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Google 'Under Attack' By Michael Jackson Fans

 10:30 am on Jun 26, 2009 (gmt 0)

The BBC report that when the Michael Jackson story first broke, Google believed it was under attack owing to the spike in the searches for Michael Jackson.

Full story here



 1:46 pm on Jun 26, 2009 (gmt 0)

I once had access to AP's complete stats on the news flowing to some 399 newspaper web sites. I learned a lot about human nature. The second biggest lesson was that people respond to pretty women, even outside of context. (Yeah, I know--duh!--but it was a lesson that hit hard expressed coldly on a spreadsheet.)

But the biggest lesson was that it is difficult to overstate the response to sudden, unexpected death of a known personality.

We would see huge spikes on people who you only knew their name. If this follows form, the numbers will spike the return to normal quickly. Of course, we have all of this wonderfully entertaining video to show, so this it's likely NOT to follow form.

This is not about Michael Jackson some much is that it is about death. (BTW: Death out-performs pretty women by far. And there really isn't any one thing after death and pretty women that ranks.)


 4:13 pm on Jun 26, 2009 (gmt 0)

Huge EPIC Fail!

As much as i would love to discuss the fear of death and sex on the human psyche (not being sarcastic here - it's a great topic)...

This is a huge epic fail on Google part's.

When I say "epic fail", i'm not using hyperbole either.

What an embarrassment on Goog's part!

The ONE international news story that everyone in the world would be looking for and Goog's adversarial "anti-SEO, anti-spammer" philosophy comes to bite them in the a$$ big time.

Geez, Goog, wonder how much market share you lost to Bing permanently while your B.S. SE was serving up error messages?

Epic Fail! Beyond reasoning.

Something like this should once again be a wake up call that Goog is and has had a very warped worldview of what the the internet is for.


 6:42 pm on Jun 26, 2009 (gmt 0)

Unbelievable. Kinda like 9-11 when the internet as a whole crashed.


 8:21 pm on Jun 26, 2009 (gmt 0)

It took Google News 35 minutes to analyze the situation and realize that it was caused by big news rather than an actual attack. Not a good situation for Google, but it's also not so very long to identify and fix the issue.

I'm sure Google is often under attack (what bragging rights a hacker might get, eh?) and needs a lot of automated systems for protection. I doubt that the sites I work with could recover as fast.


 8:28 pm on Jun 26, 2009 (gmt 0)

as weeks said - death outrules pretty woman any time

Amazon top 15 music sales? Michael Jackson!

Just wish I could spin the story somehow to fit into my website ;-)


 9:06 pm on Jun 26, 2009 (gmt 0)

It took Google News 35 minutes to analyze the situation and realize that it was caused by big news rather than an actual attack

lol, oh you mean AFTER they saw the REAL NEWS sources
(you really want to start this convo with me again?)

What's wrong with that situation?!

Epic fail.

No need to spin "how much better Goog did than"....? Who exactly?
the other SEs who make billions of dollars a year and have 60% marketshare?!

They are the almighty Goog. (ahem "NEWS?!" wat a joke)

Stop treating them like the '98 college project.

It's a joke.
No, in fact, its an alright LIE to call their service Google News.

What more evidence do you need that this?

God forbid it's "attack on XY country" and "Google News" is busy ensuring the 20 people looking for "quantum physics" find those sites, while millions of others are getting B.S. errors.

Figure it out Goog.
Do better Goog.
Nuff Said


 10:08 pm on Jun 26, 2009 (gmt 0)

Huge EPIC Fail!

How so?

With the proliferation of massive botnets that can herd up to 250K+ PCs simultaneously it's not surprising that Google's software may have initially detected such an influx of the same terms as an attack or a test of their defenses.

There was an appropriate captcha at the bottom of the page, fill in the answer and you get the results.

Good for Google, at least we know they are bracing for attack and can keep their services running when something attempts to strain their services beyond capacity.

God bless that in the event there is an "attack on XY country" we're only a captcha away from what we need to know and that Google is still up and running. Truth is the news will break first on twitter and the Fail Whale will be dominating millions of browsers in mere seconds.

