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Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Abusing Google SafeSearch

This is certainly one of the stranger approaches to analyze the Google index size, but it seems to work remarkably well; turn on SafeSearch in the preferences, and then search for “unsafe” words (like “f*ck” or “sh*it”). You’ll know when you hit an unsafe word when Google tells you:

“The word “f*ck” has been filtered from the search because Google SafeSearch is active.”

But why does Google show “about 10,450,000,000” results then? Because after filtering the word, it searched for nothing ... and all*. While Google Images stops its search if it consists of only filtered words, Google web search apparently has a quirk which makes it still continue its search even though there are no unfiltered words left to search for.

*That’s similar to what happens when you search for [* *], which at the moment returns 11,270,000,000 (the top result being a Macromedia “return policy” page).

Note that depending on which word you search for, you get different top results. The number one page for “f*ck” is “ - Jobs with Us” (a PageRank 7 page). The top page for “sh*t” – which returns 9,450,000,000 results – is web design and standards magazine A List Apart (a PageRank 8 homepage). A List Apart is also first for many other words, or word combinations, too numerous (and rude) to mention here.

[Thanks to Markus Renschler, who alerted me to the fact you sometimes see curse words in your Google referrer stats – even when you don’t have those words on your page.]


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