites provide the list of those tools27. We have
also to consider that all the search engines are not using the same conventions so
some tools under search engine A will not work on search engine B.
If you are on Yahoo the following request:
· title:search engine
will give you all the web pages which have for titles the following
keywords. This tool is unfortunately not working on Google.
This example shows well how search engines are in fact complementary in order to
make precise research.
Is Google really better than Yahoo?
To get a piece of the answer you can make this empirical experience I
made a couple of months ago. I did the same request on three different
search engines (Google, Yahoo and MS Live Search) and compared the first five
results and gave my opinion on each of those results. If the result fit my
expectations I gave one point if it did not zero. Google got a four out of five, Yahoo
a two out of five and MS Live Search a zero out of five. However all results from a
search engine to another was different. So Google won for sure at the time I
performed the award of pertinence, however the information I was looking may
have been on the two results Yahoo gave me.
So is Google better than Yahoo for this example the answer is yes. Does it mean
that I should not consider Yahoo? Absolutely not.

3.3.4 Other search engines existence awareness

“This part needs additional information and improvements and is then not finished

Here is another issue which is actually not hitting only the competitors of
major search engines but also themselves. In order to be recognized in the world of
search engines you need very strong guarantees. This year two of them succeeds their
advertisement campaign: « Cuil » by claiming that they had a database which is 6
times more than the one of Google. It said also that their success is coming from the
fact that the company has been built by a former Google employee but actually Cuil
disappears very soon as the change of their CEO. The main reproach which has been
done is that the results given were not numerous enough which of course is seen
from a very bad eye when you are claiming that it is your main strength.

In the world of search engines you cannot be a clown. People give you
one time the floor and will not give it to you back if you do not
perform as they wish.

The other example I can give is the one of Exalead, a French search engine
which is supported by the European Union, the purpose behind is to set up an
European technology in order to face the American ones. So as you can imagine
there is a big support and a huge project behind which make me coming to the bullet
point above if you are a search engine which wants just to be correctly advertised
you definitely need very strong supports.

I today January the 7th 2009 got twice in a day the same observation
about researching information on the Internet. I was looking for two
different songs but I did not know the title as well as the singer, all I
had was some couple of words. I made then a research on Google with
the words I knew from the song and added the word « lyrics » as well in order to
specify that what I was looking for was a song. I as well added the quotes « » in
order to say to Google that I wanted the words in this strict order in order for it to
identify better the song I was looking for among the jungle of the web.
I wrote then: lyrics « freaky people » the answers I got where dealing with a singer
called « Michael Franti and Spearhead » and this on three pages in a row. I tried to
set a different request and the result was the same. Then I gave a try to GrabAll
which is a double search engine displaying Google and Yahoo on the same screen but
on two different columns. I made then the same request and got very surprise to see
the name of the Fat Boy Slim band on the first page of Yahoo. This result was on the
fourth page of Google instead. Here I have two points to make. Firstly the utility of
using a second search engine in order to control the result and secondly the fact
that Google was taking in account that I was 100% of what I was looking for.
Google was in fact giving me those results because the two words « freaky people »
are a part of a title of a song of « Michael Franti and Spearhead » but did I asked for
that? No I just asked for lyrics which have the words « freaky people ».
The second example I am going to give you is as well quite relevant of how search
engine dependency can be dangerous. I was looking this time for lyrics with « lyrics
wanna be your doll » what I did not know is that I had it wrong and it was not
« lyrics wanna be your doll » but « wanna be your dog ». The fact is that both songs
containing those lyrics exist and that Google was displaying me the songs containing
the words I just fill in whereas actually Yahoo was presenting me diverse results
including the one I wanted.
I am not writing here that Yahoo is better than Google, I am just saying that
there is a high interest to have a look around in the world of search engines, I could
have a look around all night on Google looking for my song that I will have never
found because I had it wrong since the beginning. So looking for diversity should
be the first reflex when you cannot find what you are looking for in short

3.3.5 Less confident regarding other search engines

“This part needs additional information and improvements and is then not finished
This part is in fact in close link with the example I just gave above. Each
search engine has his own methodology when displaying the result. When you get
used to get the results in a specific way then when it comes to be different you may
think that the results are totally absurd. The problem is that the more you get addicted
the more you will have the feeling that other search engines are bad and then will not
give them a try.
This is why I describe search engine dependency as the fact to be less and less
confident regarding other search engines.

3.3.6 Even the best cannot provide you everything

“This part needs additional information and improvements and is then not finished
Some functionalities are not included in the biggest search engines which
make not you think that they could even exist such as search engines for jobs or
people. How to get a visual representation of what I am looking for? And the main
problem of the big search engines is that they are too big so even if they have what
you are looking for it is not sure that you can even see it.