They figured it out.
Not Bad Goog
Nuff Said

[edited by: incrediBILL at 10:18 pm (utc) on June 26, 2009]


 10:29 pm on Jun 26, 2009 (gmt 0)

I'm amazed how people claim the "genuises" at Goog are creating AI in one hand


on the other hand, are unable to fulfill the basic requirement of serving up RESULTS for users on the other hand.

So whenever there's a REAL news story that affects more than what?

100,000 people?
500,000 people?
1,000,000 people?
at the same time in more than one country, then we just give Goog a pass at working properly?!

Good to know.
I'll be looking for the disclaimer that states:

"Any real news that might affect more than 25,000 people at one time will not be shown as we can't figure out whats real or a spam bot.

Please visit Bing.com, Yahoo.com or CNN.com for any real updates that are only affecting less than 25,000. Thank you for your patience"

HOWEVER if it's a 2 year old news story about a Fortune 500 company and could seriously affect their stock and the stock market as a whole, we'll be sure to consider it "up to date, hot breaking news" and blast it all over Google Alerts as fresh off the press.

Got it.
Thanks for letting me know what a joke they are when it comes to these types of situation.

Botnets? Please. Some low-level organized crime types have Google so scared they can't figure out automation from reality?

Again, tell me how smart they are over there..

Spend some of that money and make a better product.

[edited by: tedster at 10:56 pm (utc) on June 26, 2009]


 10:51 pm on Jun 26, 2009 (gmt 0)

Botnets? Please. Some low-level organized crime types have Google so scared they can't figure out automation from reality?

I deal with botnets every day, it's a huge problem, don't be dismissive because they can take down major hosts in mere minutes.

What we're dealing with here is a sudden influx, a grade of service damaging issue.

This is the same type of situation that causes telephones to generate fast busy signals after a major earthquake when everyone attempts to make a call all at once.

The difference is Google appears it can protect itself from a sudden overload unlike the phone company.

FWIW, I used to run a hosting company and when you had an unmetered overload of your service, it was party over, everyone on the pipeline was offline.

Google did stunningly well IMO.

Unless you can't see that Google literally survived what couldn't easily be deemed a surfing tsunami level event, then you're only interested in bashing Google without taking into consideration their rapid response to a quickly alarming situation.

The internet isn't like broadcast television, you don't get a failure to connect if 25 million people turn on ABC simultaneously.

As a matter of fact, I'm actually surprised some of the broadband internet services didn't collapse under the sudden influx.

I'm impressed they all stayed up and running because they beat the negative press about the lack of available excess bandwidth.

[edited by: incrediBILL at 11:00 pm (utc) on June 26, 2009]


 11:22 pm on Jun 26, 2009 (gmt 0)

SEOmoz has an interesting article on this. Google is falling behind on the real-time web.



 11:35 pm on Jun 26, 2009 (gmt 0)

In turning to the web for news where's the first port of call for the "world"? Telling, isn't it, that no other search engine got impacted like this. Quite remarkable; quite remarkable indeed.


 11:36 pm on Jun 26, 2009 (gmt 0)

< Note: We don't normally allow links to blogs (see the Google Forum Charter [webmasterworld.com]) but in this case we'll make an exception for the link above. >

It's not a suprise to me that Google News fell behind in "real time" search results. It's not something that they historically considered their core mission, although Twitter may have forced a change in that idea for them.

A couple months ago there were some discussions between Twitter and Google that focused on "real time" search, and ever since then I've been waiting to see some new service from Google in the real-time "micro-blogging" area. I just hope it doesn't get folded into Universal Search results ;(


 11:42 pm on Jun 26, 2009 (gmt 0)


"North Korea Launches Nuclear Missles at U.S. targets"

'G' will probably figure it's about themselves.


 1:45 am on Jun 27, 2009 (gmt 0)

The more I think about it, the big failure for Google here is not the 35 minutes that searchers had to navigate through a captcha screen. As I seen it, the most embarrassing failure is that it took almost 1.5 hours AFTER news was online for it to appear in the News Search results.


 1:55 am on Jun 27, 2009 (gmt 0)

the most embarrassing failure is that it took almost 1.5 hours AFTER news was online for it to appear in the News Search results.


Google indexes new content off my blog in 30 minutes or less so how could a major news story still not be indexed for 90 minutes?

