Google Spawn: The Culture Surrounding Google
by By Paul S. Piper
Librarian, Western Washington University
Just a few years back, the word Google existed as
the name of a cartoon character (Barney Google) and
possibly among the random phonemes mumbled by toddlers.
Today, one would be hard-pressed to find a person who
hasn't heard of the search engine that bears this name.
The word Google is a variant on the Googol (10100),
a term coined by the 9-year-old nephew of American
mathematician Edward Kasner, who asked him to think
of a name for a very large number (and we think science
is rational!). The word Googolplex is the numeral that
represents 10googol. And perhaps not oddly,
the word Googleplex is also now in play.
According to Whois.net, at the time this article
was written there were 1,996 registered URLs with the
word Google in them. And this doesn't even begin to
count those that misspell Google in creative ways.
With the exception of the relatively few that actually
belong to the Google company, these URLs belong to
Within a few short years Google has become the top
search engine in the world and has earned the most
esteemed privilege in contemporary pop culture it
has become a verb. ("I googled you and found out you
were lying to me about your Ph.D. And you have a prison
record!"). It is interesting to note that Google is
fighting in the courts to keep its name out of the
dictionary, much as Xerox fights to keep its name from
being used as an equivalent to photocopying. The legal
concept in a nutshell: As the name becomes more commonly
used, it becomes less of a brand, detracting from its
proprietary nature. Google has also spawned products,
projects, concepts, and imitations galore. It is safe
to say that Google is not just an Internet search engine,
but has become something of a phenomenon.
It is not difficult to find information about Google.
A search on Amazon.com reveals a whole gaggle of help
books, including Google For Dummies. On the
Web, the Wikipedia [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google] offers a good start for research. It has a relatively
comprehensive hyperlinked entry detailing the company's
history, the famous Google algorithm, legal issues,
and other topics, including numerous links to relevant
articles and Web sites.
At Google.com itself, Google Labs [http://labs.google.com/] provides a glimpse into what the future of Google might
hold. There are some pretty intriguing enhancements
here, such as the deskbar, Froogle wireless, the location
search, and a voice-activated search.
MarketZone [http://www.marketzone.net/resources-google.php] offers a look at Google from the business marketing
perspective. The site emphasizes information useful
to companies that wish to exploit Google through such
features as AdWords and ranking.
The very wonderful Search Engine Watch e-zine [http://searchenginewatch.com/],
authored by Danny Sullivan, features frequent articles
on Google. His site has a search screen that returned
876 items on Google the day I searched. For an excellent
detailed and sophisticated overview of Google's page
rank algorithm, the online article by Ian Rogers of
IPR Computing Ltd. [http://www.iprcom.com/papers/pagerank/] cannot be beat.
And finally, another top Web searcher, Greg Notess,
has posted an extremely thorough evaluation of Google's
strengths, weaknesses, and features at http://notess.com/search/features/google/.
While Google is transparently easy to use, it is
not always transparently easy to use better.
The "Advanced Help" link appears in 8-point font in
a menu list to the right of the search box. In the
classes I teach, I always ask who has used Google.
The response is as expected. However, when I ask how
many have ever used the advanced search options, I
rarely see any hands in the air. The sites listed here
have put together decent guides to exploiting Google's
features for more refined and accurate searching.
Google Help is split into several categories. The
most relevant for searching are Search Central [http://www.google.com/help/index.html],
Basic Search Help [http://www.google.com/help/basics.html],
and Advanced Search Help [http://www.google.com/help/refinesearch.html].
While many users may feel no need to stray from the
basics, it's different strokes for smarter folks.
The library at Middlebury College, Vermont, hosts
a very clean page on how to search Google [http://www.middlebury.edu/lis/lib/
The extraordinary Gary Price always supplies useful
tips for searching Google [http://www.virtualchase.com/howto/gg_tips.html].
Price discusses issues such as date searching, searching
by file type, using wildcard/truncation symbols, and
trying specialized and focused Googles, such as Google
Uncle Sam and Lawcrawler. Links provide access to supplemental
Google Guide [http://www.googleguide.com/] is an
interactive tutorial site set up by Nancy Blachman,
who co-authored How to Do Everything with Google with
Google engineers Fritz Schneider and Eric Fredricksen.
It is intuitive and comprehensive.
It's not enough to use Google; people have to discuss
it as well. And there are a lot of aspects to discuss
and a lot of people doing the discussing. Google Fan
[http://www.googlefan.com/] sports the slogans "We
love Google" and "Google Rules" on top of its page.
The site features a collection of e-mail, news, and
links covering everything Google. Google Blog [http://google-blog.dirson.com/] primarily features well-edited news about all aspects
of Google. For instance, the last time I visited I
read that Google was offering free AdWords to nonprofits.
Google Weblog [http://google.blogspace.com/] is another
blog dedicated to Google. These, and other blogs, are
a great way to keep up with current developments. Stop
in periodically and scan the headlines.
Google Improvements and Enhancements
A plethora of programmers have begun recognizing
areas for improving the Google search engine. Some
of these improvements are pretty bogus, but others
border on great achievements. There seems to be more
every day, but some created 6 months ago are already
gone. We can only hope these upgrades netted their
creators a large check from Google. This list should
serve as a good introduction to the possibilities.
FreshGoo [http://www.freshgoo.com/index.php] allows
one to search recent additions to Google in increments
of today, yesterday, last 7 days, and last 30 days.
It feeds your search terms into Google and inserts
a "daterange" limiter into the search (e.g., daterange:
2453039-2453039). FreshGoo also offers a stable
of other Google enhancements. Google Blaster [http://www.freshgoo.com/google_blaster.php] allows a user to run several searches at once. The
interface then returns multiple results displayed using
colored tabs at the top of the page.
Soople [http://www.soople.com/soople_int.php], calling
itself the "Easy expert search," is a well-organized
interface for performing advanced Google searches.
The interface clearly details some advanced feature
options and provides pop-up windows that describe the
options. There are also some useful, value-added components
such as "Search in multiple sites at once." By inserting
code into the search, Soople allows a user to search
several sites representing a particular format/niche.
For example, I searched "DHEA" and chose "Men's Magazines" from
the pull-down menu. The search is run thus:
dhea (site:menshealth.com | site:
fhmus.com | site:askmen.com | site:stuff
magazine.com | site:mensjournal.com | site:maximonline.com | site:bullz-eye.com
Another option, "Definitions," incorporates Google's
tag "define:word" to the search. It's really
a clever site and worth checking out.
For another interface, try the Google Ultimate Interface
[http://www.faganfinder.com/google.html], which incorporates
many of Google's Advanced Search options (domain, page
location, language, country, file type, date, etc.)
into a GUI interface. It gives the user a cleaner interface
than Google's Advanced Search page, yet manages to
incorporate most of the important search features.
Google dance tools attempt to address the perhaps
over-discussed habit Google has of updating its different
server banks at different times, thus yielding varied
results depending on which bank is accessed. A search
in this interface will allow one to compare results
in the three Google server banks www1, www2,
www3 and see if results differ. Differences
are often most notable in keywords that are volatile
and topical, such as "Iraq." Watch the Google Dance
[http://google.fergusons.dk/] search three server banks
simultaneously and display results in parallel vertical
columns, making it easy to spot discrepancies. This
does not seem to work with phrase searches in quotes,
My Google Dance [http://google-dance.miniunternehmen.de/] offers a more varied interface that searches additional
Google server banks, including European ones. The site
also offers a directory search and one's choice of
a vertical (much preferred) or horizontal display.
The E Factory [http://dance.efactory.de] has put
together an "everything you always wanted to know about
Google Dance" and more page. It provides copious information
about other sites as well.