Chapter 4: Risks of search engines dependency and its influence on data quality

This part is dealing with the measurement and the proves of what I am
writing about. Here I expect to show how search engine dependency is affecting our
everyday life and how we could overcome this situation.

4.1 The information has been found but is poor

“This part needs additional information and improvements and is then not finished
Let's imagine that you and I just performed a request under a specific search
engine and that the answers given do not satisfy you entirely. You found the
information but it is not developed enough, not signed, too old...

4.2 What the search engines do not tell you

One of my former English teacher taught me one day that there is different
ways of not giving information, one is to lie and one is to not say the information. I
don't think search engines are lying and cheating even if in the case of Baidu the
Chinese search engine there are high suspicions on it28. Some are saying that in order
to be well ranked you need to pay Baidu for it and it has been said as well that the
Chinese government as a big role to play when displaying the results.
The recent Milk scandal in China (Baidu accepted to high ranked unlicensed
companies which were providing fake milk in exchange of money) showed how
dangerous can be a poor data quality search29.
I however have the proof that search engines are not telling you everything
when displaying results and that this rule is general for all the major search engines.
In Google case, search engines are censored according to the country in
which you are making your research from30 and it touches all the country around the
world even countries such as France and Germany.
Most of the time those censorship acts are for your welfare or to protect
national security interest.

4.3 The best way to get data quality

Here is maybe the most interesting part of my work which consists in giving
the solution to the main issue I highlighted since the beginning.
Until now I just raised questions regarding the risks of dependency and not
showed what you should do in order to explore the web properly.

4.3.1 The sub-search engines

As I said previously Google is too big, the bigger it is the more precise your
request have to be. Few people knowing the existence of Boolean operators it then
comes more and more difficult to get the right information. This is why in fact
Google put at your disposal some sub-search engines in order to make your research
easier, for example: Google books, Google videos, Google images. We all agree that
looking for pictures could be done on the research bar of Google, but it is far more
convenient to make it directly from « Google images » because it is displayed better.
The main problem is what I described previously: « search engine awareness
within a search engine ». Am I aware that Google has the following services?
I could sum up it all in a scheme:

Illustration 9: Some sub-search engines of Google

For a Google search engine dependent everything starts from Google home
page. He is then aware here of those specialized search engines in order to make
more precise research on the following information: images, maps, news and
products. It is however under his own initiative to discover what is going on under
those search engines and to discover them. I do not have a proof of what I am saying
but I may presume that in order to buy a product more people are going on Google,
type eBay or Amazon and go and buy on those websites rather than going on Google
products. Google products is however including all those websites in his database so
it should more convenient to have a look on Google products first in order to get the
best price rather than going individually on eBay and Amazon.
We can then symbolize the Internet users awareness of Google search engines
according to this scheme.
The more we get into deep of those levels and the least the Internet user is
aware of it.
Level 2 is still available on the first page but with two clicks.
Level 3 is no more available on the home page but can be accessible in three
Level 4 is even not accessible from Google main website and that you have
too be aware of it in order to access it.
Level 5 is hypothetical and constitute the unknown Google projects, often
developed under another name.
All those Google sub levels have been created in order to make easier
research on a specific request. When looking for an image it is far
more convenient to pass through Google images rather than the general Google.

4.3.2 The size of the Internet

How big is the Internet? Is Google indexing all websites?
It is really hard to answer to those questions but however possible to set
up some estimations according to some information31. Those sources are
saying that in 2005 the size of the Internet is estimated to 5 million terabytes and
Google's index to 170 terabytes which would mean that Google is processing only
0,000034%. However the Internet is also containing what we call the invisible web
composed of websites that owners do not want its content indexed as well as
websites which are protected by a password. In 2004 this invisible web was
estimated to be 500 times bigger than the visible web. It has been said as well that
Google is indexing invisible web only recently32.
A clever calculation will then give us:
Internet size = Visible Web + Invisible Web;
Internet size = 501 * Visible Web;
Visible Web = Internet size / 501;
Visible Web = 5 000 000 / 501;
Visible Web = 9980 terabytes;
Google Index = 170 / Visible Web;
Google Index = 1,7%
This estimation is of course only an estimation and could be full of errors. I
however find it more useful than no information at all. I would also emphasize the
fact that Google has no interest in indexing bad quality websites and that
technologies have evolved in the last few years and that this rate should be of course
far higher than those 1,7%. Whatever is the final result my point is the following:
Google is not the Internet and is not processing all the web... but does
all the web need to be indexed?

