Category Archives: search

DuckDuckGo Did Not Purge Websites

TorrentFreak reported that sites like The Pirate Bay,1337x, and Fmovies no longer appear when searched on DuckDuckGo’s search engine. According to TorrentFreak, several YouTube ripping services have disappeared, and the homepage of the open-source software YouTube-mp3 is “unfindable”.

Gabriel Weinberg, CEO & Founder of DuckDuckGo, posted a thread of tweets in response to not only the TorrentFreak article, but other websites who reported similar ones. He did not name any of them in his thread.

Gabriel Weinberg’s thread started with: “Hoping to clear up some misconceptions about our private search engine. First. There is a completely made up headline going around this weekend. We are not “purging” any media outlets from results. Anyone can verify this by searching for an outlet and see it come up in results.”

“Similarly, we are not “purging” YouTube-dl or The Pirate Bay and they both have actually been continuously available in our results if your search for them by name (which most people do). Our site: operator (which hardly anyone uses) is having issues which we are looking into.”

“We are not and have never been owned by Google, and we also don’t rely on Google’s results for any of our search results. We have been an independent company since our founding in 2008.”

In a later tweet in that thread, Gabriel Weinberg wrote: “Search ranking and censorship are entirely different things. We make our results useful by ranking spam lower. We are not ranking based on any political agenda or my (or anyone else’s) personal political opinions. We are also not assessing any individual news stories.”

What happened? PCMag reported that DuckDuckGo says this was a technical issue rather than a policy shift.

“After looking into this,” the company says, “our records indicate that YouTube-dl and The Pirate Bay were never removed from our search results when you searched from them directly by name or URL, which the vast majority of people do (it’s rare for people to use site operators or query operators in general).”

“We are having issues with our site:operator, and not just for these sites, but now at least the official site should be coming up for them when you use site:operator for them,” DuckDuckGo says. “Some of the other sites routinely change domain names and have spotty availability, and so naturally come in and out of the index but should be available as of now.”

Shortly before I started writing this blog post, I went to DuckDuckGo and typed in the main domain name for The Pirate Bay. One search result appeared, and the link was clickable. I put in the main domain name for 1337x,,, and All of them appeared in search results. My best guess is that whatever was not working on DuckDuckGo has been fixed.

The New World of Machine Photo Recognition

Red DogBack in 2012 Google announced that its computers learned to recognize pictures of cats.

Technology doesn’t stand still. Today in 2016 Google’s computers can now recognize many other things besides disinterested feline faces. What comes from this machine recognition ability goes far beyond facial recognition.

About a year ago, I uploaded my entire library of photos and many of my videos to Google Photos as a supplemental photo backup system. I am using the free version, allowing Google to compress images as they see fit to save space. Over a period of time my thousands of scanned 35mm negatives finally uploaded. I install Google Photos on all of my mobile devices so any photos or videos I take will automatically be uploaded.

I was looking at Google Photos as just a convenient photo/video backup insurance plan. As it turns out, I’m getting a lot more than I bargained for. The ability to search my personal photo collection is nothing short of remarkable.

Who has the time to enter keywords into photo management systems? Like most other people with large digital photo collections, I’ve never bothered.

Machine learning now renders labor-intensive keyword entry unnecessary.
Though the current level of machine learning isn’t perfect, it is more than good enough to be extremely useful. It is now possible for me to quickly find specific photos or types of photos from my massive lifetime image library.

For example, I take search for “zoo” and photos of animals in cages plus various animals that can be found in zoos pops up. If I type in “rodeo” a massive number of rodeo photos will pop up, not surprising since I spent years photographing my youngest brother, who used to be a rodeo bull rider.

If I search for “dog” all manner of dog photos I’ve taken over the years show up.

If I search for “cup” all kinds of photos will show up, including photos of different types of cups, people holding cups, etc.

If I type in people’s names, chances are I will get photos of them. I’m not surprised by this since when I scanned in a number of old print photos I named the files with the names of the people in them.

Searching on adjectives such as “cold” or “hot” may or may not yield image results. Using search words such as “blue” or “green” can result in images that have blue or green objects in them, or they may have an overall blue or green cast to them, such as images taken without flash under different colors of florescent lights.

Over time the machine learning is bound to improve and the search results will become even better than they already are.

Google Testing Banner Ads? Goodbye 2005 Decree…

Back in 2005 Google created an enhanced strategic partnership with AOL, which caused some rumblings. Google’s blog (a post by Marissa Meyer, who was VP of Search Products & User Experience at the time) cleared up some misconceptions – including not putting banner ads on their search site. However, times are changing and Google has to look at all possibilities for continued growth. That includes banner ads.

The AOL partnership mostly brought on concern that AOL search results would get priority and bias competitors. Google posted it’s reply to most of those, including:

There will be no banner ads on the Google homepage or web search results pages. There will not be crazy, flashy, graphical doodads flying and popping up all over the Google site. Ever.

Ever is a big word. While Google is probably still not going to place “crazy, flashy, graphical doodads”, there might be some other product placement on Google search results.