That's a huge embarrassing fail.

At least they survived "the attack" to eventually get it indexed, LOL!

Anyone that looks to Google for major news like a nuclear missile attack will be a pile of radioactive ashes long before they ever find what they were looking for in Google.


 2:10 am on Jun 27, 2009 (gmt 0)

Anyone that looks to Google for major news like a nuclear missile attack will be a pile of radioactive ashes long before they ever find what they were looking for in Google.

-.- I'm assuming you're not from the States.


 2:24 am on Jun 27, 2009 (gmt 0)

Who cares? Just Bing it instead. ;)


 5:02 am on Jun 27, 2009 (gmt 0)

From what I've read, Bing was quite a bit later than Google to show the story about Michael Jackson's death in their search results.

Twitter's service was also stumbling for a while (intermittently unavailable) as well as the TMZ servers at AOL where the original story broke. The TMZ server troubles must have made things difficult for all the search services to spider the story and get it listed.


 10:36 am on Jun 27, 2009 (gmt 0)

np2003, I care and let me just say... no.

If it HAD been a real attack Google is ready. As it stands there was a short delay while they verified facts. A+

Tedster, lots of things made spidering difficult, not least of which was the sudden massive jump in links being dumped online with various similar anchor text. Opportunistic people spammed jibberish all day long to capitalize on him but quickly took down their pages with permanent redirects.

It turned into pure backlink producing mayhem for a bit, so much focused traffic...


 1:00 pm on Jun 27, 2009 (gmt 0)

Not sure why people would google it in the first place. I've got a handful of news sites I use. I just went directly to these sites. I have to admit I didn't even consider googling to find out about MJ's death. And didn't even know that this had been a story until reading this post. Interesting.


 1:56 pm on Jun 27, 2009 (gmt 0)

CosmicLee, good question. The dumb answer is "many people" go to Google for everything. Even if they know the website name, they just go to it via Google. It's why your stats give Google all of that credit for traffic but you don't have that many new visitors.


 7:06 pm on Jun 27, 2009 (gmt 0)

When I heard about it, I went to cnn.com and turned on the tv.
Since it was JUST happening, I figured all of the search engines wouldn't yet have any relevant info, which makes sense to me since I have a basic understanding of minty fresh indexing..
As far as Google failing, I would have to disagree. Back in 2006, it was calculated that Google was processing 91 million searches a day. Can't find a number for 2009, but I would imagine that it has risen. A sudden influx of searches on one particular subject, can bring systems to a halt, raise red flags, and affect performance. It happened across the board, Google, Yahoo, Bing, Twitter, Flickr, Youtube.


 8:32 pm on Jun 27, 2009 (gmt 0)

Always read Google news first when you think your search engine may be under attack from Michael Jackson searches. This goes for world wars and swine flu too.


 4:23 am on Jun 28, 2009 (gmt 0)

Hmm I heard about it through facebook. But then again I dont search for news nor do I use news aggregates anymore. Dr's orders to avoid sources of useless aggregation.


 6:41 pm on Jun 29, 2009 (gmt 0)

I'd like to donate my old TV to Google. :)

Google made up for its failure by quickly adding new suggested searches:

michael jackson death michael jackson dying

(Since been replaced.) But now

michael jackson's funeral

is higher than michael jackson (as you type in michael)



 10:16 pm on Jul 2, 2009 (gmt 0)

I find this article [news.cnet.com...] sort of amusing.

It seems Microsoft (and others) finally noticed that Bing had failed also. (Fortunately, it didn't matter.)

<enter gnomic mode>
Failure is not mere lack of success. Failure is obliviousness in the face of lack of success.


 10:23 pm on Jul 2, 2009 (gmt 0)

Failure is not mere lack of success. Failure is obliviousness in the face of lack of success.

This is all i wanted to hear from the market leader
instead of arrogant excuses
Yet we hear it from Bing. (telling, isn't it?)

Apparently, the company feels it could have done that more quickly in the minutes following TMZ's report. "...In the case of breaking news such as this, we will focus on ensuring that the whole experience quickly accommodates the surge in customers' interest," Krones wrote.

<"Much learning, young Padawan Goog, still needs" remarked Yoda on the subject.>

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