4.3.3 Single search engine Internet coverage

“This part needs additional information and improvements and is then not finished
Here is a more optimistic representation of Google Internet coverage I made
in order to show that Google is not the Internet and that even within Google's sphere
Internet users cannot access to all the information:

Illustration 10: Google's Index coverage

Google dependent people are not only using Google when making research but as
well Google partners all symbolized by the sign:
Powered by Google means according to an IT company called Alacra33:
Alacra uses Google Search Appliances to create the Alacra Compliance Web. The
use of Google Search Appliances combines the power of Google search technology,
including the ability to find the highest quality and most relevant documents, with
Alacra's domain expertise in selecting those web sites and pages which are relevant
for AML compliance.
Which means that here you have a partnership working more or less in the same way
that using a Google specialized search engine.
There are thousands and thousands search engines all specialized in a specific
field on the Internet which are using Google technology to search sites such as
Tourism, tutorials...
By using all those specialized search engines you are crawling better the
Google's coverage space.
Illustration 11: “Powered by Google” search engines coverage

As you can see here on this configuration by using specialized search engines
powered by Google you will always browse Google's cyberspace and when we know
that Google is not the Internet we can then ask ourselves how we can get the best out
of Internet.
On January the 11th I went on both websites http://www.aol.fr/ and
http://www.google.fr/ and type the following request 'les moteurs de
recherches' both results on the first page were identical. The only
difference is that Google gave me 3,210,000 results and AOL 290,000
(9% of Google results) so as I developed above AOL is looking at the same place as
Google but is applying more filters. Is it really useful considering that AOL is a
general search engine? The answer maybe be given in their home page at
http://search.aol.com/aol/webhome « The AOL Search engine delivers great search
results, enhanced by Google, plus relevant multimedia results delivered on a single
page-so you can search less and discover more . »34
If you go on http://www.google.com/coop/cse/ you will have a good example
of the search engine powered by Google. You can even create your own one. All is
done by using Google technology and you are just applying your own filter by listing
the websites where you want Google to look inside.

4.3.4 Multiple search engine Internet coverage

“This part needs additional information and improvements and is then not finished
Let's go now deeper in our analysis by taking in account search engine which
are not using Google technologies. All developed their own technology and are
sometimes better than Google in some fields worst in the other. We will then have
something like that:
Illustration 12: Search engines coverage

So here is my point the most the search engines are different and the most it
gives you the possibility to discover the web. Here I just put the main actors but we
have also to consider that it exists a lot of small search engines which developed their
own index and have then their own way to process data.
Of course one could say that there is no interest for an European person to
process information on a Chinese or even Russian search engine because Chinese
search engine should of course be better in looking for Chinese information rather
than an European one. It is definitely true if we are speaking about contents such as
texts, but when it is dealing with pictures or video the reality should be totally
On the other hand the day where this European person is looking for Chinese
information he should then be aware that he should use the Chinese search engine
rather than the Chinese version of the European one. And as we can imagine all the
other players: Yahoo, Baidu, Mail.ru have their own Boolean operators and their own
sub search engines. So it comes back to the idea of search engine awareness. The
more you know about them and the most you are increasing your knowledge about
how to get the best out of Internet.

4.3.5 Others search engine Internet coverage

“This part needs additional information and improvements and is then not finished
You have a last category of search engine which are the one coming from the
semantic web concept which are not based on keywords requests. I found one of
those which is called « Who is like it » and gives as results websites similar to the
one you just gave him.

Illustration 13: “Who is like it” search engine

Of course solutions have been found in order to create the perfect search
engine including all those technologies. But as you can imagine it is not an easy
thing if firstly search engines did not take the same standards as Boolean operators.
Secondly the more search engine you combine the more results you will get and it
then very complicated to decide which one is more pertinent than the other.
A good example of it is the meta search engine called Dogpile which is quite
popular in the United States it combines the results of 4 big search engines which are
Google, Yahoo, MSN live search and Ask. The main problem is already showed on
the advanced search web page of Dogpile, few are the Boolean operators limited to

Illustration 14: Dogpile meta search engine

The second issue which is relevant is how to decide which results from those
search engines are the most relevant. I showed you previously that when making a
comparison between Google and Yahoo I found what I wanted on Yahoo on the 8th
position. So it is hard to decide which result is the most relevant and to this game you
are the only judge of the situation.
So the hypothetical search engine should have the following characteristics:
including all the technologies ever created regarding search engines (Google's
knowledge+Yahoo knowledge+MSN knowledge+...) in order to define the most
powerful algorithm ever. All those companies have of course different objectives
than being the most rational search engine all are looking to be the number one. This
day will may come but it will not be for sure for tomorrow so waiting for it we
should understand how to use one by one all those technologies.
The solution being then to test the search engines one by one but
before testing all of them you have to know that they exist and how to use them but you should at least to know that they exist.

