Blown To Bits

Google, Tweaked

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009 by Harry Lewis

Google’s search engine isn’t perfect because it can’t read minds. In a sidebar in Chapter 4 we note that a search for “spears” returns few results that aren’t about Britney or her little sister — anyone looking for weapons was pretty much out of luck when we tried it. Google tended to give the results that most people want most of the time, and that is far more likely to be Britney than a pointed pole.

In recent weeks — I first noted it a month or so ago — Google’s search results seem to be less monotonous and the results pages have started to include some phrases at the bottom pointing to less common interpretations of the search phrase. (See¬†Google tinkers with ‘special sauce’ for searches.) So the top page of results for “spears” now leads with Spears Manufacturing (a maker of PVC piping) and includes a link to the Wikipedia page for the pointy kind of spears. And the links across the bottom of the page offer you searches for “spears weapons,” “greek spears,” and also “spears flash,” “spears underwear,” and “spears no underwear,” all apparently common searches for a particular subcategory of Britney material. Not sure if these links are intentionally to subsets rather than alternatives to the tyrrany-of-the-majority favorite.

In other Google news, StreetView has been rolled out in England, to much greater interest than I remember it exciting in the US. Reaction on privacy grounds has been strong (e.g. Who allowed Google to put my big knickers online?), as has voyeurism (e.g. Google Streetview Captures British People Drunkenly Vomiting). The Times (London) notes archly that the head of Google UK lives on a gated lane inaccessible to the Google Streetview camera ….

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