What is the difference between enterprise search and web search? So that is the question. The answer should be a really easy one, such as “Well the web search cannot access your enterprise content. Can it?” Or Can it? The answer to that question is not covered here. But I will speak about it in a separate article as it is a very important subject.
Back to the question “What is the difference between enterprise search & web search?” Searching the web has become one of the most lucrative business models of the past 20 years. But not because users need to get information. While that is important to the web user, it is of no consequence on its own to a web search company as there is no financial model to be gained from providing us with the best, most accurate search results for free. Most web searches have a fee model. Not one that you or I as users need to pay, but one that advertisers who wish to have their products placed in a better position than their rivals pay. This instantly will give us the answer to the question, as I do not remember seeing any adverts on my enterprise search app. Or if I did I would have made a direct line to the close button. So a search of the web will give you back answers that are broadly correct, but that have been tailored to suit not just you the searcher, but also the advertiser. This is a fair compromise, as it means that the search engine provider gets paid, we as searchers get a range of ‘pretty good’ results and advertisers get their products placed right in front of our eyes.
That though is only half the answer. An enterprise search needs to do a lot more than your average web search and it needs to do it with 100,000’s of times less data to begin. While you may think that this makes searching easier, actually the opposite is true. In your standard search and tagging algorithms, the more data you have the better your search results will be. This is why I have never understood your standard enterprise search implementation and probably the reason why they are so underutilized and overpriced. Search should be about the user and what the user is looking for, not the content and the search application. If you take 20 seconds out to watch the video below, hopefully you will see what I mean. It shows users in an office that do many searches on the web each day. These searches are generally made up of looking for articles and documents that are written by a known individual or company. A standard web search will get you the correct answer after some manual refining, but a web search that has been laced with an algorithm that is focused on the user’s requirements and not the content gives you the following results. Not good for a web search company as there would be no revenues. But for your average knowledge worker it is priceless.
So a web search is focused on getting back to you a good enough result from the internet, while an enterprise search should ALWAYS be focused on finding what it is you are looking for across your whole enterprise.