Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Typing "Sell" in Google Finance redirected to Apple Inc. (google.com)
109 points by nh on Dec 30, 2012 | hide | past | favorite | 68 comments

I always wonder with things like this just how many people within Google know about it.

A single renegade engineer? A handful? Or A team having some fun with the approval of their managers and everything?

Is there an internal policy about easter eggs? If so, what is it?

"sell" showsup in Apple's description multiple times. It's just basic SEO. Not an Easter Egg. Though Google potentially could have set the algorithm to make that be the result - but Apple just needs to change the description then to see if it holds..

Since its a finance site, it should weigh the stock symbol over any description. Given that there is already a stock "MCX:SELL" that is also displayed at the autocomplete, the redirect should have gone there instead.

I would like to give Google the benefit of doubt but since AAPL doesn't even show up at the auto-complete, it clearly looks like a prank by an employee.

How many people are searching for MCX:SELL, and how many are searching for Apple? AAPL's trading volume is like four orders of magnitude higher than MCX:SELL's.

yes, and i bet all none of the AAPL shareholders found the stock by searching "sell" on Google finance.

I'm not going to say this proves it, but I'm convinced it's shenanigans. I can't figure out whether or not I have a problem with it. There are some good arguments why it's bad, but not good enough that I actually care. I just don't see the issue, unless I was Selestra, the company that should be popping up. Actually, if I was Selestra, I'd be pretty upset.

But then if they're using a keyword density based algorithm, and that's how the algorithm chooses to display information, then making an acception for Selestra would be 'tampering' - no?

That makes it seriously difficult for me to trust them as an objective source of financial information.

Guess I'll stick with Yahoo!

Does this really make you worry that they would tamper with information that mattered? Seems a bit far-fetched to me, doing that would be massively scandalous, and probably illegal.

If they are then they are tampering with information that mattters, SELL is a valid stock descriptor (SELL.ME, selestra corp: http://finance.yahoo.com/q?s=SELL.ME).

Financial data sites are not a good place to be pranking your users.

That alone makes me seriously doubt that this is an easter egg, if it is google will have easter egg all over its oos.

Is this the sort of "tampering" that would have any sort of effect, positive or negative, on anything at all?

If your stock symbol can't be found? I'd guess negative, hard to put a positive on that somehow.

I suspect that if Selestra actually thinks it was a problem, they'll deal with it with lawyers. I find it hard to worry myself over it.

Thats the Google finance search box and not the Google search box.

So technically it should only show Stocks based results not keyword based results.

It seems they are just deploying a keyword-density relevance algorithm..

This can be debunked by running this query in google.com:

site:finance.google.com sell "quotes & news"

The top results is what you would get if it was a neutral algo, used by main google service.

The apple redirect is not neutral and is not a result of any algorithm.

that doesn't make sense. why would that be proof of anything? why would they do a relevance search based on the text of their own generated pages, much of which is just template and links to reuters stories, instead of over the raw data they used to generate that page?

edit: I'm not asserting that this is on purpose or not, I'm just saying that that "proof" demonstrates nothing.

That proves absolutely nothing. You talk as though you have a clue about search relevancy, but that's clearly not the case.

Weird...'ponzi scheme' doesn't redirect to Facebook.

That's a bug in the search algorithm.

'evil' doesn't redirect to GOOG either.

The term 'evil' is diluted too much amongst Google, Apple and Facebook for any single entity to hold the title.

The query matches a term that can be found in the stocks description. Give it a try yourself, copy something unique enough from the description and use it as a query, you will be redirected to that stocks page.

Romance, Mystery: https://www.google.com/finance?q=Romance%2C+Mystery

X.commerce: https://www.google.com/finance?q=X.commerce

Its unbelievable how many people in this thread accuse Google, conspiracy theories and all that. The thread was up-voted enough to be on front page. Don't believe everything you hear, do some research on it first ?

Is this something the SEC may technically be able to get their panties in a bunch about? It could potentially sway public sentiment.

It could be translated as "huge smart company that knows algorithms better than most have been trying to predict the stick market." Their current recommendation on AAPL is to sell.

There are hundreds of companies, individuals, analysts and twitter bots giving out stock tips, recommendations, target prices and whatnot. As long as you're not acting on insider information, is there anything illegal about advising people to sell a stock?

Nah, searching for "worst" returns Konami. I'm quite sure it's not intentional but dynamic instead.

This probably happens due to Konami's title "CROWS × WORST - Saikyou Densetsu", which is apparently recent and popular. If you search for "crows", Konami also appears as an answer although only the 9th result because there are several companies with "crow" in their name.

Don't be evil, they said. Surely there's some sort of hypothetical "Securities Exchange Commission" for this type of shenanigan. I don't like the way they own http://www.duck.com either.

EDIT: thanks for the correction, I had written Do No Evil without thinking. Check the second Google result for 'Do No Evil', as you say it's a common enough mistake to make.

EDIT2: as one of the commenters has pointed out below, the owner of duck.com was a previous acquisition, that owned duck.com prior to duck duck go being a competitor to Google. So owning duck.com is fine with me! I thought it was a prank/jibe on Google's part. Thanks for the info.

"Do no evil, they said."

No, they didn't. What really annoys me about this persistent misquote is that it gets the character of early Google so wrong. "Do no evil" sounds incredibly pompous, self-important and serious.

"Don't be evil" is obviously more playful and hackerish.

You can commit evil accidentally, without being evil, so, you're dead right "Don't be evil" is a weaker instruction than "Do no evil".

Accidental evil is allowed for Google, so long as it's an unintended consequence. That said, their motto is a lot better than most!

They own duck.com cause it was the old site name of the "The Duck Corporation" (now On2 Technologies) acquired on 2010 (the VP8 Codec.)

