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Google on AOL

 2:57 pm on Jul 23, 2002 (gmt 0)

beta google on aol [dirweb01.search.aol.com]



 7:47 am on Jul 24, 2002 (gmt 0)

Calling GoogleGuy....Calling GoogleGuy

I'm just about to shine the searchlight into the sky with the Google logo on it!

Can he tell us what is going on?


 7:53 am on Jul 24, 2002 (gmt 0)

Well, here's a new twist to this tale... One of our clients, even though he is a .com, is US hosted, and can be found both in Google and the AOL directory (=ODP), cannot be found in the "enhanced by Google" search. Go figure. :(:(
On the other hand AOL and Netscape were always insignificant traffic providers to this client even with top positions for his main keywords, so beyond ego this is not a real loss.

[added]Okay, I think I've figured it out... One of our client's DNS is a nypop .net, but the other one is a .il (even though he is US hosted)[/added]


 8:23 am on Jul 24, 2002 (gmt 0)

In Germany AOL also filters for adult content, you might want to look for such a filtering at AOL.com also.


 7:25 am on Jul 24, 2002 (gmt 0)

The following is an edited version of a letter I sent to comments@google.com, which contained the text of a Usenet post I made condeming Google for partnering with AOL in censorship. IMO, Google has sold out, and IMO unless they refuse to allow default censorship of results provided by them to AOL, they are a disgrace to the ideals of the Internet. I can only hope Google reverses this policy.

Message-ID: <Zto%8.1170$Zf1.388557@news5.aus1.giganews.com>

Yes, it is true. If this isn't changed, Google will be partnering with AOL to provide censored search results to AOL users, which won't even allow AOLers an option where my website would come up in search results. And, no it has nothing to do with my website topic. It is even stupider than that. Google/AOL at the moment seem to be planning to censor ALL websites with a foreign top level domain, such as .ws, .co.uk, .au, etc. Thus, all websites about The Beatles, Shakespeare, or even Prince Charles that happen to have a .uk at the end of the domain name will be censored from US AOL users. Check for yourself:


Try running "Prince Charles" through that, and then www.google.com. Gotta make sure to protect the Americans from www.princeofwales.gov.uk, which is "The official website of HRH Prince Charles, The Prince of Wales.", and #1 at Google. Looks like Google has sunk to an all time low, allowing themselves to be a partner with AOL in providing censored search results. Personally, I'll be sending a copy of this post to comments@google.com expressing my disgust and contempt for Google in being a part in this. And to think I used to like Google.


 7:42 am on Jul 24, 2002 (gmt 0)

I agree that it's daft AOL are not showing CO.UK's in the search results etc but we need to think, isn't this just a beta? Things may change over the coming days or even weeks. If not, then of course it's worth complaining.

But you can never accuse Google of selling out. They have to many money, just like me. In fact, they are good at making money yet still keeping their nice and funky attitude (okay, so they don't personally reply to e-mail anymore.....Cut and paste isn't personal!)


 7:49 am on Jul 24, 2002 (gmt 0)

I hope that this is a Beta.

It is incredible!

I expect they can give their users the opportuny to filter
US sites as Aol UK does. ( [aol.co.uk...] ):

Whole web


US Sites


 7:56 am on Jul 24, 2002 (gmt 0)

My hope here is that this isn't set in stone yet, and to try and whip up sentiment that this is evil censorship. Google may worry about this tarnishing their image. And, this is indeed censorship. This isn't a case where the user can set filtering of the search results to their desires. There isn't even an *option* in this evil aolgoogle monstrousity of choosing uncensored search results. Google here is running for AOL the sort of search engine I'd expect would be found in the People's Republic of China.

And, I most definitely consider this Google selling out. They should have, after finding out what AOL wanted, told AOL that they hoped they burned in hell as they deserve, and just walked away. If this is Google's idea of the way to make a buck, and then then IMO they have a very low sense of ethics, and are contrary to the spirit of the Internet.


 8:01 am on Jul 24, 2002 (gmt 0)

To angiolo, indeed I don't see any problem with the way it works at [aol.co.uk...] That even defaults to uncensored results, and just gives the user an option if they want filtered SERPs. This aolgoogle monster not only doesn't default to uncensored, there is NO option at all to get "Whole Web" results.


 8:09 am on Jul 24, 2002 (gmt 0)

In any case I think it is no so horrendous.

It will force "skilled" webmasters to have a new site hosted in US.
Doing it quick you can gain in front of "slow reacting" competitors...


