Fun With Google Suggest

Google tries to guess what you're searching for with Google Suggest, but some of its suggestions are downright weird.

Fun with Google Suggest

Suggestion: Fun With Google Suggest

Google Suggest is a Google Search feature that automatically completes a search query with suggested phrases as you type in the Google search text field. Suggestions are meant to be helpful--but they can sometimes be funny, bizarre, or downright creepy.

We initially got lassoed into playing around with this Google feature when we noticed that select search queries were generating inexplicably odd auto-complete suggestions. The phrase “What would Jesus..." generated the suggestion "What would Jesus do for a Klondike bar?"

First, though, a bit of background. Google says that its software makes suggestions based on complex popularity algorithms that are designed to predict the queries you are most likely to want to submit. Suggestions appear in a drop-down menu; and next to the suggested search phrases are green numbers approximating how many search results each particular query would return.

Google Suggest works with current versions of the Firefox, Safari, Internet Explorer, and Chrome Web browsers. If you find the service annoying, you can turn it off by visiting your Google Preferences page.

We spent way too much time playing with this feature. We were hoping Google Suggest might shed some light on important questions such as “The meaning to life is...” But what we found instead was "The meaning to life is Christopher Walken." Who knew?

What follows are funny and sometimes insightful answers to random questions.

For more fun with Google services, check out:

-- The Strangest Sights in Google Earth

-- Strangest Sights in Google Street View

-- Google's Top 17 Easter Eggs, Gags, and Hoaxes

And as the search results pictured above suggest, when you've had your fill of fun with Google, you can turn your attention to "fun with goats."

America is...

Suggestion: America is all about speed. Hot nasty badass speed

Americans may be hanging their heads a bit lower these days, given that they are widely viewed around the world as major contributors to the global economic meltdown. But at least Americans can be proud of one thing – their reputation for “speed.” And not just any old speed. We are talking "America is all about speed. Hot nasty badass speed"--a sentiment attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt in the film Talladega Nights. USA! USA!

Elsewhere in the list of suggestions, however, the enthusiasm is a bit more muted, as we see in suggestions that America is “doomed,” “screwed,” "bankrupt," and “raising a generation of dancers.” Huh?

Why is...

Suggestion: Why is my computer so slow

Anyone who has ever been around a five-year-old knows that "Why?" is the fundamental human question (just as "No!" is the universal response to a request for cooperation). "Why" is the one question that can counter any answer, and eventually--wielded with proper scientific or metaphysical skill--it may lead to an unlocking of the mysteries of the world. How sad (and telling) then, that of all the great imponderables in the world, "Why is my computer so slow" ranks so high--almost as high as "Why is the sky blue?" Sad, but perhaps not as sad as being among the legion of googlers who find it necessary to ask "Why is my poop green."

Facebook is...

Suggestion: Facebook isn't working

Facebook gripes are taking their toll on the populist view of the service as a haven of warmth and fuzziness. Presented with the query fragment "Facebook is," Google harvests a lot of pent-up frustration over the service. Where is the love?

Google is...

Suggestion: Google is making us stupid

Quick: What’s 602,457 divided by 3.6? Did you reach for a calculator or a piece of paper to do the long division? The speed and accuracy of calculators are inexorably transforming us into a species of mentally stunted Eloi. These days, we're lucky if we can figure how much to tip a waiter--never mind performing long division. As for the slide rule, it has been relegated to the dustbin of history, with the pocket protector and the logarithmic spiral. And with the ascent of Google, things have only gotten worse.

Thanks to Google, who needs to remember anything anymore? Quick: Mogadishu is the capital of what country?

Is it legal...

Suggestion: Is it legal to download YouTube video

Have you ever pondered the legality of downloading and saving YouTube video to your PC? How about the question of whether it is legal to use the file sharing service LimeWire or to watch a movie online?

Type “Is it legal” into Google and you’ll find that today’s leading legal questions demonstrate a dearth of understanding when it comes to intellectual property.

Hollywood should be relieved in one respect: At least most people seem be asking the right questions. As opposed to the army of Scottish women researching the possibility of marrying their deceased brothers-in-law. (Wouldn't the dead guy have to get divorced first?)

Why am I...

Suggestion: Why am I here

For centuries people have searched for the meaning of their existence. Now finally, thanks to Google, some answers--206 million of them, in fact. Obviously one possible answer to the perennial question "Why am I here?" is "To spend the rest of your life reading as many of Google's answers to that question as you can."

Macs are...

Suggestion: Macs are PCs

Mac or PC? By a margin of six to three, suggested completions of the phrase “Macs are” are decidedly anti-Mac. This is hardly surprising in view of the fact that PC users outnumber Mac users and considering the fierce Hatfield-and-McCoy battle between the camps.

Thus it's heartening, for a computer ecumenist, to note that the entry with the most results is "Macs are PCs." After all, at the end of the day we are all just computer users gathered at the shrine of zeros and ones. Cue the music: “Kumbaya, my Lord, kumbaya.”

My job is...

Suggestion: My job is slowly crushing my soul

Is the most surprising thing about this set of suggestions the presence of "My job is slowly crushing my soul" or the fact that that sentiment produces fewer hits than any of the others listed? Maybe we'd get more Google action if we typed "My job is rapidly crushing my soul." Or maybe the relatively poor showing of the "slowly crushing" suggestion is evidence of a simple truth in today's economy: Even a soul-crushing job is better than no job at all.


Suggestion: ServersCheck crack

Some people don’t like the Google Suggest feature because they think it clutters up their search page or offers bad suggestions. One Belgian company, ServersCheck, hated Google Suggest so much it sued Google in 2006. Why?

When ServersCheck employees ran a Google search for the company's computer server monitoring software, ServersCheck, Google Suggest's automated suggestions led to pirated copies of the company's software. Options included “serverscheck crack,” “pro crack,” and “keygen.” When the company asked Google to modify its suggestions, the search giant argued that it couldn’t prevent certain words from appearing in Google Suggest results. ServersCheck countered that Google had the power to ban words--as it has done with some vulgar words, according to published reports of the case.

ServersCheck sued, but a Belgian court dismissed the case, ruling that Google could not be held liable for Web pages involved in illegal activities, according to an entry in Wikipedia.

Aren't you...

Suggestion: Aren’t you a little short for a stormtrooper

Who knew that there were height requirements for Star Wars costumes? Apparently, if you want to be an imperial storm trooper at the next sci-fi convention you had better be taller than this hobbit-size volunteer found on Flickr.

But look on the non-dark side: If you're too short to dress up as a storm trooper, you can always go as Yoda.

Where are my...

Suggestion: Where are my keys I lost my phone

We've lost car keys and cell phones on countless occasions--sometimes simultaneously--but we never thought to look for either item online. Turning to Google for help sounds like an act of desperation to us, but who knows--maybe it works. At least those questioners' survival isn't in doubt, unlike the folks who are going online to ask "Where are my kidneys?"

Where did my pa…

Suggestion: Where did my parents hide my presents

It appears that young children now realize the Power of Many on the Web and have begun pooling their resources to crack the eternal mystery of "“Where did my parents hide my presents?" We probably won't be wrecking anyone's Christmas to observe that few of the answers are very helpful. (Hint: If it's a pony, check outside.)

My PC...

Suggestion: My PC is on fire

Here's a tip: If you're PC truly is on fire, it's best not to search Google for ideas. Instead, run for a fire extinguisher or call 911. And for Pete's sake, remove those oily rags from the vicinity, too.

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