Find (if ye know how to seek)

It’s a few days old now, but I just ran across a post over on TorrentFreak describing how Google has started removing “torrent”-related results from its auto-complete search results:

Without a public notice Google has compiled a seemingly arbitrary list of keywords for which auto-complete is no longer available. Although the impact of this decision does not currently affect full search results, it does send out a strong signal that Google is willing to censor its services proactively, and to an extent that is far greater than many expected.

Among the list of forbidden keywords are “uTorrent”, a hugely popular piece of entirely legal software and “BitTorrent”, a file transfer protocol and the name of San Fransisco based company BitTorrent Inc. As of today [1/26/2011], these keywords will no longer be suggested by Google when you type in the first letter, nor will they show up in Google Instant.

All combinations of the word “torrent” are also completely banned. This means that “Ubuntu torrent” will not be suggested as a user types in Ubuntu, and the same happens to every other combination ending in the word torrent. This of course includes the titles of popular films and music albums, which is the purpose of Google’s banlist.

This is quite an interesting development.  Personally, I have found Google’s auto-complete functionality very helpful in finding the names of half-remembered items.  It is a disturbing reminder of just how much control Google exerts–not only over what we find, but over what we search for.

Shaving a precious 2-5 seconds off your Internet searches

Google announced yesterday a new feature of their search engine: Google Instant, which will unveil search results even as you are typing in your search terms. The goal? To shave off a few seconds from the typical search process:

Google says the average web search currently takes about 25 seconds: nine second to type it, less than one second for Google to return a result and 15 seconds to pick the best result.

They say Google Instant will shave two to five seconds off of that time.

Perhaps two to five seconds could make a big difference and the feature will become standard practice. The value of time over the Internet has certainly changed over the years, particularly comparing page loads these days to what was common in the mid 1990s. I’m not sure a couple of seconds will matter to most users – but perhaps I am wrong. We do seem to be impatient  when a page even takes just a few extra seconds to load…it’s like we have wiped from our memories the experiences of loading pages on 56k modems.