 8:19 am on Jul 24, 2002 (gmt 0)

First, what we are seeing is not an official site. It doesn't even say beta on it. There is no indication what so ever that dirweb01.search.aol.com will ever see the light of day. The final version could be light years away from what is there at the moment.

What I think we are seeing on the alpha/beta test site right now, is nothing more than a snapshot database that is being served with some of the same routines that serve Google AdWords on AOL - hence the auto filtering. Looks to me like they aren't testing the database here, they are testing the interface.

They are just using whatever tools are handy on the shelf. Right now, that could be the backlink server for Googles AOL AdWords displayes.

To suggest that aol/google is doing anything but beta testing from one preproduction database is absurd at this point. It's best to just wait until something more official pops up on the radar.

I'm going to splice this on the aol thread - all the same topic.


 8:42 am on Jul 24, 2002 (gmt 0)


What about the people who provide good content but dont have the means, "skill" or permissions to change server locals or other work arounds. Are you suggesting that those people should just lump it. Not so sure that is a good way forward. IMO

What about the .ac.uk 's, surely they cant be de-listed. But they are, apparently universities dont exist in the UK. I suppose one good point is if all the history sites are ommitted it will make the subject a lot easier to study as one will need only do the past few hundred years :-)


 8:50 am on Jul 24, 2002 (gmt 0)


Actually the new search IS LIVE about 50% of the time. Every other time I go to aol.com and click on the link at top in the navigation that says search, I get the Google Enhanced results and database. So it may be beta, but it is a live beta.

But on the other hand I don't think google has done anything wrong if the database does stay that way. Google is getting paid to supply results and technology. What AOL wants done with the product is up to AOL. Google would be crazy and I would even say wreckless to turn down AOL just because AOL wanted to do something different then everyone else with the results. JMHO


 8:42 am on Jul 24, 2002 (gmt 0)

So, Prince Charles should move his site to a .com or .org, and host in the US? And, some of us on the Internet are non-profits. "Competition" isn't the goal. In fact, I choose to link to several sites related to mine, including one rather obscure Russian one, because while their site content is good, the webmaster have been terrible in terms of designing websites that can even be found easily in search engines. The 3 English language sites I link to are hard to find on both aolgoogle and Google on most of the key search terms. Because I rank so high in Google, and most other search engines that count, 2 of these 3 sites get most of their search engine traffic second hand from the my link to them on the home page. I do happen to have started a sister site to my own, which is in .org namespace, a month back that may end up now acting as a doorway page that will lead end up leading people to my site if it manages to get into aolgoogle soon, because I have been thrown out because the main site is in .ws namespace. [As for Google itself, as I already have extremely good SERPs for all the key terms, I don't need a doorway page for that site.] As for all those nonprofit .uk, .au, .nz, ca, etc. sites out there thrown in the bit bucket as garbage sites by aolgoogle, I guess the are just out of luck and have been given the shaft. Good work, Google.


 9:05 am on Jul 24, 2002 (gmt 0)

To JeremyL: if Google's name is on the page at AOL, then I hold them accountable. What I consider AOL is doing here (assuming this is live as you say), is evil. If Google were to demand AOL remove their name, and just provide the data they provide that is used as the basis of this vile AOL search engine, then I can see just holding AOL accountable. However, with the Google name on these ruthlesslessly censored SERPs, then Google should also be condemned.


 9:20 am on Jul 24, 2002 (gmt 0)

It also seems permanent on the aolsearch.co.uk, no mention of beta here.

A naive, but genuine question... why do they beta test such a 'beta' version publically?

Why does it take days, weeks etc. for things to 'straighten out'? Surely the terms of reference and technologies can be agreed, matched, integrated and implemented before it is unleashed, leaving just minor bugs or tweaks to be ironed out?


 9:35 am on Jul 24, 2002 (gmt 0)

I more than sympathize with the anger on here. It frankly is a disgrace.

I slept on this last night, as I sometimes do when I am angry, with the expectation that I may be able to work out some logic or common sense overnight. I couldn't find any.

Why are they trying to blind their US based users from half the internet? Why censor on the basis of hosting location or suffix? Are they too stupid to understand that both these hurdles can be jumped by those who really want to?

I cannot see any advantage in this for AOL. Surely it will be just another incentive for their users to jump ship.... it won't take too long for them to start to realize that important and well known sites have been censored out.

