Thursday, November 18, 2010

Google ABCs

I decided to run a small-e experiment this evening, which did not, alas, did not go as planned. 

Every once in a while I will see one of those "autocomplete" pictures on the internet. Basically, people will start to type in a normal-sounding phrase, like "I would like to..." and Google will try to guess what you are looking for. (See here for some examples.) For my part, I was going to create the Google ABC's. I was going to type in the letters of the alphabet and make a list of the most popular word or phrase for each letter.

Poor Google. The rhesus monkey of the internet.

It...sort of worked. There were two problems. First, I had forgotten that it localized the searches, so it's displaying what people in my area (Western PA) are looking for. This meant a lot of local radio stations and businesses popped up. However, it only made a difference in two or three letters, but otherwise I discarded all obviously local results. The second thing: it's boring. It's just a list of the most popular web sites and the most popular chain stores. For some reason I was expecting it to be all "Dog on Computer Pron" and "UFO Landing During Filming Of Faces of Death XI." Stupid internet. Anyway, let's take a look:

Amazon
Best Buy
Craigslist
Dictionary
eBay
Facebook
Gmail
Hotmail
IMBD
J.C. Penney
Kohls
Lowes
Mapquest
Neflix
Overstock
Pandora
Quotes
Rate My Professor
Sears
Target
USPS
Verizon
Weather
X Box
Yahoo
Zip Codes

No real surprises here, with the possible exception of Rate My Professor for R. I'm thinking this may also be localized--Pittsburgh has a top of colleges and universities built from dirty steel money--but the runners up aren't very popular, either. Can't Fail Business Plan: Create a chain store that starts with the letter R to corner the market!

Speaking of runners-up, let's look at the second most popular search. Again, local entries were deleted:

AOL
Bank of America
CNN
Dancing With The Stars
ESPN
Fox News
Google Maps
Hulu
Ikea
Jersey Shore
K Mart
Limewire
MSN
Olive Garden
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
QVC
Reverse Phone Lookup
Southwest
Thesaurus
UPS
Victoria's Secret
Wal Mart
XM Radio
YouTube
Zappos

A few notes, here: P was hopelessly compromised. Pretty much all of them had to do with Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Pirates, Penguins, etc. I had to hunt and peck for Pandora.

Weather beat out Wal Mart. And more people are interested in looking up synonyms than in Ticketmaster.

Mad props for Jackie Evancho, local America's Got Talent and operatic phenom. She beat out Jersey Shore.

AOL? Limewire? MSN? J.C. Penney? What is this, 1999?

It says something about the Internet Age. I was fully expecting the normal weirdo Scrabble tiles of X, Q, and Z to be scraping some pretty obscure stuff from the bottom, but when everyone is branding stuff like it's a Dr. Seuss animal, the results were remarkably natural.

Anyway, this wasn't nearly as exciting as I thought it was going to be, but there it is. My social experimentation quota has been met for the month.

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