Google I love you, but...



...you're bringing me down... 
a reference to "New York I Love You," a song  by LCD Soundsystem




I just, uh, googled for a way to get rid of that stupid black bar that i did not ask for.  (From what I gather it is reminiscent of Face-book?  I am most decidedly not 'on' face-book.  "Face book 'em, Dan-O," as Corporanon says).  And so I light upon geekosystem's helpful little post.  There is a greasemonkey script, enabling one to have that not-broken and so in-no-need-of-fixing search page back.  One of course must install the Greasemonkey add-on.  Oh yes, and have Firefox.


Seems a little insulting, doesn't it.  Even if you have Firefox.


The author points out that the new, highly annoying, and almost universally hated changes are not all cosmetic: the 'advanced search' button is now no longer readily available.  One more click, now.  


Interesting, huh.  Interesting, even though I have long since memorized all the search params,  even though I know cool hidden ones, like the one for proximity (real proximity, not that dumb asterisk), like the one that turns off instant, like the one that disables ads, or puts a hundred results on the page.  Even though I often dispense with the start page altogether, preferring to generate the address directly, the better to precisely target my request, sidestepping the click-throughs for 'last month,' 'cached,' 'translate this page,' or 'repeat search with the omitted results included.' (In fact, I, who know not that much about coding, but who teach myself more daily, wrote a search plugin incorporating many of these.  you can find and download it here.)


This interesting new change is connected in my mind with the trend, going back to, oh, was it 2007?,  of an annoying increasing specification to search page url's.  Way back when, before the rocks cooled -- well, sometime in the middle of that evil dark time that was Byush's first term -- I noticed that the source for a google search is not really HTML at all.  It does not preserve that search; save it and reload it and what you get is the search in motherloving real time -- basically useless for the nascent Winston Smith in many of us.  Was it not obvious that,  in electing to 'save,' I desired to save the page as I encountered it, not as I would encounter it in some future present moment, with its differing political exigencies and legal and economic priorities?  Fine, I thought at the time, I learn to take screenshots. 


Then there was that  'Sorry.' 




 I do not do Windows.  The likelihood I had a virus was, I thought, low.  What unusual traffic?  Funny how I got the 'sorry' directory almost every time I was looking for music, or using advance search parameters  Then it was every time -- I used TOR.  I guess TOR is itself unusual (?) activity -- in that -- it doesn't match what I usually do.  But wait, why are they paying attenton to what I 'usually' do?


Then there was webcache dot googleusercontent and that whole 'url' query replacing the googlecache IP.  Then ( -- oh look, isn't this interesting,  I said, my voice flat and disappointed) the url for the search page repeated my query, one part became the title of the page -- so even as I modified and tailored my request, google was preserving the wording of my first request and including it every time.  Changing the url sometimes had no effect on the search!  Somewhere along the way the search had became browser specific -- far from being a search that would link to a certain objective set of results, it became a forensic tool to betray what I searched for and how.  


And the last nail in the coffin of the idea that I could share my search links?


When you right click a link -- like to insert it into a post, maybe? That url is no longer the url it said it was going to be.  Its some google-specific url, something to help google track that you clicked it, that refreshes immediately to the url you wanted -- an http source style redirect. Not what you would want to put after your href tag.  So now I have to click through manually.  Takes longer.  Not very user friendly -- hey, maybe bloggers are not users...


Worse,  now when you search, the resulting hits are tailored to you alone.  They are still arranged thoughtfully, yet entirely deceptively, in an attempt to trick you into taking it for granted that this set of results is the objective answer.  They are not.  


It is this last point that prompted me to turn the above comment into this blog post.  The impact of this cannot be overemphasized.  The same search from me and from you -- whether we are on the same block or just on the same plant -- will return different results.  Now, this is hard to check, since using proxies all-too-often just elicits the dreaded "Sorry" redirect from Google.  But sometimes it goesn't -- i will try to catch one and screenshot it.  For the meantime I leave my Gentle Readers with this excellent, excellent article on the subject, "How the net traps us all in our own little bubbles," Eli Pariser's excellent summary/intro to his no doubt excellent book, "The Filter Bubble: What The Internet Is Hiding From You." Links to the article (originally in the UK Guardian) and the book (Amazon) - both links take you to a googlecache of the page.....  Because Google, I still love you.















In closing, my comment to the geekosystem article, that lead to this post:






And the picture I link to? The quote is from Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone."






Be seeing you.