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Putting "Search" into Google yields a surprising result (google.com)
301 points by ColinWright on July 28, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 130 comments

A few years back, Sergey and Larry were on NPR's Fresh Air. At one point in the interview, Terry Gross says "I tried searching for 'Google' by putting 'Google' into the search box and clicking I'm Feeling Lucky, but it didn't seem to do anything." Larry tries to explain what happened, but it seemed to go over Terry's head. At one point during the explanation I think Sergey mentioned recursion, and Terry asks "Recur-what?" To which Larry's reply was something like "Sergey is just geeking out, nevermind."

edit: maybe I'm misrembering the details a bit. From http://www.webmasterworld.com/forum3/17770.htm -

"Yah, it was a pretty interesting segment. Sergey talked about idempotence. :) The host (terry gross?) wondered why when you go to www.google.com and type in google and hit I'm Feeling Lucky, it went back to the main google page. Larry called it recursion. I could just imagine NPR listeners' heads shaking all across America. :)"

Reminds me of this Google Easter Egg:


I can't believe it, I type "Idempotence" in and hit Lucky and it just takes me to the Wikipedia entry on Idempotence!

Even worse, "idempotence idempotence idempotence" doesn't produce exactly the same result in Google as "idempotence".

Because the ghost named Idempotence appears?

I like this, but only because I like Reddit so much.

Side note: With results-as-you-type now being the default even from the Google front page, isn't "I'm feeling lucky" a totally vestigial button at this point?

Another non-cited story I've heard is an A/B test, or similar, was once done where they removed the "I'm Feeling Lucky" button from the front page, and an overwhelming number of users said they did not like the solitary search button. Having both gave the users a sense of choice, even though (as the story goes), "I'm feeling lucky" is used by only a small fraction of a percent of users.

And humorously enough, the present "I'm feeling lucky" button literally cannot be pressed ... except on the initial, empty search box ... under which circumstances it leads you to ... a list old Google Doodles... Feelin' Lucky now? Guy...

Umm, I just used it and it worked fine.

List > (i am feeling lucky) = http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lisp_%28programming_language%29

PS: Not everyone enables scripts.

I suppose it depends on the browser and whether you use Google instant (which is on by default).

As soon as I type a letter, the "lucky" button vanishes.

I agree that it looks better with two buttons, though I can't quite articulate why.

this is so because we instinctively feel unbalanced when we see a single legged object rather than a two legged one. we'd feel similarly unbalanced if the two legs (the buttons) were of very different widths.

I've heard this as well. Can't remember where from.

Thats funny. It has become an association at this point with Google.

I think it's only ever been used by snarky lmgtfy-ers.

Wrote a blog post a couple weeks ago about turning it into a keyword quick search.


Very useful.

The Firefox address bar can be set jump straight to the "I'm feeling lucky" result instead of showing search results when it's confide t enough in the search.

That behavior alone, which for some reason nobody else replicates as a feature of their browser, kept me using FF for years longer than I would have otherwise. The FF address bar is still best in class in my opinion.

Isn't the Search button useless as well? :D I suppose the only reason either is there is familiarity...

Haha true. I didn't think of it that way because my mind saw the homepage button and the search as you type button as "the same button" but yeah you're right. At this point (assuming you didn't disable scripts) the Google homepage needs nothing beyond an empty text field. No buttons, nothing. Weird.

I think it's a psychological trick that Google is using, trying to instill to you the idea that you 're lucky to be their customer. </conspiracy

I wanted to try it, but there seems to be no way to use the "im feeling lucky" button any more. Its on the home page, but as soon as I type something it dissapears.

Is the button only a decoration now?

Continue tying; you get a hanging drop-down box at the top with suggestions. Hover over the search term and you get the "I'm feeling lucky" button.

Wow, when I read Terry's name I could immediately hear her voice. But for the life of me I can't imagine what she looks like. But for Serge & Larry, I can't imagine what they sound like at all, though I "see" their faces.

