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1/26/2007
01:32 PM
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Google Defuses Googlebombs

Notable victims of Googlebombing have included George W. Bush, Jimmy Carter, Michael Moore, Tony Blair, Rick Santorum, and John Kerry, to name a few.

A Google search for "miserable failure" no longer returns the official biography of George W. Bush. Until yesterday, pranksters, activists and the like were able to manipulate the Google search algorithm so as to associate a specific site with a chosen query by creating a sufficient number of Web links pointed at the target site -- a practice has come to be known as "Googlebombing."

Google yesterday said that it had improved its analysis of the link structure of the Web to defuse Google bombs. Using Googlebombed keywords now generally returns links pointing to news sites discussing the Googlebomb rather than the target site.

In the past, the company has dismissed Googlebombing. "We don't condone the practice of googlebombing, or any other action that seeks to affect the integrity of our search results, but we're also reluctant to alter our results by hand in order to prevent such items from showing up," said Marissa Mayer, director of consumer Web products, in September 2005. "Pranks like this may be distracting to some, but they don't affect the overall quality of our search service, whose objectivity, as always, remains the core of our mission."

But Google changed its position to prevent the perception that its search results exhibited bias. "Because these pranks are normally for phrases that are well off the beaten path, they haven't been a very high priority for us," explained Matt Cutts, head of Google's Web spam team, in a blog post on Thursday. "But over time, we've seen more people assume that they are Google's opinion, or that Google has hand-coded the results for these Googlebombed queries. That's not true, and it seemed like it was worth trying to correct that misperception. So a few of us who work here got together and came up with an algorithm that minimizes the impact of many Googlebombs."

Notable victims of Googlebombing have included George W. Bush, Jimmy Carter, Michael Moore, Tony Blair, Rick Santorum, and John Kerry, to name a few. However, public figures still have reason to worry about search engine manipulation. When "miserable failure" is entered into Ask, Windows Live, and Yahoo, the top search result in each case remains the biography of George W. Bush at the official White House site.

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