Input Sought: Possible Switch to Google as Default MSU Search Engine
We are considering the possibility of switching to Google as MSU's
default Web search engine, and we would greatly appreciate input from
members of the MSU community.
Our primary motivation is to provide current and prospective members of
the MSU community with the search engine that does the best job of
matching them with the Web content they seek. MSU was the first
university to acquire AltaVista as a locally-maintained campus spider
back in 1996. Unfortunately as MSU's Web presence has grown,
AltaVista's relevancy ranking algorithm has not kept pace. We know from
customer feedback and from test searches for popularly-sought content
that Google provides a far superior search experience.
The proposal is simple:
· Visitors to www.msu.edu and search.msu.edu would see their searches
satisfied by the global Google search engine. We would use the free
university search provided by Google (not their Google Appliance, nor
their paid hosted search service).
· The MSU Keywords database would also be searched by default, and any
matching hits would appear before Google results. (If you are not
familiar with MSU Keywords, please do a sample search for "human
resources" or any other campus service area, and observe the MSU
Keywords results currently shown prior to AltaVista hits.)
· We would retain AltaVista in production, and provide links to it as an
alternative campus search engine. (However, we would cease paying
maintenance and support to the vendor.)
· We would continue to maintain and build custom special AltaVista
indexes. (For examples, please visit
Google's free university search makes it possible to tailor look and
feel to match the university's template. See an example at:
http://www.google.com/u/michstate. Note that numerous universities
have switched to the Google university search as their default engine.
We believe the majority of MSU users would benefit from this change:
· Google's relevancy is far superior to that of the AltaVista Search
product we run, and its ability to collapse multiple hits from a single
site provides a much more compact hit list.
· Google offers some features that are not provided by AltaVista, such
as dynamic spelling correction, viewing PDF and Word documents as HTML,
and cached views of content. (The latter is useful for looking up Web
content when the corresponding server is down.)
· Statistics show that over 50% of Web searches done globally are now
handled by Google. This means most of our users are already familiar
with Google, and that most MSU users doing a global Web search would not
confront a different tool.
There are some disadvantages and risks:
· Google's university search is inherently limited to sites within a
single domain, in our case msu.edu. Increasingly, MSU content providers
are placing content in .org or .com domains. (Examples include
http://breslincenter.com and http://impact89fm.org.) Such content would
not be indexed by MSU Google. Content providers could mirror their
content within msu.edu, or take advantage of the MSU Keywords service,
in order to assure visibility in the campus search service.
· Google's free university search is based on the global Google index
and hosted on their servers. We have no control over the performance,
reliability, comprehensiveness, or freshness of the Google service.
Google states that the free university search should sweep an entire
university domain at least once a month.
· It is possible that at some time in the future Google might choose to
impose a fee for its university search - perhaps an exorbitant one. If
such an event took place, we would re-evaluate alternatives at that
time. (We have no evidence that this is likely to happen, but as a
for-profit company they naturally will seek ways to maximize revenue.)
Please share this proposal with fellow faculty, staff, and students.
Please send me any comments you have about the proposal at your earliest
convenience. If you have any questions, please reach me at
[log in to unmask] or 353-4955.
Sr. Information Technologist
MSU Computer Laboratory