4.3.6 A concrete representation of the World Wide Web

In order to make this work easier a Japanese company set up regularly a web
map of the most famous websites in the world by referencing them by categories this
map could of course be improved but should be a good start:Illustration 15: A representation of the most visited websites

This map is available at the following address: http://informationarchitects.jp/
start/ with all the links included towards the websites it is composed of. It is very
interesting in order to break the search engine dependency phenomenon. On this map
are located all the most famous websites for 2008 you can then see all the most
influential websites and where to seek for information. For example if I want to look
for a video I may follow the gray line and test all the websites which are on it to find
the video I am looking for.
In order to conclude this part which actually should not be the core of the all
thesis the Web is big and in order to discover it you need to know how to.
We could compare it to the real world when living in country A you receive as
feedback from country B by different ways (people who are moving from country B
to A, the news, the books and documentations you have about country B) but you
will never be physically in country B and for this there are some information that you
could never get. Of course you can get nearer to those information by crawling more
and more the web with your country A search engine (it will be like documenting
yourself more and more about country B) but it will never be like being and living in
country B.

4.4 The gap between search engine dependency and data quality

“This part needs additional information and improvements and is then not finished
In this part I will explain how to put in evidence the gap of information
between being search engine dependent of only one search engine and using the most
rational tool to search for information on the Internet.
It may not be easy to prove it concretely so I may need to prove it by making
empirical studies.
I succeed to put in evidence so far that:
• Internet users are search engines addicted;
• Internet users have few knowledge about search engines awareness;
• I have now to prove that this is bad;
My first point will be to show that search engines are using different
technologies provide different results.
Here is a comparison I made for three search engines through
http://www.thumbshots.org/Products/Thumbshots/Ranking.aspx which shows how
many similarities search engines have among them. Here I said if I type in
“Universität Kassel” what are the results that those search engines have in common
(in blue). And I moreover added the option to highlight me the website of the
university of Kassel (in red) which for me is a sign of relevancy of my request.

Illustration 16: Comparison among Google, Yahoo and MSN
Here as we can see:
• Google has 7 similarities with Yahoo out of 60;
• Google has 10 similarities with MSN out of 60;
• Google found two times the website I was looking for;
• Yahoo has 4 similarities with MSN out of 60;
• Yahoo found one time the website I was looking for;
• MSN found 4 times the website I was looking for;
This analysis is then confirming what I was supposing before search engines do not
look for information at the same place.
Then one could ask about the pertinence of the results, is it worthwhile to display
more than one time on one page the website of the university of Kassel? Or is it a
sign of relevancy? So here we have an interpretation according to the Internet user.

One thing is sure search engines using different technology provide
different results.

Chapter 5: The Google example

“This part needs additional information and improvements and is then not finished

Google is for sure in some parts of the world the best example we can find of
the search engine dependency phenomenon I described.

5.1 Google

In January 1996 a 24 year-old PhD student called Larry Page studying at the
University of Stanford was looking for a theme for his thesis. Encouraged by his
supervisor he studied the following topic “exploring the mathematical properties of
the World Wide Web“ working in collaboration with another student called Sergey
Brin. To make it simple, it is from this work and collaboration which will came up
“Google Inc” (officially created in September the 7th 1998).
Two months later Google is already included in the Top 100 of world
websites of PC magazine (a reference in the United States for computers).
Even if Google is formerly a web based application in English it is a worldwide
service available on the Internet for all. As his creator (Larry Page) said "Google's
search engine has always had strong global appeal"35.
Google is nowadays the most famous search engine. In ten years as the
Millward Brown report said36 Google will become the most powerful brand in the

5.2 Google's success

The broadest explanation I found is the following « Google provides for free
a useful service that people actively seek out »37. And when you think about it it is
definitely true. People are going on Google because they are all looking for that kind
of services. But how can it be more successful than its fellows? Here I could say that
in general Google is giving better results which may be one reason, but moreover it
is providing added services such emails, blogs, news, Advertisement programs.
Moreover Google's health as a company has been well preserved by making
good choices when making acquisitions and mergers, they internationally developed
themselves very well.

