A search engine excels or fails with the results it returns. It’s not the number of results that count, but the result the user was looking for. If a user can’t find what the user is looking for, even though the user knows it’s there (just not where), the search engine will get the blame. Even if the user used to most irrelevant keywords for the search, it’s always the search engines fault. Google became famous with this. It found what you were looking for. You didn’t need a degree in computer science, it just found what you were looking for. Lately, it looks like it’s trying the opposite.
At first, Google rocked. Whatever you threw at it, you never had to browse past page 5 to find what you were looking for. If you had to, your keywords were wrong. Then, Google added a typo-corrector. This feature suggested an alternative word that had more results than a word you used as a keyword. While this helped to fix an occasional typo quickly, it was mostly useless. More often than not, it would suggest a completely other keyword, that had nothing to do with your search, but shared some letters with one of your keywords. Since it was only a link at the top and bottom of the page, this was easy to ignore.
Then someone at Google had one the worst ideas ever. He or she decided to ‘assist’ the user, and already return results with the corrected word added. So instead of returning the results for ‘weater’, it would return the results for ‘weater OR weather’. Helpful, right? Cause you are a user, you are stupid, so we help you, wether you want it or not, and we decide what you are searching for. Sounds really helpful, doesn’t it? But what if the user really wanted to search for ‘weater’? After all, it is a real thing, albeit slang (hint: to save you from browsing to page 6 of the Google results, it’s an abbreviation for a ‘wife beater’ (an A-Shirt(US), singlet(AU), or vest(UK))). The user isn’t completely out of luck yet, as an undocumented feature will be added. If the user surrounds the keyword with double quotes, we’ll disable our automated-user-correcting system.
Luckily, there was another someone at Google who wanted to top that. You think you’ve seen worst? Think again! Let’s keep some of the ridiculous automated-user-correcting systems, but let’s make it even worse. We disable the functionality of using double quotes, and we create common-user-error lists, that has a lot of words in it, and we will show results for all of the words in those lists. So, a search for ‘consts flags’ will return one result with the actual word ‘consts’ in it, for the frontpage. For the other results, we’ll use words from the lists instead. So instead of boring development articles, we’ll give a result about what the Sudanese Defense costs, on a site that has Flags in it’s title keywords, the #1 rank. The user is stupid, right? We decide what the user will want to see! Wether it be ‘costs’, ‘constants’, ‘constant’, or ‘const’, we’ll definitely make the 3,070,000 results. The Sudanese Defense is definitely relevant! Just to leave the user not completely in the dark, we will implement the quote trick differently than it used to work. Now, it only works if the user has more than one keyword. If there is only one keyword, we’ll simply ignore it.
I’m not sure wether Google is actually trying to get rid of it’s user-base fast, or if it actually thinks that automatically correcting a user is helpful, but it sure got rid of me. If it won’t take my keywords and just search for those, why should I bother using it? The hunt for a new default search engine is open again. A little princess told me Y! is good, let’s try that out.
Filed Under: blog
Released: on Aug 25, 2008 under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs (CC-BY-ND) license