Thursday, 27 November 2008

Indian attacks shouldn't be Google's number one

Martin Belam (who is infinitely brighter and better qualified than me) thinks that it is a failure of search engines that search results for Mumbai and India don't have stories about the terrorist attacks at the top. I don't agree.

The terrorist attacks may be the most significant thing about Mumbai or even India, today. But search results are about more than that, signified by Google's weighting to older content. The terrorist attacks will be dealt with and the city needs to recover. What it doesn't need is a prospective American tourist deciding not to visit in three months time (assuming it doesn't run contrary to state department advice) because of a legacy story on a search engine.

There are issues about news and search, demonstrated by the coverage around Bob Woolmer's death (as opposed to the reports of his murder). Google News is a step in the right direction although that's not without its problems. But if the main Google search results worked in the way Martin suggests, it could be more bad news for Mumbai.

1 comment:

Martin Belam said...

Yes, I do see your point. After all, if you search for London now, you don't expect to see information about the 2005 suicide bombings to be #1. Nevertheless, Google's self-appointed missions are to "organise the world's information", and help people find it. I'm certain that 100% of the people typing 'mumbai' into Google that night were doing so to get news - and I didn't think Google was serving that informational need as well as it good. My bigger surprise, though, was not nobody at Live Search or Yahoo! seemed to have an editorial eye in place to stop trying to sell discounted hotel rooms to people searching for news about those same hotels being under attack.

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