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I can't find what I'm looking for in Google!
Absolutely bizarre results for a search.

 11:37 pm on Sep 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

My boyfriend is sitting next to me complaining to me about Google, and demands that I post to ask about this. He wants to complain to Google and can't find a contact address.
He wanted to find the HTTP spec, and so typed in HTTP into the search box.
The results?

? What does that even mean? It sounds like the most popular websites, or something like that. At the top it shows the category in the Directory that gets you what you want-- "Category:
Computers>Internet>Protocols>HTTP" and that gives you www.w3.org/Protocols/ and the like.
He's baffled and I really don't have an answer for him.

So, anyone have any idea what that's all about? He's righteously indignant at such a totally out-of-whack result.
He points out that in the past, he's typed in HTTP and has gotten the HTTP spec, which is what he wanted in the first place, so it's not that Google has always done this.
He now is convinced that Google is broken...



 12:38 am on Sep 3, 2003 (gmt 0)

In Google, your site is about what your inbound links say it's about [google.com]


 12:57 am on Sep 3, 2003 (gmt 0)

Hey, if he's looking for the http spec, I'd make the query "http spec" (without the quotes) instead of just "http". Or, the ODP category that we show for either query has the info too:
Computers > Internet > Protocols > HTTP

No idea what Google returned for this query in the past, but sometimes being more specific or clicking into the ODP category will help narrow a search.


 1:06 am on Sep 3, 2003 (gmt 0)

>He wanted to find the HTTP spec, and so typed in HTTP

Men huh! If he wants to find the HTTP spec tell him to search for HTTP spec ;)

>No idea what Google returned for this query in the past

Always been like that, very close to the www search. Might be worth looking at, I'm sure people typing http aren't looking for Y!


 1:38 pm on Sep 3, 2003 (gmt 0)

He said that he's searched just for HTTP and gotten what he wanted before, so he did it again. He refined his search and found what he wanted, but was disgusted with Google.

I don't understand why searching for HTTP would simply bring those up, as they do not contain HTTP anywhere in them except the URL-- and as every webpage on the Web has HTTP in the URL, it seems that Google should know not to search there. Unless HTTP is supposed to be one of those things you search to find out how many pages are in the index. It just doesn't seem to make sense to me, and definitely doesn't to my boyfriend who is still indignant. I guess he feels that Google failed him, personally. I don't really know what goes on in his mind sometimes.


 2:02 pm on Sep 3, 2003 (gmt 0)

OK, in his own words:
> The problem is not that I can't find the RFC for HTTP, the problem is
> that Google's results [Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, AltaVista, Adobe,
> Excite, Amazon, CNN, Lycos, MapQuest] are completely irrelevant to the
> Hypertext Transfer Protocol.

Which is what personally offended him.

Why would Google return totally irrelevant results? It's not like it couldn't figure out that the HTTP in the URL wasn't what the searcher would be looking for.


 2:58 pm on Sep 3, 2003 (gmt 0)

Maybe G and the small handful of other top-flight SEs generally work so amazingly well, we come to expect too much from them, especially in the area of one-word queries. We're starting to expect SEs to read our minds. Looking for information using one-word queries just isn't a good search practice. Lately I remember seeing several articles in which journalists do a one word search on G, don't get what they are looking for in the first couple results, quote a couple amusing and seemingly incongruous results, and declare that G is losing its grip.

Actually, the HTTP query gives an excellent ODP category link at the very top of the SERP. Also adding "spec" to the query does the job too. I'm sure they could hand-tweak the HTTP query to make it return HTTP spec higher, but are they going to hand-tweak every possible single-word search? And how are they supposed to know which direction to tweak the SERPS for every one-word query? That energy would be better spent in educating surfers on how to make better queries.

Anyway, I expect G to read my mind pretty frequently myself! Maybe Google is the victim of its own success.


 3:20 pm on Sep 3, 2003 (gmt 0)

I just did a search on "who", and the World Health Organization was listed #1. I searched on "now", and the National Organization of Women was #2. That is impressive - clearly Google have got their search results nearly perfect.

Your exact words were that he was looking for the HTTP spec. Well, type in "http spec" and W3.org comes up #1. Perfect. Getting bent out of shape because one particular search term doesn't bring up exactly what you secretly hoped to find just seems like a huge waste of mental energy.

[edit/Oops, Googleguy already made the same point about "http spec".]


 3:27 pm on Sep 3, 2003 (gmt 0)

User error I'm afraid.



