Using Google as your search engine has become so accepted that it’s accepted in certain circles as a verb. You don’t search for something, you simply “Google” it – although similar to things like Filofaxes and Kleenex, Google isn’t entirely happy with its trademark becoming a common word. Still, the company can’t be too upset with being seen as the world’s default search engine.
It’s not a spot that can be maintained simply by standing still, however, and recent figures suggest that Microsoft’s Bing search engine is gaining steam. Google’s latest tactic, rolled out recently in Australia is Google “Instant”, a modification to the main site’s search engine that leverages its database of search results to deliver results in real time while you type. Enter “Geeks2”, for example, and it’ll guess that you wanted Geeks2U, delivering that (at the time of writing) as the top result before you actually type the “U”. It’s slick enough technology that in my testing isn’t particularly taxing on the browser, but it’s also worth noting that Google’s limited it in particular ways.
Specifically, some words and phrases are blacklisted from appearing in instant searches, although you can still search for them. A reasonable number relate to what can only be deemed “Adult” search terminology (for those still determined, you can hit enter to actually search for them; they just don’t come up instantly), while others relate to hate speech or other potentially objectionable material.
On one level, there’s no way that some of this material should just pop up into a browser search window, given some of it can be triggered with relatively innocuous phrases. At the same time, it’s also become clear that Google’s filtering even affects the kinds of results you get from instant searches. Hacker title 2600 uncovered a list of the banned words and phrases (here: http://www.2600.com/googleblacklist/ — but be forewarned; it contains many phrases and words which may offend), noting that the instant search results for “murder” and the search results for “murder” when you hit enter were in fact different. At what point does that cross from filtering to censorship?
Google’s filtering the results you may see, so sometimes, rather like instant coffee, the “instant” option might not be exactly to your taste, and more delicate mixing of your search terms might be required.