Google's testing simple banner ads
Google’s testing simple banner ads

Google confirmed they were testing images on top of search results. This is to make up for falling ad prices and slower desktop search results. While images on top of a page might not be called “banner ads” per se, it kinda feels like a banner ad.

Of course, Google runs tests all the time. Therefore it goes to see how people would react to an image at the top of the screen.

It’s also an ad that shows up if you are looking for air travel or information on Southwest. So if you are looking for it anyway, would an ad at the top be invasive?

Ads have been on Google for a while – in text formats to the right. It’s part of Google’s “Multi-year evolution” – adding text ads and videos to the site.

It’s all about a lack of mobile ad solution to search, since people are switching to their phones and those dedicated apps. After all, how many of us did a search for Facebook or Twitter and clicked on the link in the search results to get to the website?

Google Quietly Released Hummingbird

GoogleThe new version of the Google search algorithm is called “Hummingbird”. It has already been released. For whatever reason, Google decided not to make a specific announcement about the release of the new algorithm before switching over to it. For good or ill, it has already affected how your blog is placed in order of the results that appear whenever someone does a Google search.

The purpose of Hummingbird is, in short, to keep up with how people use the internet. Many people will type an entire phrase into the search engine, instead of just one word, when they are looking for information about something.

This means that the algorithm has to “understand” the entire meaning of each word in the phrase, and how they relate to each other. Once it “gets” what you are looking for, it can show you websites that match what you are hoping to find. Things have gotten too complex for a “Boolean” type of search system.

In other words, “Hummingbird” has been designed to give us better results when we do a Google search. This is because it is going to “get” the meaning and context of what you typed in the search engine.

Overall, I see this as a good thing. My hope is that this will bring the blogs, articles, and websites that have the best content (based upon your query) to the top of the list. I cannot help but wonder if the blogs that have been crafted in ways that were designed around SEO, but that lack quality content, will notice a drop in their page clicks soon as a result of Hummingbird.

AltaVista is Shutting Down

AltaVista logo Remember AltaVista? I was quite surprised to learn that it was still in existence. Many of us have moved on to other search engines since AltaVista was created. If you are feeling a sense of nostalgia about AltaVista, you should probably go use it soon. Its days are numbered.

Yahoo! acquired AltaVista in 2003. Yahoo! has announced several of the upcoming product closures. AltaVista will shut down on July 8, 2013.

The announcement suggests that people visit Yahoo! Search “for all your searching needs”. That’s one alternative to AltaVista. I suspect that most people are probably using Google for their “searching needs”. Bing is another option.

Typically, when a company shuts down something that had been offered for years, there is some public outcry from the people who are currently using it. Most of the news I’ve read about AltaVista expresses surprise that it has survived for this long.

Gmail in Google Search

Gmail in Search When I opened up Google search page this morning I noticed that on the right hand side of the screen are the words Gmail results. I had signed up for this when it was offered back in the beginning of August. First a little background, I work from home and I am the only one that uses the computer. So I don’t have some of the security concerns that other people might have. However if I was using my computer at a coffee shop there are several ways to turn the option off. The first is on the page itself.   If you go up to the small globe on the right hand side of the windows just below the search bar and click on it, this will hide those results. The second way is to click on the gear and go to your search setting and go down to Personal results and click on “Do not use personal results”.

If you choose to keep show personal search on and you click on Gmail results it will take you to the search results on your Gmail page. If you click on “show results” you can view the subject line of the last five messages with that search word in the subject line. If you do a search for an individual you will get the subject line of the last five messages they sent you. If you click on one of the subject lines a page with that email message or conversation will appear.

There are a few things that I noticed while using it for short period. The first is the words have to match exactly including capitalization. The second is when you first start using it, it is not clear what does what until you click on it. On good side until you click on a choice nothing shows, so you don’t have to worry about Gmail results just popping up. If you are on a public computer and you are signed into your Google account and you are worried about clicking on it accidentally, I would recommend turning the option off.  It will not be available to Google App accounts. Finally I did not receive an email confirmation, it just appeared

Have You Noticed Google’s New “I’m Feeling Lucky” Button?

Perhaps Google’s most famous button, and there aren’t many on their stark homepage, is the “I’m feeling lucky” option.  The option has been with the search engine since pretty much the beginning of their existence, way back at Stanford in the 1990’s.  Thanks to modern browser updates like “instant”, the “I’m feeling lucky” option has become nothing more than a nostalgic option.

Now Google has conceded the option, turning it into what amounts to an “Easter Egg”.  When you visit the Google homepage and hover your mouse pointer over the button it will spin like a slot machine and land on one of a few options such as “I’m feeling stellar”, “I’m feeling hungry”, “I’m feeling doodly”, and several others.

Each option takes users to a different search result – for instance, the “I’m feeling hungry” button launches a search for local restaurants in the user’s area.

It seems the “I’m feeling lucky” button is officially gone forever, which at this point isn’t a great loss.  The Google homepage hasn’t changed much over the years, so this is the biggest deal since the menu bar across the top of the screen began it’s evolution.