Until recently a part of FreshGoo, Moogle [http://www.researchbuzz.org/archives/001406.shtml] allows a user to search for movie reviews. Reviews
are categorized by a pull-down menu which asks, "Do
you want a movie slant?" The choices are "No Thanks," "Negative
Review," and "Positive Review." For example, a search
for a "No Thanks" review of Kill Bill sends
out the query "Kill Bill" (review (film | movie)),
while a "Negative Review" option sends out the query "Kill
Bill" (boring | insipid | worst) (review (film | movie)).
These words are somewhat arbitrary and the results
mixed at best, but it is an interesting endeavor.
One of the more intriguing advances in Google optimization
is the Google Proximity search interface [http://www.staggernation.com/cgi-bin/gaps.cgi] from Staggernation.com. The search interface allows
one to enter two words within one to three words of
each other, specify or ignore word order, and sort
by several parameters, including proximity. Initially
skeptical, I found this service really works and is
a boon for full-text searching. Its Google API key
limits queries to 1,000 per day, though, and by later
in the day, this limit is often exceeded. One hopes
that Google will incorporate this enhancement in the
near future. Staggernation also hosts GARBO [http://www.staggernation.com/garbo/],
which allows one to search a URL and find related and
linking pages, and GAWSH [http://www.staggernation.com/gawsh/].
GAWSH organizes search results within a site, i.e.,
sorts by Google's page rank within the hits returned
from the site. (If this is still unclear, dump GAWSH it's
not that relevant a product anyway.)
Google Alert [http://www.googlealert.com/] is an
invaluable service provided by Gideon Greenspan, a
Ph.D. student at Israel's Technion and long-time Macintosh
developer. This free service allows one to enter up
to five customized searches (the more refined, the
better!). You can customize these queries via a Google
advanced search interface. Then the service will run
the searches every 2 days or let you choose to click
for updates. The updates come as e-mail. I have used
the service for several months and it works wonderfully.
Boogle [http://www.boogle.com/] is a page that provides
a traditional Google search, adorned daily with pictures
and interesting quotations, with a link to information
about the quotation's author. Why not?
And finally, those of you just itching to search
Google via a Flash interface should try
Google Marketing Strategies
The business sector has not ignored Google, and placement,
either through paid placement (which Google was slow
to endorse) or relevance, AdWords, and other marketing
aspects of Google, has been embraced and exploited.
The Web development company SmartWebby has an online
page [http://www.smartwebby.com/website_promotion/google.asp] listing tips and tricks for getting listed in Google
quickly and prominently. U-Magazine
[http://www.u-magazine.com/magazine/articles.php?articleid=249] hosts a list that has a little different slant and
more details. A much more comprehensive online guide
is hosted by Jim Boykin [http://www.internet-advertising-marketing-manual.com/].
Yet another, more-ongoing endeavor is gooGuide [http://www.googuide.com/],
with its mission of improving site optimization and
AdWords strategies. Jeremy Wilson, who hosts the site,
will also send you a free newsletter, the Google
Each of these sites offers paid consultation, services,
and/or software to enhance Internet/Web marketing,
as well as many free offerings. These are just a few
of the plethora of Google marketing enhancement sites
With businesses so concerned about ranking on Google,
Mark Horrell [http://www.markhorrell.com/tools/pagerank.html] has come up with a program that will do a reasonable
job calculating your site's page rank. It does this
by modeling the behavior used by Google's pagerank
algorithm. There is no cost. Another product that does
this, perhaps more intricately, is the Pagerank Calculator
[http://www.webworkshop.net/pagerank_ calculator.php3] from Web Workshop. This (also free) product sports
an intriguing and complex graphical interface that
calculates page-in and page-out data and offers simple
and real mode calculations. Simple mode does not calculate
orphan pages or dangling links.
While some of the above sites deal with the concept
of AdWords and how to enhance marketing using Google
AdWords, I feel this concept deserves a bit more detail.
AdWords are the mini pop-up ads that appear on the
right-hand side of the page when you do a Google search.
Ads are mapped to certain keywords, so that a search
using those keywords triggers the mapped pop-up ads.