The first time I heard Steve Jobs' voice a few months ago, I was really taken aback by how much of a nerdy voice he had. Strangely, I give him a lot more respect because of it. I imagined he would be one of those sly-talking, politician-types, but it really made me amazed at how much he was able to accomplish without "the voice."

P.S. Yes, I really heard his voice only a few months ago for the first time. I never watched any keynotes or anything like that.

Larry has one of the most recognizable voices on the planet, in my opinion. He's probably tied with Tom waits.

Instead of recursion a jump/goto can explain it better. You don't have a return on the Google page. The back button in the browser is a return but is an additional browser feature.

The more important questions is whether Google has developed self-awareness.

This makes sense to me. If you're using google to find 'search', you're probably not searching for google.

Unless you don't know what search is, and you don't know you're using search.

Good point, the first result should be to the Wikipedia article on search.

In which case, Bing is probably where you belong, with all the people making typos in the URL bar of IE.

Interestingly, I've seen multiple non-tech persons with Bing as their default homepage (most of them having IE as browser) actually searching for "google" with Bing to search for what they wanted in the first place. I guess it's likely that people do it the other way around.

This is ancient, it's been like this since before I joined Google, which was before Bing came out. I think back then Dogpile was #1 (??), then Yahoo, then MSN Live. Occasionally it comes up and people get a good chuckle out of it.

If you do a search for 'search engine' then Dogpile still comes up on top. Didn't know it still existed!

So honestly, shouldn't google show up as the top result for search? Does the fact that it doesn't prove that Google does, occasionally manually 'fudge' search results?

Well, why would google put itself as the top search result, when you are already on google search. And also, recently, there was some complaint (don't remember exactly who filed the complaint) about the anti-competitive movement of google when it comes to always showing google maps results when searching for locations. Anyhow, just my view of this.

Why would Dogpile come up as #1?

Maybe not. Google is so generic that there might not be as many links to Google -- y'know, 'cuz why do you need to link to Google -- as to several of these other engines. It's not totally impossible that some other engines would have a higher ranking organically.

Dogpile was the top result for me just now.

I suppose that's what $2.6 billion in annual operating losses buys you.


I knew there would be those who negged that comment. Get a life people, get a life.

It's not that surprising, Google doesn't have to optimize for 'search' because they're synonymous for it.

Not only that, but if you're already on Google searching for 'search', Google is clearly not what you're looking for...

You haven't seen some of my friends try to use a computer.

It's only worse when they use Chrome's omninbar to Google 'Google', then Google 'Google' on Google to get to Google

I remember once seeing a list of top X popular searches which included the term 'www.hotmail.com'. While I've no doubt it'd work, the level of understanding necessary to even attempt it is somewhat scary.

Um, I consider myself a native of computer-land and do this all the time. People accidentally type stuff in the wrong place. That doesn't mean they're cretins.

My father's computer uses msn.com as the homepage, which automatically grabs the focus and puts in in the search field of MSN. I'd guess that 90% of his queries on MSN are w.example.com, where the first "W"s are in the address bar where he placed his cursor, and then the actual input is queried to Bing.

OK, perhaps I misworded it, but... it wasn't that it was happening but that it was happening regularly enough to get into the top 10 queries - that strongly implies that it's deliberate.

Getting to Facebook is a four step google search: Go to google.com Enter w w w . F a c e b o o k . c o m press enter Click first result. Log in.

Or better yet: Start browser, search in search box for google.com then go on to search for your website.

"Dogpile.com makes searching the Web easy, because it has all the best search engines piled into one."

My brain just exploded.

Don't knock it, in the late 90s every search engine sucked in its own special way. Dogpile was great back then, and IIRC that's how I first encountered Google.

Yeah, there was a brief window in the mid-90's when Dogpile was definitely in the top 2. It replaced Metacrawler as my main search for a few months, as I recall.

I used Altavista right up until I first heard of Google. Before Altavista I used Webcrawler (http://thinkpink.com/bp/WebCrawler/History.html).

