Autocomplete fun, Part 1

The Googlization of the world occasionally provides unique — or bizarre — insight into what people are thinking or interested it. That is particularly true with its search autocomplete feature. As you type, it suggests potential searches reflect “the search activity of all web users and the content of web pages indexed by Google.” (Autocomplete can also be personalized a bit based on your web usage but I have both the personal results and web history options turned off on my Google account.)

It can be interesting to see what autocomplete suggests. Here’s a few examples of my first exploration into “autocomplete for fun.” Except where indicated otherwise, each of the results are in the order listed.

  • For “why can’t,” the first two suggestions are “why can’t i get laid” and “why can’t tertiary alcohols be oxidized.” I don’t even understand the second one so for all I know it is related to the first. (If you just type “why,” “why can’t i get laid drops to number three.)
  • Typing “why can’t obama” produces both sides of the political spectrum: “why can’t obama be impeached” and “why can’t obama close gitmo.”
  • Autocomplete also indicates that people want to know if “republicans are”: idiots, evil, crazy, the problem. For Democrats, evil moves to number one, followed by racist, liberal and socialists. Perhaps that is why the second suggestion for “democrats and republicans” is “democrats and republicans are the same.” And I must say I found a bit of pleasure that “politicians are like diapers.”
  • We lawyers don’t fare too much better, though. The first suggestion is “lawyers are scum.” I’m not sure if that’s better or worse than evil but ultimately I needn’t worry. Evil is number four in the autosuggest while “lawyers are liars” is second.
  • Getting back to more generic search suggestions, “where” prompts “where is chuck norris” and “where’s my refund.” I’m fairly certain the latter keeps moving down as we get past April 15 but I’m not quite sure why people are so concerned about Mr. Norris.
  • “Did I” produces “did i shave my legs for this” and “did i stutter,” suggesting webizens are fairly interested in wisecracks. “Did you,” in comparison, produces the straightforward “did you know.”
  • It’s probably only fair to end this first round of the autocomplete game asking something about the feature itself. The results suggest that problems with autocomplete may have something to do with typing skills: “google autocomplete is not working corre” and “google autocomplete is not working corre marshmallows.”

If autocomplete is based on what web users are searching, I’ll leave you to ponder correlation between Goggle Autcomplete and marshmallows.

Google is a global Rorschach test.

John Battelle

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