For example, if I search "aquarium filters" in Google,
in addition to the standard list of returns, I will
see numerous small blue ad boxes to the right of the
returns selling aquarium supplies. AdWords are economical,
since creators pay only when someone clicks on them,
and target a captive (or at least interested) audience.
Google, of course, hosts information on AdWords [https://adwords.google.com/select/],
and this is where one goes to create them.
Google apparently filters some AdWords. Searches
for guns, knives, tobacco, liquor, and related materials
yield no AdWords. The same is not true for pornography,
however, which is freely AdWorded. A more detailed
article on this issue appears at WorldNetDaily
A service directed specifically at AdWords is Cheat
Google Adwords [http://www.sitepoint.com/article/1265].
A rather extensive, four-part article by author Derek
Vaughan confesses "it's not exactly cheating per se," but
a detailed guide to exploiting the AdWords concept.
An innovative and artistic use of AdWords concerns
the poet Christopher Bruno, who began creating mini-poems
using the AdWords context. Keywords in searches would
generate certain poems, which would appear to the right
of search results along with "legitimate" ads. The
ad-poems were apparently taken off by Google, which
claimed that "the content of your ad does not accurately
reflect the content of your Web site." While this is
not exactly true, since Bruno is a poet and the ads
were poetry, it does show that Google monitors AdWords
usage. The poems were an interesting idea, however,
and yet another way of manipulating Google for fun
and profit. More information on this appears at http://www.iterature.com/adwords/.
Google Commercial Sites
This capitalization of Google is worth a mention,
but not an in-depth look. Among the 1,996 URLs with
the word Google in them, a number represent legitimate
businesses attempting to attract viewers and customers
by affiliating themselves with the name Google. Lame
as this sounds, it is pervasive. Google-Land.com, an
online land auction company, is a good example. The
word Google in the company name has nothing to do with
selling land, nor does it have any connection to the
Booble [http://booble.com], a search engine for adult
sites, has taken a bit of a different tact by playing
off the word Google. Although insisting it is a parody
site (the home page states, "Booble.com is not affiliated
with any other search engines [for starters, we have
a sense of humor]"), it is being sued by Google to
cease and desist. See SearchEngine Journal [http://www.searchenginejournal.com/index.php?p=222] for more details.
The Goegle Search Engine [http://www.goggle.cc/] is a poor substitute that hopes people will spell the
URL wrong. And this hope is probably fulfilled daily.
There are hundreds, if not thousands more of these how
shall I put it parasites.
Who's watching Google? Well, Google Watch, that's
who. And who, you might ask, is Google Watch? Google
Watch [http://www.google-watch.org/] claims to expose
how Google's monopoly, algorithms, and privacy policies
endanger the privacy of Google users. Daniel Brandt,
the man behind Google Watch, fears that Google implants
a cookie on your computer every time you search it.
This cookie gives your computer a unique identifier
(ID). For all your searches, Google records the cookie
ID, your Internet IP address, the time and date, your
search terms, and your browser configuration. How long
this information is kept is anybody's guess. The possibilities
of how this information may or may not be used are
frightening or conspiracy-freakish, depending on your
point of view. Google has the ability to convert IP
and ID numbers to actual names and addresses and compile
extensive lists of every search performed on your computer.
It could provide this information to law enforcement
or government agencies. The key is "could." I have
to admit it's a bit frightening to think about, and
the concept has caught the ear of the Electronic Freedom
Google Watch Watch [http://www.google-watch-watch.org/] attempts to discredit Daniel Brandt. Soon there will
be a Google Watch Watch Watch, and so it goes.
Are you extraordinarily worried about your searching
history? Delete your cookies and history and the usual
stuff that any Internet user can do; if you're still
worried about all those hidden folders and files entangled
in the dark recesses of your hard drive, try Delete
Google History [http://www.deletegooglehistory.com].
It claims to do the trick better than anyone else.
Teaming up with Evidence Eliminator 5.0, the site's
created a product that will reduce your surfing evidence
to zilch and keep it there.
