Friday Jan 26, 2007

A quick word about "A quick word about Googlebombs"

Google has just announced that they have tweaked their search algorithm in a way which "has begun minimizing the impact of many Googlebombs." I'm not sure whether I think that's a good thing or not. On one hand, susceptibility to any artificial manipulation of search results is probably bad. On the other hand, a little light-heartedness is one way that Google has always stood out as a company.

I have no such mixed feelings in looking at how Google announced this change, however. I think it's pathetic. Their blog entry essentially just says that the change is algorithmic and "very limited in scope and impact." Good intro, but how about some details?

Google Bombs worked in the first place because Google's search algorithm assumes that what people say when they link to a page can be used to better understand that page. That idea is an important piece in the search puzzle, and I'd like to understand how their new algorithm changes impact it. Presumably, being "very limited in scope and impact" means that they somehow detect and ignore "bad" context in some links (which match some Google Bomb profile) while still paying attention to "good" context in other links? Again, that sounds good (if my presumption is correct), but why not be more forthcoming with exactly what's being done? We all deserve to know if and how wording around hyperlinks impacts the target URL's status in search results.

I realize that Google is in a very competitive space. Keeping a lead over the likes of Microsoft and Yahoo (if you believe they're leading) requires that Google keep some technical secrets to itself. But the key word is some. There is value in allowing everyone to understand the basics of how a key service such as Google search works. Their core PageRank technology fundamentally depends on us all "voting" with our hyperlinks. And as I've mentioned before, I think that there is an obligation to allow its "electorate" to learn how to best use those votes. That can certainly be accomplished without giving away every detail of their technology. But I think it requires more detail than just telling us that something is algorithmic and low-impact.

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woodjr

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