A google cocoon, or Google as Gaeilge

OK, so I have just done an entry quoting eFoundations, the blog by Pete Johnson and Andy Powell. The other day, I did a Google search for eFoundations and was interested to see that my earlier mention of it came top of the results, with eFoundations itself coming in second.

Now, a little while before that I had installed FireFox 2.0 on our home machine, and curious to see what impact it had, I chose the French version. The different view of the world was interesting, although I did not systematically try to work out what was happening with the defaults for choice of service, search, presentation and so on.

So, I thought I would look at Google.co.uk and see if I got the same results for my search for eFoundations, a UK-based blog. Nope - in the UK version of Google, the eFoundations site itself topped the results list, with my blog entry further down.

I sent a note off to Andy Powell. His responded that eFoundations came top for him when he tried Google.com, as well as when he tried it on Google.co.uk.

Coincidentally, I have just put IE7 on our home machine. I was offered choices there, so in an impulse I chose the Irish language version ('as Gaeilge' = 'in Irish"). A search on Google.com through this browser returns the eFoundations site itself as top result.

This group of activities reminded me of a discussion I had a while ago with a Danish colleague about how Google Scholar behaved. I remember that I could not check what was being said, because from my US location I could not replicate her Danish experience.

Now, I am sure that some readers will know how all these layers within layers work; I don't and don't plan to spend the time to find out.

It is interesting to me, though, how the view of the world which Google - and other services - presents is influenced in this way by location and browser clues. The web world as mediated by Google appears different depending on where you are.

This may be useful, however something is also lost. It would be good also be able to step outside your local Google cocoon to see how others see things. And it would be good to be able to step out of your Google Cocoon into a shared space that all can see.

Comments: 2

Oct 23, 2006
Thom Hickey

This might be reading too much into Google differences. They may just be due to when particular copies of the database get updated.
--Th

Oct 24, 2006
Mark Carden

I would say it is probably a good thing if people get different results in different locales and languages, as it benefits most searchers if both the search and the content are tuned for them. I think that this locale-based (or perspective-based) search and discovery issue is very important; it is also quite an issue with things like character sets, capitalization, and search language. A Swedish person searching Jonkoping might expect to get zero hits, whereas an American or a Brit might expect to get 20m hits for the city of Jönköping. A couple of other examples to play with include año and ano, schnell/fast fast/nearly, and of course challenging 'stop' words like "die/the".