Google Bombs were conceived in April, 2001 as a gag
by Adam Mathes. Mathes identified a critical loophole
in Google's algorithm. Google considers not only keywords
on the page it indexes, but also keywords in the links
to that page. For example, if enough people use the
word "Costco" to link to a WalMart site, then
a search in Google for Costco may result in the first
hit being WalMart. To quote John Hiler, who writes
in depth about this phenomenon in Microcontent News
[http://www.microcontentnews.com/articles/googlebombs.html], "The linker can
impact the Google Rank of the linkee." Perhaps
the most infamous example of Google bombing is demonstrated
by a search for the phrase "miserable failure." The
first hit is the official George Bush biography. The
underlying logistical mechanism behind Google bombing
is Weblogs. Like flash mobs those seemingly
spontaneous groupings of people who do something odd
in a public place before quickly dispersing Google
bombing is an efficient way to instantly reach thousands
or millions of like-minded people.
The Church of Scientology has also apparently manipulated
this loophole by buying large quantities of domains
and jamming them with links to each other. See Microcontent
News [http://www.microcontentnews.com/articles/googlechurch.html] for more details.
Google Goofs, Games, and Goblins
The Internet has been enormously successful at giving
a lot of bored people something to do. The following
Web sites show how people have entertained themselves,
and countless others, by using Google's search capabilities.
I guarantee that you will scratch your head at some
of these and ask, "Why?" As in beauty, it seems the
rationale is in the mind (or lack thereof) of the programmer.
Random Google Page [http://www.bleb.org/random] has
a rather sexist button called "Entertain Me Wench" which,
when clicked, combines a series of random words and
searches them on Google. This seemingly fairly lame
activity can lead to some exotic results. In any case,
it is possibly the first site to identify Google's
gender. Random Bounce Me [http://random.bounceme.net/] is similar to Random Google Page without the gender
specificities. Both of these allow the user/player
to choose the number of words generated. Random Google
Page offers one to 10, while Random Bounce Me offers
one to four. For those of you who doubt that the Web
contains some very strange stuff, the random collection "unau
ova shat bee" returned a Web page.
Google Duel [http://www.googleduel.com/original.php] calls itself the Original Google Duel, but Google Fight
[http://www.googlefight.com/] operates in much the
same way. The user enters two terms, say Bart and Homer,
which are then searched on Google, and the winner and
loser announced. (The more results, the bigger the
win.) Google Duel, created by Geoff Peters, has several
additional search categories. Google Duel Ultra allows
the searcher to choose adjectives to accompany the
initial terms. The results then show who won for each
adjective. For example, one could search Bart and Homer
or the adjectives "creative," "good looking" and "intelligent." There
are several canned reports (Pop Culture and Music,
High Tech, Food and Drink) with tables of results.
Google Duel for Writers is a fairly interesting offshoot.
This search allows one to submit several phrases that
essentially say the same thing. The results then tell
you how they rank in popularity. I'm not sure how useful
something like this is in reality, but the concept
is an interesting one. Google Duel has a major drawback;
it only allows 1,000 searches a day on Geoff's license
key. If you need more, you'll need to get your own
Google Developer's Key, which you can do at http://www.google.com/apis/.
Google Fight is the same idea packaged a bit more
artfully. In addition to the usual battles, Google
Fight highlights Hall of Fame fights, Fights of the
Month, The Classics, and Funny Fights. It also offers
a French version.
Elgoog [http://www.alltooflat.com/geeky/elgoog/] is a true mirror site of Google, meaning that everything,
including the search terms you enter and results, appears
backwards. ?yhW ?ton yhW
Googlewhack [http://www.googlewhack.com] was created
by Gary Stock, who also coined the word. The premise
of this Google game is to find two words that produce only
one result on Google. One ponders how much otherwise
productive time is spent on endeavors such as this
and doubts the pyramids could have been built had this
existed. The words have to exist on Dictionary.com,
which rules out most foreign words. You cannot use
quotes. Examples, stored in the Whack Stack and numbering
over 310,000 to date, include "lithographed dieffenbachia" and "hireling
xylophones." The site also includes a rather lengthy
collection of media write-ups for those of you who
doubt activities such as this have true worth.
