The Fantastic Four: Google, Yahoo, MSN & Ask

Last Friday night, while at the movies, I happened to see a preview for the new Fantastic Four movie – Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. While marveling (no pun intended) at the special effects on the theater’s recently installed digital movie screen, I, being the Internet geek that I am, thought about the Fantastic Four in terms of search engine optimization and the four major search engines: Google, Yahoo, MSN, and Ask.

Since I enjoy finding similarities in things that one wouldn’t necessarily expect, I figured that it might be fun to figure out which search engine would play each character in the Fantastic Four. Each one has different strengths, (superpowers, if you will) and weaknesses.

Human Torch – The Human Torch, aka Johnny Storm, is a risk-taker who likes to live life on the edge. I’d have to say that if the search engines were the Fantastic Four, Human Torch would be Google. Constantly releasing new beta functions, Google seems to live on the edge. The Human Torch’s superpower is that of a human fireball who can fly and put off blasts of fire. One could also find painful similarities with Google and Human Torch. Having never been hit by a human fireball, I can only imagine that the experience would be quite painful, as if your website pages have landed in Google’s supplemental results, or that you’ve been hit with a penalty.

The Invisible Woman – The Invisible Woman, aka Sue Storm, is shy, but can be very assertive. In addition to being The Invisible Woman, she is also a scientist. If I were to pick the search engine that most resembled the Invisible Woman, it would have to be Ask. With its recent emphasis on the algorithm (scientific, no doubt) and its introduction of skins (some of them beautiful), Ask is a great match for The Invisible Woman. As far as her personality goes, she is the only female of the bunch, often in the shadow of the guys. Ask is often overlooked, but also has great features that can enhance the search experience.

Mr. Fantastic – Mr. Fantastic, aka Richard Reeds, has the powers to do amazing things with his body. From bending to stretching, this guy has the incredible power of flexibility. While I can definitely see the parallel with Mr. Fantastic to Google, I’d have to compare Mr. Fantastic to MSN. Although I am more of a Linux person than a Microsoft person, I have to admit that Microsoft has transformed computing as we know it as much, if not more, than Mr. Fantastic can transform his body. Between operating systems, productivity suites, and search, Microsoft also has a wide scope of coverage.

The Thing – The Thing, aka Ben Grimm, is left to Yahoo. Yahoo, like The Thing, has a bit of a cluttered exterior. Although Yahoo seems a bit uncomfortable, underneath it all, there are still many great features, just like The Thing. The Thing’s superpower is that of super-strength. Yahoo, while not as popular as it once was, is still a search engine largely used by consumers. It may not be as strong as The Thing, but it’s not in last place when it comes to search engine market share, either.

Like all superheroes, each engine has its strengths and weaknesses. One of the reasons that search engine optimization is so interesting is because you work with the unique superpowers of each search engine. Different techniques work for different engines’ algorithms, just as different superpowers are more helpful for different scenarios.

While the world of the Fantastic Four is an exciting one, it is still make believe. The world of search, however, is quite real and an interesting one to explore.