 3:37 pm on Sep 3, 2003 (gmt 0)

Every web page is relevant to HTTP because they use that protocol to transfer their information. In fact almost every web page contains http(://some.domain/path)

Your boyfriend is simply wrong. It is not "totally irrelevant" it is only irrelevant in relation to the result that he wanted. It is in fact incredibly relevant in that hose are some incredibly popular pages that contain the word "http".


 3:39 pm on Sep 3, 2003 (gmt 0)

>User error I'm afraid.

I'm afraid so! I agree with y'all that he'll just have to accept that searching for what he's actually looking for is probably the best response.

I don't really know why he was so offended, but I must admit it makes far more sense that someone searching for HTTP would be looking for information about the HyperText Transfer Protocol, instead of looking for the website that's most often linked to with the "word" HTTP. So in a way, he's right, but in another way it doesn't freaking matter because anyone looking for information about HTTP would probably understand search engines well enough to either refine the search or look in the ODP category.


 3:42 pm on Sep 3, 2003 (gmt 0)

I think its time for a SAT test including and starting with "web-search"

Time to search for a new boyfriend (sorry could not resist..) ;)


 3:54 pm on Sep 3, 2003 (gmt 0)

>Time to search for a new boyfriend

No, I won't ditch him just for his fondness for finding most relevant search results with the minimum effort expended on the keyboard. He bought me an iPod for my birthday and let me go three months without paying rent. I can forgive him laziness.


 3:59 pm on Sep 3, 2003 (gmt 0)

He bought me an iPod for my birthday and let me go three months without paying rent. I can forgive him laziness.

That's the problem - he didn't buy google an iPod for it's birthday. Maybe there's some search engine style jealousy thing going on?



 4:04 pm on Sep 3, 2003 (gmt 0)

..minimum effort expended ..


suggests query expansions for the lazy but generous..;)

Never understood why Google doesn't do this for one word queries.


 4:17 pm on Sep 3, 2003 (gmt 0)

>>He wanted to find the HTTP spec, and so typed in HTTP

AH! Then in that case, the error occurred between the keyboard and the chair [houghi.org]


 4:20 pm on Sep 3, 2003 (gmt 0)

Hey dragonlady7, http gets used so much that it's almost lost its meaning a little, which is why that query needs a little more specifics. I can imagine that other parts of urls such as "org" would act the same way. We could work on that (and I'd prefer to return the http spec for http too), but probably there are other cases that we could work on that would give better wins. So for the time being, just give him a hug and tell him to add spec to the search. :)


 4:40 pm on Sep 3, 2003 (gmt 0)

To be entirely honest I don't agree with ya'll. I believe that words in the url should be part of a search but ranked lower then titles and links and the like. Also, I'd like to point out that the protocol specifier shouldn't be considered part of the searchable words, as it's obviously irrelevent to the resource, but simply to how the resource is accessed.

It's a bit like expecting a search for road to bring up products that are delieverd by trucks.

If this is what google is doing, I'd consider a bug and fix it. I mean this list looks almost like a PR ranked list of all sites (which in itself is really interesting and usefull)

A search for ftp should bring up things related to and about ftp, protocol specs, client software, server software, forum discussions and the like, NOT a PR ordered list of ftp sites about any old topic.

I don't understand how everybody can beat on this like that. I agree one word queries won't find specifics, a search for "widgets" won't find only "widget info" or "widget sales", because that's just not what the query specified. BUT it should, and I hope we all agree on that, bring up SOMETHING/ANYTHING related to widgets, after all that's what the query said. And here the "HTTP" search simply failed, because of a bug that included the protocol specifier in the searchable words database.

A simple fix I'd say (hehe besides of course rebuilding a 4 billion index) and end of story. Let's not excuse SE failure in such blatant manner please.



 5:35 pm on Sep 3, 2003 (gmt 0)

>So for the time being, just give him a hug and tell him to add spec to the search. :)

LOL. Should I pat him on the head too? He'd probably bite my hand off. He gets mad when his Google doesn't work like he thought it should.

>the "HTTP" search simply failed, because of a bug that included the protocol specifier in the searchable words database. >

Which is, I believe, whence came his indignation-- he was just offended that Google would have such a simple, fundamental mistake. Especially when it didn't used to! It worked before! So, he was adamant that I should somehow leverage my tremendous influence over Google to make them fix it so it was *right*.

As I was posting this, he emailed me to clarify his position:
"Do _you_ at least see what I'm getting at? It doesn't make sense to ask 'which websites are served with http?' because the answer, no matter who you ask, is always going to be 'all of them.' It's like asking 'which FTP sites use FTP?'

If I search Google for HTTP, I'm not interested in seeing a list of all websites. I _am_ interested in HTTP, which is why I typed it in in the first place. What else could I possibly expect to see, if not items about HTTP?