Googlism [http://www.googlism.com/] tells you what
Google "thinks" of people, places, and events. For
example, when I searched the name Jeff, a list of phrases
parsed from Jeff sites came back. A few of these are: "jeff
is your nurse; jeff is 2xtreme~; jeff is the
business manager for motorola computer group's; jeff
is here to pump you up." You get the idea. It's free
and all for laughs.
Reporting on search engine development since 1998, Research
Buzz has a report called "GoogleHacks" [http://www.researchbuzz.org/
which details a number of interesting and unusual
Google mutations and hosts the interfaces. For some
of these you will need to obtain a Google API key.
GoogleJack, the first on a rather extensive list,
is based on blackjack. Google's API allows one to
see the size of a result's cache (Google caches a
maximum of 101K). GoogleJack works with a total of
101 instead of 21. Players choose a word or phrase
and search it, then count the cache size. Players
can "Hit," do the next search, and add that result
count to the cache size. Once finished, Google counts
the cache size of the search results. Whoever gets
the closest to 101 without going over wins. We're
still waiting for this to hit Vegas.
If you believe that the computers at Google have
the soul of a poet, then this search is for you. In
Google Does Poetry one enters a word or more, specifies
the style (Hippie, Beatnik, Shakespeare, Swedish Chef)
and hits the Poetize Me! button. I put in "champagne" and "ducks," selected
Shakespeare, and got:
Hostel Set chaise Mighty hither Report - Lismore
... slip Champagne Slipcovers Mighty
Roman Piggy Report & Champagne-Ardenne Ducks Marshall
Baby Saucer Paris - Wine, Trip NHL Set Easter
Corporate - and HOTELS Ducks ... Duck in Mighty Little & sirrah
hotels Jerseys, Slipcovers Baby
I'm sure the Bard would be thrilled.
Cookin' With Google is cool. You enter several ingredients
into a search box, select General, Vegan/Vegetarian,
or World Cuisine, and run a search. I used Salmon,
onions, and lemon, chose World Cuisine as my option,
and got a mouth-watering list of results.
This site also contains such Google mutations as
WumWum (which allows one to search for who links to
a URL, screen domains, and produces results in HTML
or spreadsheet formats), GooLevel (which allows the
searcher to specify the site depth of results), and
much, much more.
Somebody's pet project has created Googlebook.com,
which presents one with an small assortment of books
featuring the word Google in the title, as in Barney
Googles from Goo [http://www.googles.com/index.html] is a children's portal, featuring products, discussion
groups, and the like, all accompanied by gummy-bearish
creatures from another planet. Requires a login, oh
Google Detective Agency [http://www.googledetectiveagency.com/] explains, in a rudimentary fashion, how to use Google
to dig up personal information on people. The site
really only scratches the surface, but it's a starting
Cheat Google [http://cheatoogle.com/] searches specifically
for cheat codes used in video games, the ones that
give unlimited power, lives, or bullets. Search by
game and platform. This site also provides a search
for game reviews.
Several of the services above were created using
Google Web APIs [http://www.google.com/apis/], a Google
service that allows Web and software developers access
to programming elements of its database. Google provides
a developer's kit, a user account on Google, and a
license key. The license key is available to anyone,
and can prove useful for those exploring the arcane
array of Google by-products.
Even if Yahoo!, Microsoft, or some unknown upstart
manages within the next few years to unseat the reigning
giant of search engines, I doubt any will be able to
replace the mystique and the cultural niche that Google
has achieved. "More than a search engine, less than
a god," as one colleague put it. Google has managed
to fascinate everyone from the homeless at your local
public library to presidents. Some people mistake it
for the Internet. And nearly everyone has their favorite
Google story. I just re-searched the Whois database
and found that there are now in excess of 2,001 (the
limit reported) URLs with the word Google in them.
There seems to be no end in site to Google madness,
mimicry, or mutation. All we can do is sit back, click,
and enjoy it.