Jean Véronis

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mercredi, septembre 28, 2005

Google: 7 candles and a stale cake

Yesterday, Google decorated its home page with a festive logo, a lovely little birthday cake with seven candles – and at the same removed all mention of the number of pages in its index. This removal has already caused quite a stir (New York Times, ABC News, etc.), as always happens whenever the great Godgle so much as sneezes. I noticed this yesterday, but while I was idly poking around looking into the history and mythology of the God, I came across an amusing anecdote … Godgle’s official date of birth was not the 27th of September 1998, but the 7th. Until now, this date has been given by various sources, including in the family history. Well, it looks as if the explanation has just changed:

The date of the 7th of September has disappeared, and in its place we have a vague explanation of how the date of Google’s birthday has always changed from year to year. The great God is not infallible, however; he forgot that the old version was still available in his own cache:

This story of an announcement that never came had me intrigued. Indeed, I’ve already held forth on the subject here on this blog. All summer, experts had noticed an unprecedented level of activity on the part of Google’s robots, madly sucking up sites left, right and centre, going deeper than they’d ever gone before. And, funnily enough, it was on the 7th of September that the number of results returned literally shot through the roof. The site Trendmapper, which I’ve mentioned here before, has a trace of this planetary explosion. The Google curve (in yellow) took off on the 7th of September for all requests.

The firework show was scheduled for the 7th of September, but the home page stayed curiously silent … No cake, no announcement, nothing. It’s not hard to see why. Right in the middle of all these preparations (you don’t organise such a momentous event as a surprise tripling of the index size from one day to the next), an uninvited guest came along to spoil the party: Yahoo announced discretely on its blog (and in contrast to its usual grandstanding tradition) that its index had reached 19.2 billion pages. Why such a low-key announcement? Why not wait for a round figure, like 20 billion ? Now we know the answer! The Yahooligans had seen their friends at Google coming, and they wanted to get in first and spoil their fun …

They certainly did that! The war of numbers between Google and Yahoo has made it all around the globe, and the story has not really developed in Google’s favour, as we’ve started to see how Google may well index a lot of pages, but many of them are spam and useless lists of words [see 1, 2, 3, 4]. Yours truly played a part in stirring things up – and I still can’t stop laughing at the thought of it. But I must admit that I didn’t foresee the birthday trick. And frankly, it’s just too good for words: I can just imagine the crisis meetings at Mountain View! A few days later, Google was set to raise no less than four billion dollars on the stock exchange! How could they make the shock announcement that their index had tripled in size, in the midst of all this hoo-ha and suspicion? It would almost certainly have the opposite effect to that which they had intended … Google’s CEO himself, Eric Schmidt, must have stepped in to the breach. Well, they came up with an answer, albeit a little late: index size? Who cares (although it was Google that started this war of numbers and, until August, was the only one to play the game)? In any case, ours is the biggest. Because we say so. And now we have to get rid of the evidence: our birthday has never been on the 7th of September. Because we say so.

So much for transparency, so much for the experts. Google has reached a turning point in its communications strategy. As Olivier Ertzscheid says on Affordance: Google is turning into Microsoft [fr]. With the audience all but captive, there’s no longer any need to suck up to the nerds and other geeks who have acted as cheerleaders for the search engine. Now, they are addressing the mass market – and their shareholders. End of a love story [fr].

And so the story that has kept us amused all summer comes to an end (wonderfully, it must be said)! Now we can change the subject. You know, I think I might talk a bit about Microsoft for a change ...

And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed
-- if all records told the same tale --
then the lie passed into history and became truth.
'Who controls the past,' ran the Party slogan, 'controls the future:
who controls the present controls the past.'

Libellés :

2 Commentaires:

Anonymous Anonyme a écrit...

i wrote a similar article were i cited your discovery of the tripled index size

and one about the history manipulation

unfortunately the text is in german language. but it's great that you translate your articles into english. i first saw the french one in my rss feed - and wondered what you had to say as part of text and images looked promising.

29 septembre, 2005 01:25  
Anonymous Anonyme a écrit...

Hi Gerald,

Birthe noticed an interesting webarchive on your blog :
It seems that Google had its birthday the 27. of september in 2002 too...

29 septembre, 2005 21:40  

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