Other search engines seem to understand this. When I type 'http' into Sherlock [which does not use Google] I get ... definitions of HTTP, books about HTTP, reference on HTTP, HTTP servers, HTTP tutorials, and gasp! the HTTP specification!

[It wouldn't bother me so much if only people would concede that what I'm saying makes some sort of sense. I can find the spec myself, and I know perfectly well why Google's doing what it's doing, but I also strongly feel that it doesn't make sense for it to do what it's doing ... especially when it didn't used to.]"



 5:52 pm on Sep 3, 2003 (gmt 0)

killroy, I think most of us agree that in theory a search for "http" should ideally bring up info about the protocol. But removing "http" from the list of searchable words, as you suggest, would prevent me from doing some useful kinds of searches. I think the only solution would be to include special processing code specifically for the word "http", which is kind of a lot to ask to accommodate one specific and fairly esoteric search.

By the way, "ftp" brings up mostly homepages for FTP clients from what I can see, which seems substantially correct. Certainly few people will be looking for tech specs for the File Transfer protocol.


 6:23 pm on Sep 3, 2003 (gmt 0)

This is not an
Error 40. These SERPS are identical:

  • http (411.000.000)
  • http: (411.000.000)
  • http:// (411.000.000)
This one is not the same: [www....] (11.200.000)

It's a G bug allright. Or feature if you please. Certain special characters are simply ignored (wrongfully), and there's apparently a huge amount of sites linking to a certain software company using http://www.microsoft.com as anchor text.


Edit: Changed "treated (wrongfully) as spaces" to "ignored (wrongfully)".

[edited by: claus at 6:41 pm (utc) on Sep. 3, 2003]


 6:35 pm on Sep 3, 2003 (gmt 0)

"It wouldn't bother me so much if only people would concede that what I'm saying makes some sort of sense."

I think you make perfect sense and I agree with ya. It's just that we have to choose how to allocate engineers on the things that we think will help the most for the most searchers. My hunch is that we'd worry more about other types of searches because http is a bit of a corner case, but I do agree with you. :)


 6:44 pm on Sep 3, 2003 (gmt 0)

this list looks almost like a PR ranked list of all sites

About the best you can get for the top sites. Has been used extensively on WW.

Other search engines seem to understand this

Sure do. There have been some rumors amongst searchers on WW that there are other SEs out there that at times return much more relevant results than the big G (gasp!).


 8:26 pm on Sep 3, 2003 (gmt 0)

I would like to say some two-three months ago I searched "http" (no quotes) and Google returned a list of sites.. starting with Yahoo!, Google,... and so on.

I thought it was an amazing little trick to see how google ranked things.

Drangonlady7 - motives?


 8:34 pm on Sep 3, 2003 (gmt 0)


For what?

I guess HTTP is a neat trick, now-- it's just that he's a software engineer and has no need of such neat tricks.

GG's right, Google's engineers are probably busy enough. But what's plaguing me is-- why did it change? If that search used to return relevant results, why doesn't it now? Why the wawould Google get rid of the workaround they had in place? Did it just get swept away in the recent updates? (By the way, my office decided I controlled Google, just like our dour support guy accidentally controls the weather, and our other tech writer caused the NYC blackout by making microwave popcorn. I was hearing a lot about how Google wasn't giving them the results they wanted anymore. I did the best I could to soothe them and assure them things would be better, so you guys had better follow through and make things relevant or they might stop believing me.)
So, that's what I'm wondering about.


 8:49 pm on Sep 3, 2003 (gmt 0)

If that search used to return relevant results, why doesn't it now?

Not sure if it ever did return relevant results.

our other tech writer caused the NYC blackout

Pass along a thank your from me. Got to be away from this infernal machine for 24 hours, got some exercise going up and down the stairs and got to hang out with some neighbors. Have 'em throw popcorn in the old microwave every so often.


 8:52 pm on Sep 3, 2003 (gmt 0)

"I'm happy as long as GoogleGuy agrees with me."

That's my boyfriend's conclusion of the issue. I guess his pride is satisfied.

>Not sure if it ever did return relevant results.

Well, he says it did.

> the NYC blackout

I thoroughly enjoyed it as well but my building was only 2 floors up, and the emergency lights in the stairwell worked, and the local bar didn't run out of ice. So, I enjoyed it and would do it again, but feel bad for all those who were less fortunate. So, we're discouraging her from making microwave popcorn unless absolutely necessary.

I think our support guy has been in a particularly foul mood all summer, because it hasn't stopped raining here in months.

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