I was working in London last week, slogging with the masses on the Tube. Just passing the time reading the posters on the Tube train.

When I saw one poster that was intriguing:

stop the information monopoly

Go to the website, and it reads:

Did you know that more than 75% of people in the UK use just one search engine to find information? The same search engine. The biggest search engine. The most popular search engine. Why? It’s not that there aren’t choices, it just seems that most people don’t use them.

The search engine Ask.com is behind the campaign.

Gary Price is the director of information resources at Ask.com, and somebody I have admired for many years. Coincidentally (not) Searchenginewatch.com recently interviewed Gary Price, and whilst there was no direct mention of the campaign, Gary said:

“Google is a great product, and I use Google plenty too. I like to take a look at everything, but I think that when it comes to information retrieval, options are very important. It’s one thing if my mom is searching and she has become entrenched with Google. But, it is another thing for people who are in teaching, or teaching younger people information retrieval skills, as these skills are more important now than ever before.

Options are good and I think what Ask.com has been doing has been building a really powerful search tool that is easy to use. It does lot of things to differentiate.”

I have to agree with Gary: information retrieval skills are essential in an information society, indeed more important than ever. And Google isn’t the only answer.

It’s great to open the debate, and also to raise awareness of other search tools: each with a particular strength. I’m going to write more about those in future postings.

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