And for Google it will also be damaging. They have their name right next to these limited returns. What impression do they think this will give to AOL users? Obvious... Google produces half baked results... so what's all the hype about.... find a better SE. Is that what Google wants? That's what they will get if this goes live. The start of brand contamination on a a large scale.

Yup... they've got me angry on this one. I hate censorship at the best of times, but this one takes the biscuit for stupidity.


 9:48 am on Jul 24, 2002 (gmt 0)

I think you guys should settle down. Nothing is official. Clicking on the search tab sometimes gets the google index, sometimes the inktomi. Things are in flux.

It would seem sensible for AOL to offer a similar to UK where you can choose between two. I really cant see any sensible reason why they wouldnt. They are testing it, but the algo may not be set at all. They well be just testing their hardware/system with a smaller subset of Google results for texting purposes and only including .coms seemed the easiest thing for their purposes.

What is this talk about censorship? All search engines rank and filter results. Surely then they all censor?

I would just wait until it settles as the new AOL search before you have heart attacks. After all, AOL or Google didnt ask us to look at their beta/test bed/playpen/US only search/or whatever did they? One of our smart guy's found it.

We are like voyeurs peeking in a window and coming to incredulous conclusions without anything other than the fuzzy picture we are seeing.

And even if we are seeing what we think we are, Does Google ever settle at the end of an update with it's first change at the start? No!

As a Google SE customer, it would seem to me very sensible NOT to provide default Google results but to provide a unique view on it. Otherwise people would just go to Google. Even BBC is not pure Google.

And after all these guys are "AMERICA on line" are they not? Ive never been able to take them seriously as a global brand until they change that name :)


 9:56 am on Jul 24, 2002 (gmt 0)

Maybe they are evaluating how PPC demand is increasing during this beta test...


 9:56 am on Jul 24, 2002 (gmt 0)

Here's the thread on Google at AOL Germany - it's quite informative...
http://www.webmasterworld.com/forum18/486.htm [webmasterworld.com]

What looked like a Beta is now in use for 4 weeks.


 9:58 am on Jul 24, 2002 (gmt 0)

I've read what everyone is saying, but I think it's worth repeating that we don't know what we're looking at yet.

This may be how it's going to end up, maybe not.
The fact is, at this moment we just don't know what's happening so I think we should all just sit back and chill out a little until we know for sure.

When we know for sure that it's reached it's final configuration and it's settled, if people are still unhappy (and there's some pretty strong opinions here) then it would be at that time that we let our voices be heard.

There must be a reson behind how things are currently looking, but we just don't know what it is yet.


 10:00 am on Jul 24, 2002 (gmt 0)

You got it, Napoleon. My guess is this is just combined stupidity on a grand scale by both AOL and Google. I doubt AOL was really thinking so much on the line of censorship. I just ran some obvious searches for porn on aolgoogle, and all the American smut sites are still listed. My guess is AOL figured their not so intelligent users would be confused by all the foreign sites that tend to come up in Google searches, that most of the time they don't want. And decided to just give them all the heave ho. Of course stupid, as this also at the same time makes it near impossible to do good searches for things like British history, Israeli politics, etc. However, we are talking AOL here. ;)

As for Google, I just can't fathom this. Google's reputation is based on having an extensive search database of sites worldwide. The name Google itself is from "googol", and immensely huge number. This will be brand contamination on a large scale for Google. I'd have thought Google would have whacked AOL with a cluestick, and pointed out obvious things like kids using their parents AOL account to search for information to do papers in school history classes and such are gonna have a lot of problems with a search database that excludes most of the world. And, if AOL didn't get a clue, I'd have thought Google would have insisted that AOL not put any mention of Google on the website. This AOL deal must have meant so much money that Google just took leave of their senses. Hopefully only temporarily.


 10:02 am on Jul 24, 2002 (gmt 0)

In Germany:
> What looked like a Beta is now in use for 4 weeks.

But they offer the two possibilities.

Suchen in (Search) : Deutschland (Germany) Weltweit ( World)


 10:07 am on Jul 24, 2002 (gmt 0)

Beta's actually turn into the real thing in the vast majority of cases Chiyo, and I think it is 5-1 odds on that this is what will happen this time.

Censorship? They are pretty much blocking out anything that isn't hosted in the US. What do you call it? I call it censorship... 'you can only see what we want you to see and that will be only the stuff hosted here with the right suffix'.

If this goes ahead I REALLY hope it damages them big time, which I believe it will. Stupidity, whatever the motive, deserves abject failure.


 10:24 am on Jul 24, 2002 (gmt 0)

Censorship? They are pretty much blocking out anything that isn't hosted in the US. What do you call it?

