Google Blogoscoped

Monday, May 19, 2003

Rare Words Make Robust Links

Google gives a lot of power to words. Naturally, this leads to people working with Google optimizations and online research to focus on popular niche words, and unique words. It’s especially tempting to create new words to make it easier to trace pointers back to one’s creations.

It’s not only issues of trademark, branding and copyright law. Those existed before search engines.

It makes it so much easier to hunt down “Google Blogoscoped”, than hunting down “Google Blog”. (Even more so with “Googlosophy Blogoscoped"*, two words that are not unique on their own, but in combination.)
And it makes sense; “Google Blogoscoped” is a Google-blog, whereas not every Google-blog is “Google Blogoscoped”.

When creating this blog, I was aware of how often the words used for the title appear online. “Microscope” is very common, verb “microscoped” much less so, and “blogoscoped” practically unique. (Similar applied to “Googlosophy”.)
Of course, what’s coming first is semantics: the idea being, the web through the eyes of Google, and Google through the (daily) eyes of a Microscope – blogzooming** on details.

* “Googlosophy Blogoscoped” is this weblog’s former name I felt like dropping, since Google is a trademark and they’re (probably understandably) allergic to alterations of it. “Blog” however (being the oft-quoted web-log becoming wee-blog) doesn’t belong to any single corporation and seems more up for flexible wordbending.

** And now that I mentioned it, I’ll wait and see where “blogzoom” and “blogzooming” go (there are some result pages for “blog-zoom” and “blog-zooming”, but they are not actual word-combinations separated by a dash).
Interestingly enough, in the German language, combining two words to become a new one is completely common. This poses some problems for a search engine like Google, since it will (currently) only accept complete words, using separators like dash, or punctuation. For example in German, a “computer user” could be a “computeruser” (“Computernutzer”). Along those lines, we got “tablelamp”, “breadknife”, and so on. Simply erasing the blank between two otherwise common words, and combining them in this way, has much less of a chance of creating a new, more or less unique word, in German.

“Rarely can an individual blogger get a story going”, however:

“The best blog stories are those that are branded with a word or phrase that is highly identifiable with that story.”
– Elwyn Jenkins, Dynamics of a Blogosphere Story (Microdc News), Tuesday, 20 May 2003

It might just be some days from now, the following URL will point to this page (and will also be relatively stable if the page moves):
blogzooming wordbending tablelamp

And whenever I want to locate this information again, I just have to remember certain words. Saves making bookmarks to many pages out there — just remember the rarest words of them. Relatively easy, ain’t it? (And it can also be the basic mindset for many successful online researches — that is, tracking down pages you never even saw yet.)
All this is nothing but a “human” implementation of Robust Hyperlinks, as described here:

“Traditional hyperlinks are very brittle, in that they are useless if the page later moves to a different URL. This project improves upon traditional hyperlinks by creating a signature of the target page, selecting a set of very rare words that uniquely identify the page, and relying on a search engine query for those rare words to find the page in the future. For example, the Google programming contest can be found using this link.”
2002 Google Programming Contest Winner (Honorable Mentions Thomas Phelps and Robert Wilensky)

As you can see, “near-duplicates web-sized pre-parsed systems-related” is the search string.
And as you may realize, quoting those words right here risks destroying the robustness of above link (sorry, Google, but then again I suppose my PageRank will stay infinitely lower).

All Search Engine Headlines

All the search engine headlines on one page at Google Blogoscoped.

Google Cartoon 2

Google makes localized versions harder to escape

Since a few days, it became even harder for non-US Google users to break out of the localized version.

So far, what happened was that upon entering “”, one was redirected to e.g. for me the German “”. The German Google is not just a translation of US-Google into German language, which would already be more than some want (living in Germany does not equal preferring German language to English, even if it’d be true for most).
No. It’s actually a different site. Tabs are missing (like Google News), search results are censored (like “white power” domain And of course, the whole URL is different, and if I want to quote a Google-search for my Google Answers research, I wouldn’t want to point the user to a German-language result.