5.3 Google dependency state

If we take Europe we can see that it is definitely a Google dependent
Illustration 17: Google's domination in Europe
As we can see here Google (in blue) is not only the most used search engine
in those countries it is in fact like the only search engine present at the continental

5.4 Google functions

Google Boolean operators are numerous but who really use them when
performing a research on Internet? A simplified interface of them is available at
http://www.google.com/advanced_search?hl=eng but here also who really makes
research under it?
Illustration 18: Google's Advanced search engine

5.5 Google added functionalities

Here is another part I did not developed so far. It deals with other
functionalities and services that the search engine do have but do not put sufficiently
in advance to the Internet user. So let's say that the advanced research which is
located on the home page is already not that much used you can then imagine how
much is used a service which is hidden.

5.6 Google success is his weakness

The fate of Google is linked also to the one of Search Engine Optimization
which is the ability to well index a website on search engines. The main issue is that
Google being the most well known search engine a lot of computer scientists tried to
understand how Google was working in order to index web pages. The more
experiments are made and the more the secret algorithm of Google is known. As we
can imagine few are the web masters who are interested to have a website in the
latest pages of Google. This is why Google results are not the most rational and are
not the reflect of our physical society.
This observation is far more important if we consider that some studies38
showed that Internet users are considering only the first 3 results of Google when
making research on it.
Illustration 19: Eye Tracking on Google

5.7 Google's disappearance hypothesis

It is hard to believe that a company such as Google can close his gates one
day but everything can happen and moreover in the world of ICT, so let's imagine
what will be the consequences of his disappearance. I truly believe that all Internet
users will go for its followers Yahoo and Microsoft with exactly the same behaviors.
It however said that the patent of Google algorithm belong to the Stanford
University and expires in 2011 what will then happen to Google at that time?


The purpose of this intermediate report was for me to show my knowledge
about the topic, to prove that the problematic is pertinent, interesting and that there is
enough to write about it.
I wanted to show as well that I have the ideas clear enough for the next
coming months. What I keep in mind from this work is that I like the research I am
doing, that I am very curious about the final result (how to make the difference when
looking for information on the Internet and that the gap between rational search of
information and mass search information is abyssal).
I am quite conscious that a lot of work has to be done and that a lot of
questions have still no answers.
However I would like as well to emphasize what I personally did so far and
what I learned:
• I know now how to structure a master thesis. I had until now no knowledge
about it and I learned from scratch how to set up an academical report;
• I studied since June 2008 the world of search engines and comes to know a
lot about the topic. Once graduated I would like to continue on the field of emarketing
either on a PhD level or in an international e-marketing company.
This thesis is then making me more valuable to pretend to one of those two
• Studying this field brought me additional ideas regarding the e-marketing
field. I wrote done an additional 20-pages report (not included in this
intermediate report) about a hypothetical computer application which could
give information about how to launch e-marketing campaigns on a global
February will be for sure the month which will decide how this master thesis
will be achieved. I have concretely more than 3 weeks to dedicate days and nights to
this project.
The biggest issues I will have to think about are:
• Chapter 3.1.6: regarding semantic web I did not study yet in detail the topic and I will have to come back on this point later;
• Chapter 4: how to measure the gap of information between mass behavior
when looking for information on the Internet and the most rational behavior?;
• Chapter 5: The Google example;
• Re writing the thesis from an informal point of view this time (using the third
person of the singular instead of the first which does not sound very


I certify that this work has been done by myself and only myself. All the
sources used for its realization have been well indicated.

European Master in Business Studies
Institut de Management de l'Université de Savoie d'Annecy (FR)
Università degli studi di Trento (IT)
Universität Kassel (GER)
Universidad de León (SP)
22th January, 2009

List of literature

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Anonymous. (2007): Baidu au Japon? URL: http://asia.2803.com/chine/baidu-au-japon/ Last access: 23/01/2009

Arrington, M. (2008): Cuil On BusinessWeek's Most Successful of 2008 List. Huh? URL:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/12/29/AR2008122901227.html Last
access: 23/01/2009

Battelle, John. (2005): The birth of Google URL:
http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/13.08/battelle.html?tw=wn_tophead_4 Last access:

Boswell, W. (2004?): AOL Search: How to Search with AOL Search URL:
http://websearch.about.com/od/enginesanddirectories/a/aol_search_2.htm Last access: 23/01/2009

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The first idea of Larry Page (one of the creator of Google) when making his
PhD thesis was to « explore the mathematical properties of the World Wide Web,
understanding its link structure as a huge graph ».
Without knowing it I went a bit in the same direction evaluating how to get
the best out of the web.
I hope I will keep moving forward on this topic and maybe one day set up a
correct theory on the subject.