..filtering for your target market...

Im not saying whether that strategy is good or bad Napolean, just answering your question.


 10:27 am on Jul 24, 2002 (gmt 0)

So, keep beta out of general usage, test it, firm up the terms of reference and inclusion - then release it.

It's only beta if it's not available to your users. How many of us would (and do bitch) when software is rushed released, has security holes and generally does not perform it's function to the best of it's ability?

Would you let your visitors use your site (beta or not) if it were not providing full value or not working properly due to it's 'beta' nature?

Taking us out of the equasion, how is providing low quality, non-consistent results providing value to users of AOL's search services?


 10:33 am on Jul 24, 2002 (gmt 0)

Agree with both counts, Chyio and Napoleon.

Lets not cry censorship too often - it's a big word, which should be reserved for serious political cases.

This is business - only I totally fail to see the logic. That's why I agree: it won't help AOL gaining reputation and customers.


 11:29 am on Jul 24, 2002 (gmt 0)

I think this is bad for Google because if AOL fails miserably and they either go belly up or decide to switch again, Google will look very bad and will have a harder time selling any of their search results to other portals.

On the other hand, I think if the net evolves in a way that IP addresses are factored into the SERPS, then it could be a better experience for searchers ---- provided advertisers/webmaters understand the rules and pick a primary market for their audience (and host their site there).

I don't like it any more than you guys (since my site is also "filtered" being Canadian hosted) but if I was an AOL-USA surfer, maybe that's what I'd want. Of course if there is a "US sites only" option, the user will probably not know the difference between a "US site" and a "hosted in the US site", so this could be a barrier if they do that for those that don't switch hosting companies.

But personally if I were Google, I would not have put my brand on the line like that, epsecially in something unproven such as this.


 11:32 am on Jul 24, 2002 (gmt 0)


did AOL Germany and England have the "Weltweit" option as of the beginning (beta?)?

I would not be suprised if AOL America would keep results to US sites. It follows the general US inward out-look. (bend-over vitaplease :) ).

It would suprise me if Google would let their name be connected to these type of results though, i.e. without offering that world option.

Anyway, some people want local results yet sadly some organisations think its best to do an initial force-feed of them. That last option would make me feel patronised as an AOL user (anywhere), certainly when looking for the best educational non-profit information.

Even classic Google users want local results when given an option:


So there should be a strong increase of hosting versions of the same site in local countries:


I think that for the first time I will be looking for advice on redirects, cloaking, mirrored sites without PR penalty and all these other techniques I used to frown upon..national village, were back!, provincialism here I come! :(

[edited by: vitaplease at 12:47 pm (utc) on July 24, 2002]


 12:13 pm on Jul 24, 2002 (gmt 0)

Just one silly point to come out of this is that we manage a couple of UK company sites, both using a ".com" TLD and both hosted in the US. They appear very nicely in the US-only SERPs (but not in the Google UK SERPs!).

Napoleon, does the USA still account for 50% of the web? I would have thought that the percentage can only get smaller as the popularity of the web grows worldwide.

I suppose that one side effect of this, if it becomes the norm, will be a large-scale movement of sites to US servers. All those Canadian hosted sites mentioned here will probably get moved for example. Sounds like it will be good news for US hosting companies.


 12:24 pm on Jul 24, 2002 (gmt 0)

We have a real problem with gray market dealers from Europe selling our product for 5-10% cheaper, but with very little ability to provide service or support. These American results are great for one American business. Go AOL!


 12:43 pm on Jul 24, 2002 (gmt 0)

Abrexa_UK said: >> I can see the attraction in a way - there is little point serving up straight Google results, otherwise they may suffer the same problems as Yahoo; users migrate to Google. By providing a very filtered set of results, AOL is offering something different. I presume that they know their market pretty well, and feel that their users are happier in a US comfort blanket.

I think this is spot-on. If AOL serves up straight Google they will loose all but their most torpid users. AOL'ers that have a real thirst for exploring over the AOL horizon may already have switched to using Google. AOL may actually hope to recapture some of them. I can't blame AOL for that - they almost have to differentiate themselves.

vitaplease: I suspect you are right that many AOL'ers and many Americans will turn inward. It is a shame, but AOL caters to that market anyway.

Even though this is a beta, I suspect the default will remain at US hosted sites just to make things different. Most users will not know the difference.

The wording "Enhanced by Google" was carefully chosen for a reason. It should warn us not to expect pure Google results from the product.

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