Ahh you're bringing back memories. I was av.com (altavista) before google, and yahoo.com before that. It's easy to forget how much search engines sucked before google.

Same here!

But I remember using Altavista for a long time after switching to Google because of Babelfish (translator0 and Image Search (was it Altavista?)

Today I use DuckDuckGo a lot.

Yup, that was Altavista.

My brother in law is quite a computer illiterate and he DOES use altavista as only search engine. God knows why.

He is 29 and does not even have an email address.

He is probably still using the first website he ever used to search the internet.

It's my experience that people who are not interested in the internet and computers learn just enough to get along and have no curiosity about new sites or techniques.

It's actually a rather smart strategy: Learn just enough to be functional. Be resistant to new information.

I'm like that in the kitchen. :-D

ObMeToo WRT AltaVista.

Though I think it was Yahoo or Lycos before that. Webcrawler possible.

Man ... back in the day ....

My introduction to AltaVista was when it was still a DEC project. It was a tour-de-force demo of the first 64-bit Unix (or was it VMS?), which allowed AV to load the entire search index into memory. Its claim to fame was speed, back before relevance mattered (now we're mostly back to speed).

A leftover from the era when searching was about "Do you have the page in your index? Can you find it at all?" and not "Which of these 10,000 results should I return first?"

Interestingly, a Dogpile.com search now returns Google as #1 (it's a sponsored result, though), and 4 more sponsored results I haven't heard of before giving Yahoo as the top composite result from Google, Yahoo, and Bing.

So what they're saying is they use Google?

Since "Google" has become its own verb, it makes sense that few people link to google.com with the word "Search".

Search for 'search' on Bing and Google comes up first as well: http://www.bing.com/search?q=search&go=&qs=n&sk=...

They return the favour perhaps?

for me, Yahoo comes up first on Bing.

Yahoo for me too

search.com came up first for me

I have Yahoo, search.com, Videos of Search (!) and then google.

Same for me.

My guess for the reason is this: http://www.google.com/trends?q=google%2C+search

Note the epic rise of "google" as a search, and the decline of "search". "Googling" is replacing "searching".

Maybe it's because in recent years, much more has been written about Bing as a search engine.

What's even funnier, if you click on "I'm Feeling Lucky", you are automatically transferred to Bing.

It would be nice if they would prepopulate Bing search box with search query.

The 'I'm Feeling Lucky' button just redirects you to the top result doesn't it?

Wasn't it just a few weeks ago, there were complaints that Google favored its own properties in its search results? What happens to that claim now?

Just do a search for anything local and you'll see.

Some things go without saying.

That, of course, means they go without linking.

Hotmail is #1 result for me when you search for "e-mail". :-)


(Gmail is still #1 for "mail" though, probably because of their URL - mail.google.com)

I never "search" for things. I "google" them.

And the irony is, that Bing's advertising is all about how instead of 'searching', Bing is for 'deciding'. Yet they're not even on the first page for 'decide'. More SEO needed :)

Incase the result gets changed, here is the search result page (Bing is #1)


Not that you may care, but posting photos of Google search result pages is now a dangerous thing and comes with a bunch of privacy concerns.

Search result pages are personalized based on your previous searches and location. Simply from the image we can tell where you live (even if it didn't say so explicitly in the left tool bar).

And even tells that you're on Windows (characteristic ClearType).

and if you search for www yahoo is first.


That looks like a personalised result, especially with the google.ca underneath.

My UK Chrome incognito result has BBC, Wikipedia (World Wide Web), Wikipedia, Facebook and... uhh... Radisson Blu hotels.

Oddly enough, I'm also getting google.ca as my second result and I'm in the UK. All my results are actually identical to those shown on the linked image, even when I sign out.

Pretty sure that they know about it. Just shows the google's strong position on the market - then can show bing.com as the first result and still remain the first-choice web search engine ever created.

