Reactions to my post on the Mumbai terrorist attack search engine response

 by Martin Belam, 4 December 2008

There was quite a bit of interest in my post last week about search engine response to the Mumbai terror attacks.

Google India search

A couple of the comments left here disagreed with my premise. Matthew Cain made the point that it would be no help to Mumbai's recovery from the attacks to have search engine users constantly reminded of the events. He posted about it over on his BacAtU blog, and I left the following comment there:

"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 could. My bigger surprise, though, was that 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."

Another commentator on my original post said:

"Ever tried Google News? You obviously can't handle a search engine properly."

Of course, my concern here isn't for my own information seeking behaviour, but that of the vast majority of users. A quick glance at Google Trends for the one word search 'mumbai' shows the huge spike where plenty of people were expecting Google web search to be their primary route to information about the attacks.

Mumbai Google Trend


Maybe we're both right . . . that Google should be serving up what its users wants, but that in taking on a lofty aim to organise the world's information, it has a greater responsibility beyond the here and now - a similar tension to the one the BBC wrestles with.

I think Google just don't want to remind what happened to Mumbai's attacks. But I agree with you, Google should also consider the vast majority of users who are trying to find information via searching in Google.

I think Google News is appropriate for News and let the search engine do what it does best, sorting of information

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