Alternate Search Engines in Vista

The DOJ is forcing Microsoft to allow replacing Vista’s built-in search with third party products.  Normally, I’d prefer the government stay out of these waters, but in this case, for purely technical reasons, I’m glad they’re forcing Microsoft to do this.  But I wish Microsoft were doing it right.

For some reason, being the desktop search product of choice is important for Yahoo, Microsoft, and Google.  I don’t know why – it’s really a rather utilitarian function – but they all have competing toolbars that want to take on the massive job of indexing all the files on your computer.

Basically it comes down to this:  I find that Vista’s built-in search doesn’t work very well.  After one-too-many-times having Vista’s search take too long and not find what I was looking for, I installed Google Desktop Search, and haven’t really looked back.  GDS works very well.

Look at this statement from Microsoft:

Microsoft will inform ISVs, OEMs, and end users that the desktop search index in Vista is designed to run in the background and cede precedence over computing resources to any other software product, including third-party desktop search products and their respective search indices. Microsoft will emphasize that there is no technical reason why OEMs and end users cannot, if they choose to, install additional desktop search products on their system, even if those products maintain separate indices from that operated by Windows.   (Source)

Bah!  I have 300 gig worth of “stuff” on my computer, and indexing it is a lot of work.  I don’t want that work done twice.  There may be no technical reason that OEMs cannot install third party search products, but there are good reasons why they should not.

I’ve disabled Vista’s built-in search.  It’s not hard to do, but problems show up when you try to use Search from within other Microsoft products.  They’ve integrated Vista’s built-in search with OneNote, and Outlook, to the point where these products “forget” how to do searching on their own when running on Vista.

What Microsoft should do here is cleanly define the interfaces that a search product should implement, implement those interfaces in their own search product, and allow third party products to plug-in and completely replace the built-in capability. That way, searches from Outlook or OneNote would be directed to GDS.

But it sounds like their solution is to have both running, redirect some of the UI to the third-party search, and leave some of it to the built-in search.

This is a terrible solution, and I’m surprised it’s the direction they’re taking.  It’s one thing to give in to the DOJ and agree to putting the stupid “Set Program Access and Defaults” link all over the OS, since it doesn’t really affect things otherwise, but in this case, it’s going to lead to bloat and slower computers for everyone who uses an alternate product.