Not sure whats up with the "feeling lucky" button as if you type something to the input box, it redirects you straight to the live search. You cannot really specify what do you want feel lucky about ;)

Google Search doesn't appear at all if I do the search on Google.no. Yahoo comes first, followed by Bing and search.com. Twitter, AOL and 4shared (a file sharing site) are all on the list, and so is "Google Insights for Search".

I wonder if this reflects the relative popularity of the alternative search engines in different countries. Google's search ranking algorithms hold many mysteries.

The interesting thing for me is that it returned a couple of Japanese results in the first page, with the characters "検索" highlighted. I've done a few Japanese searches from this computer before, which I guess is why it's giving me Japanese results, but I was surprised to see them translate search into Japanese and rank the results along with the English results.

The most surprising thing about it for me is that it told me that someone I knew had shared bing on buzz earlier this year.

This is good for Google. They don't want to appear to be a monopoly. Google needs Bing to be mildly successful.

http://www.bing.com/search?setmkt=en-US&q=search gives you Yahoo as the first result. Google is 3rd result.

By the way, I realized that I cannot click on "I'm felling lucky" anymore for any keyword since the google instant immediately fires up.. :( Used to spend quite a bit of time doing that.

This one is more surprising : http://www.google.com/search?q=search+engine

Google appears as the last result on the search page!

same here, 1st result: newyork.citysearch.com - New York, NY City Guide - Reviews and Recommendations by Citysearch

It also knew very well what my location is and was blatant in using this knowledge to direct me to my local citysearch, for example.

I wonder why they even have the "I am lucky" or even the Google Search button as tyrping even a letter takes me to the results page.

Google is first on google.com.au

Yeah, I did the search, saw google.com.au first and wasn't surprised at all.

For those interested, but not interested enough to visit the AU site the results are: 1. www.google.com.au 2. www.bing.com 3. jobsearch.gov.au 4. www.dogpile.com 5. www.seek.com.au 6. www.search.com 7. www.webwombat.com.au 8. au.altavista.com 9. www.peoplesearch.com.au 10. www.search.org.au

Basically a bunch of search engines, a couple of job sites and a couple of sites with search in their name.

Damnit, I just posted about that. That'll teach me for not reading through all the comments. So many comments.

bing.com has yahoo at the top haha. http://www.bing.com/search?q=search&go=&qs=n&sk=...

Google's first result is Bing.

Bing's first result is Yahoo.

Yahoo's first result is Yahoo. Way to break the cycle.

Yahoo uses Bing...

Take a look at Sponsered Ads on bing and google

Maybe this is some sort of inside joke?

A proof that Google is so ethical !

Google sells advertisements.

if you type "search engine" google doen't even show up on the 1st page atleast.

I can't see duckduck :(

dogpile is still around? didn't know that.

Oh, algorithms.

On Bing, "search" goes to Yahoo.

Which (unsurprisingly, as noted by the replies) itself yields Yahoo when you search "search" [1]

[1] http://search.yahoo.com/search;_ylt=AjCXgFY8lSKJSSw5JLdr1HSb...

So Yahoo is the fixed point of search engines.

Yahoo uses Bing.

But Google comes before Bing in the search results.

The point was that since Yahoo uses Bing for its search you should not expect different results from Bing (that is to say, there is not point searching 'search' on Yahoo after you did it on Bing).

Yahoo and the recursion!

Where's Altavista? :)

It kind of scares me that altavista.com still exists. It scares me even more that hotbot.com still exists.

Ha, altavista.com is just a Yahoo! search box.

Wait, isn't Yahoo! just a Bing search box?

As of a couple months ago when I asked this question in relation to duckduckgo.com: Yahoo's primary search page uses Bing, but yahoos API search features still use Yahoo's old system. At some point in the future Yahoo will move the api to use Bing as well. No idea if that time has come and gone.

Same with Lycos.

altavista just redirects to yahoo when you search.

... and what does not come up as the first result for "decision"?

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