I see no evil here, only an unfortunate coincidence.

Apart from the conspiracy theory, I found something interesting while looking through the WayBack Machine[1].

Around Nov 02, 2010 duck.com's server was compromised and the script kiddie inserted a php string onto a HTML file.

Was he was really expecting it to work?

[1] http://wayback.archive.org/web/20100615000000*/http:////////...

If they ran php it probably did work. That right there is the keys to the kingdom

Hm, I'm confused - why do they own www.duck.com? And why is this a bad thing?

They own duck.com because they bought On2 who used to own duck.com. I'm really not sure what this has to do with the topic at hand, though.

Competitor -- http://duckduckgo.com

Fairly sure they owned duck.com first

Someone just wrote on CNN.com forums:

Hey folks, I'm writing from Google. This isn't deliberate -- our algorithms seem to be keying off of the words "sell" and "sells" in the description of this very popular stock symbol. We're working on how to adjust things so it doesn't happen anymore. Thanks... back to the eggnog.

'over sold' takes you to Amazon https://www.google.com/finance?q=over+sold

I learned about Google a decade ago when "worse than satan himself" brought up either Bill Gates or Microsoft. I worked at Microsoft at the time. Everyone I knew thought it was hilarious, and it spread through the company like wildfire. Within a week or two, everyone was using Google as their default search engine.

(I may be mis-remembering the exact search string, but it was something like that. Keep in mind that Bill's philanthropy had not become public at that time.)

I wonder if `buy`, `sell`, and `over sold` are dynamic and actually a result of Google finances algorithm generating them instead of being hard coded.

Note: It's not a result provided by a neutral algorithm. Contrary to what debunkers want to say, it has been hard coded.

For example, search for other often occuring words such as those:

"over" "before" "using" "between"

Those searches give a listing of companies having these words in their description.

Searching for "sell" redirects straight to Apple stock even though many other descriptions have this word in them. Several have way higher density of the "sell" word than the Apple description.

The redirect for "buy" search is reasonable as the Best Buy has it in its name. Apple has no sell in its name.

It's fishy to say the least.


This can be proven even further by running a specialized search query to the main google.com page:

site:finance.google.com sell "quotes & news"

If you use this query, which uses the neutral algo, you won't see APPLE anywhere near the top.

> which uses the neutral algo

It doesn't use "the" neutral algorithm, it uses a neutral algorithm, one that's not based on keywords at all, but PageRank. The finance sites search (presumably) has nothing to do with individual result pages PageRank and therefore it would return completely different results to the main google search algorithm.

Otherwise, why does 'site:finance.google.com facebook "quotes & news"' not return Facebook? Or even 'site:finance.google.com appl "quotes & news"' not return Apple?

"Proven" your ass. ;-) Se the other posts about "worst" -> Konami, which I show to be simple result of ranking. The thing is, when some term's #1 result strongly dominate other results, Google Finance will go "feeling lucky"-style instead of displaying a list.

The reported behavior has now changed. The latest results for a search on the word "sell" on Google Finance


show a rather boring list of companies, with no prominence given to Apple.

Yeah, it looks like they "fixed the glitch" :)

Google is a search company at heart. They use keyword relevance in many of their products. Apple is a company that generates clicks when it is in headlines. Stock websites constantly write linkbait articles about Apple. Many along the lines of "5 Reasons Why You Should Sell Apple Stock Now" or "Is Apple Overvalued" etc...I bet if you researched, you would find that there are a high number of stock market related websites linking to the google finance page for Apple that also use the word sell as a keyword. Hence the association between "apple" and "sell" in the google finance search algorithm. Or maybe, it's just an Easter egg.

http://www.google.com/finance?q=buy takes you to best buy

This may be due to the flurry of articles recommending to sell apple ...

If this is indeed an easter egg, it shows a serious lack of judgement on the part of at least one or more (somewhat powerful) individual at google.

It's very possible the code change is a reactive fix to seek SEC compliance. Now that it's posted on HN and other places, the impact of the "Sell" query result is significant.

Does that constitute financial advice?

In the footer: "Information is provided "as is" and solely for informational purposes, not for trading purposes or advice, and may be delayed."

So the conclusion is that Finance has "Im feeling lucky" switched on in a very subtle way by default?

This was on reddit all day.

what if it is a conspiracy, they will get away paying a fine of about 10-25million$ thats how SEC works, people will forget this in couple of days or weeks based on media coverage

And searching for "Buy" redirects to "Best Buy". Right.....

buy redirecting to best buy, is the correct search algo. I think sell going to Apple is intentional though.

Didn't redirect for me

Not anymore.

And yet they apparently rushed out a code change, which disappoints me. I understand adjusting the code, but a politicized factor of rushing out a change to something that isn't a bug just because you're worried it'll be misinterpreted is something that makes me frown.

Unless google normally gets code changes put to production in a couple hours on a weekend night, in which case I take it back and hurrah google!

Or the more likely cause, which it was an easter egg. Google got caught with it's hand in the cookie jar, and removed the offending code before it got in trouble.

Better safe than sorry? Why is that disappointing that they "fixed" it quickly? Heck, just look at the comments in this post and people are already pulling out that tired "Don't be evil" quote again and trying to blame Google for this or somehow associate this as some kind of evil action.

It's disappointing if they only prioritize fixes that could make them falsely look bad.

Emphasis on 'if' and 'falsely'.

The irony being that Google is being sued for manipulating their search results?

When looking at the trend for Apple, I was surprised. Earlier this year some people expected Apple could be the first company to reach the market cap of $ Right now they're under the $500.000.000 from $700.000.000 last september.

Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact