When you think of Seattle, what do you think about first? The Space Needle? Grunge music? Starbucks? Rain?
Since I am New To Seattle, my perspective might be skewed. So I conducted a little experiment. Borderline scientific, even. I went to some of the more prominent Internet search engines–yes, Google does have competition, even if it doesn’t amount to much–typed just one word into the search box and hit enter.
That one word: Seattle.
The engines all profess to deliver quickly what the customer really wants. So I confined my examination to the first search engine results page that came up. Paid ads–of which there were plenty–were ignored.
While there was overlap, I found some points of emphasis were, uh, interesting.
One search engine, Mahalo (“Learn anything” is its motto), said at the top that the current mayor of Seattle is Greg Nickels and that the city has an NBA team called the SuperSonics. Clearly, Mahalo still has a lot of learn, perhaps by consulting Mike McGinn–who defeated Nickels in 2009 and still holds the position–and the folks trying to woo a replacement team for the SuperSonics, who moved to Oklahoma City in 2008.
Another search engine, Yippy, put near the top of its Seattle results page, “Jewish population estimated at 37,000 in the early 21st century.” Putting aside the issue of importance–and the odd hint the information might remain posted until much later in the 21st century—-this seems way too high for the city itself, although it might be true for the much-larger metropolitan area.
Duck Duck Go–hey, I don’t make up these names–was a little more hip, in a quirky way. It was the only engine to note up front that the city was named for an Indian chief, and it referenced several songs with Seattle in their names, including an entire 1969 album by Perry Como. No quick mention of Jimi Hendrix or Kurt Cobain, however.
Yahoo–we’re getting a little more mainstream now–coughed up the usual links to Wikipedia and the local visitors bureau. But the page also linked to “The Ultimate Seattle Quiz” on HowStuffWorks.com. To me, the test was entertaining but only mildly challenging. One multiple-choice question asked for the yearly rainfall (spoiler alert: it’s 37 inches) but another erroneously assumed that Microsoft is located in Seattle rather than suburban Redmond. That’s a $3.50 difference at rush hour.
Which leads me to Bing. Since it’s owned by Microsoft, it should yield some special insight into Seattle. Right?
Well, sort of.
A little more attuned to pictures than other engines, Bing displayed many images of Seattle. Almost all of them contained the Space Needle, which is not surprising. It did link to a Bing travel page for Seattle with weather information (a rare four days of sun and no rain).
But the page also linked to Seattle’s rivals in the tourist game, like San Francisco, Las Vegas, Vancouver and even Portland. So much for the home area advantage.
In many ways Google served up the widest range of quick Seattle information. Alone among the engines, it linked to the home page of the Port of Seattle, which, when you think about it, is the reason why gringos from the East started coming here in the first place. Google also provided a quick link to the Seattle/King County page dealing with public health, which these days is all whooping cough all the time. And it found the home page of The Seattle Times, always a good place to dope out stuff about Seattle.
As is so often the case, what’s not said might have the most significance. The same Mahalo page that had trouble with Seattle politics and sports was the only one I saw that mentioned anything about Starbucks–founded and headquartered in Seattle. Coupled with “Mayor Nickels” and the “Seattle SuperSonics,” that proves once again that you can’t believe everything you see–or don’t see–on the Internet.