December 10, 2004

Google Suggest: Instant Zeitgeist..

As seen on slashdot, in the comment stream: The ABC's of Google Suggest:

    A is for Amazon
    B is for Best Buy
    C is for CNN
    D is for Dictionary
    E is for Ebay
    F is for Firefox (yay!)
    ...

I remember when I first saw this demo, how I hoped it'd be launched. Working at Google makes me happy.

Chris DiBona
Posted From: Mountain View, Ca

1 comment:

Sean Turvey said...

Hey, I thought that I was the only person who notced these things. Here is what I posted on the Google Suggest group.

Is it possible that if Google Suggest goes mainstream that it can skew the zeitgeist? People will be accepting the terms that are displayed instead of their own search terms. This will cause those terms to be ranked higher.

The next day my post continued...

The more I think about Google Suggest (which as of about 6pm yesterday I was the number one fan of) the more implications that skewing the zeitgeist could have.


Please note in the following example I am only using Amazon.com because they are the first entry under "A". I am not attempting to show an Amazon / Google conspiricy or any such thing.


Lets say 1 user typed in the letter "A". The first thing he will see is Amazon.com. He has a decision to hit enter or continue. Not a hard decision, unless he was looking for Amazon he will probably continue. He may however be a bit curious, get sidetracked and decide to go there. I am not a psychiatrist nor statistician but lets give this a lowball guess his ods might be 1/10th of 1% (an easy number for calculations) that he is curious. Not much of a change in the zeitgeist considering the rating is 214 million for Amazon.

Here's where it gets dangerous though. The most recent numbers I can find are from Feb. 2003 so I will use those. Each day Google has 250 million searches. On any day 9 615 384 (250^6 / 26) people starting a search with the letter "A" (the actual numbers do vary due to the frequency of use per letter). In one year that equals 3 509 615 380 people starting a search with the letter "A".

This gives us 3 509 615 380 * 1/10 of 1% (.001) = 3 509 615. This skews the zeitgeist by aprox. 1.6% per year. That does not include the ever rising number of computer users. In just 3 years that increases Amazon's users by aprox 10 million users. Over the course of 10 years Amazons numbers are boosted by 36,813,467.

Looking at these numbers I can't help but think about the Star Fleet's prime directive in the show Star Trek which states "As the right of each sentient species to live in accordance with its normal cultural evolution is considered sacred, no Star Fleet personnel may interfere with the healthy development of alien life and culture. Such interference includes the introduction of superior knowledge, strength, or technology to a world whose society is incapable of handling such advantages wisely. Star Fleet personnel may not violate this Prime Directive, even to save their lives and/or their ship unless they are acting to right an earlier violation or an accidental contamination of said culture. This directive takes precedence over any and all other considerations, and carries with it the highest moral obligation."

Maybe Gene Roddenberry gave us something to think about after all.

One more thought on the subject...

In this regard GS could change the way the world thinks and not just does their searching.

BTW don't get me wrong. I still love GS and intend on using it as my primary interface to Google. These are just my musings over the long term effects of having our search terms suggested to us. I hope though someone does read this do the real number crunching and proves me wrong.