I think it’s up to the user to decide where one wants to go. Entering “” should bring one directly to the German site. Entering “” should deliver, what else, the “.com” site.

There was a simple click so far which apparently set a cookie. A little link on the bottom of “” would say something like “Google in English”, and would take one directly to the domain. This would be saved, so that next time wouldn’t redirect based on location:

“One thrust of this is determining geolocation from IP number. Currently this is about 80 percent effective in fixing the IP number to a major city, and over 90 percent in fixing it to a country.”
– Google Watch, China, Google, and press spin, 7 September 2002

That was bad enough, especially for those who don’t allow cookies, or regularly delete them, or switch their computer often (from home to office, cyber cafe to laptop).
I wrote to Google, maybe around a year ago, but the complaint just resulted in a detailed explanation of where to click to set the cookie. (This equals telling the user to turn off scripting in the browser settings, instead of the webmaster having to debug the JavaScript — certainly a big time saver.)

Well. Bad enough. But now, unfortunately, things got worse. I’m not quite sure if this was purely an experimental, temporary phase. It wasn’t restricted to Germany only, though.
To make a long story short: after noticing the “Google in English” link was missing, much clicking around, looking at a dozen flags (of which the US-one was missing), switching domains, and trying to alter settings — I found it impossible to escape the “German borders”. And just when I thought to finally have found my way to English content, following the next link would bring up German pages again. (And I was looking for English press material at, so this language-switch was rather annoying.)

Why does Google do this? I could imagine several reasons:

  1. To deliver localized (censored) search results
  2. To better target ads
  3. To make it simpler for the user

For the sake of Google, let’s just assume their only interest is to make it simpler for the user. “I feel like home, they speak my language”. (Because the other reasons wouldn’t be very user-oriented.)
Now I think there’s a fine line between keeping it simple for the user, and forcing certain decisions on where one wants to go. And I hope Google will start to respect a user’s deliberate choice of dot-com over localized. ’Cause that’s what they typed into their browser’s address bar.

Personally, I take full responsibility if ever a page pops up in my search result. Maybe it’s tough for Google Inc. to believe, but even though I’m German, I think I won’t be tempted to join them.

GoogleGuy Says...

GoogleGuy is a Google employee who is very helpful in responding to questions and providing information to webmasters in the forums at WebmasterWorld. I am not GoogleGuy, and I don’t work for Google. (...) I created this site to compile all of GoogleGuy’s informative comments in one place, providing an easier way to access this (already public) information"
GoogleGuy Says

Vanity Google

A German article on googling says:

Privacy is determined by what is hard to find on Google

Probably everyone who ever used a search engine at once entered his own name. “Vanity Google”, as US people call it. There’s practically always some information. If you play in a chess club, you’ll find tournament result lists. There’s photos of class reunions, quoted University papers, and archived commentary from newsgroup discussions. Exactly where your own name turns up is out of your control.”
– Ansbert Kneip, Die Google-Jagd auf Libby Hoeler (Spiegel Online), May 12 2003

Not sure how common the term “vanity Google” is. (Probably as common as “autogoogling”. “Egosurfing” is the more common word — featured on thousands of pages, including and Daypop blog search returns only a single quotation. Others found on Google quote from the following article:

“One in three Americans online say they have plugged the name of someone they know into a search engine. And one in four have done a “vanity Google,’’ the practice of typing one’s own name into the search box to see what comes up.”
– Mary Anne Ostrom and Matt Marshall, Google: An engine of change Mary Anne Ostrom and Matt Marshall, May 05, 2003

Google OS market share

Google Zeitgeist published its Operating Systems market share (based on which OS people accessing Google use). Windows altogether holds 92% of the market — with Windows 98, XP, and 2000 in the lead. Mac has 3%, and Linux 1%.

Operating Systems Used to Access Google - April 2003
Windows 9834%
Windows XP31%
Windows 200021%
Windows NT4%
Windows 952%


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