By Jacqui Cheng | Published: January 26, 2007 – 12:49PM CT
Google’s previous stance on this type of Internet pranking was just that—it was a prank and that they didn’t want to get involved in manually altering otherwise-harmless antics on the web. Also called “linkbombing,” the most famous Googlebomb was of course the search for the phrase “failure” that produced a link to the current US President, George W. Bush. Some other Googlebombs included associating the search term “waffles” with Senator John Kerry and “talentless hack” with Adam Mathes, but not all Googlebombs were created to slander—some users Googlebombed the word “Jew” to stop pointing to a hate site and instead directed the term to point to the Wikipedia entry on Jewish people.
Google’s Matt Cutts writes that “the actual scale of this change is pretty small” since most Googlebombs weren’t even in the range of public awareness. However, they chose to remedy the problem by altering the algorithm instead of hand-editing for obvious reasons—why spend the time doing it yourself for every result when you can use that human time to write a computer program to do it for you? Cutts says that the algorithm scales well and even helps prevent Googlebombs in other languages.
Google says that there have been less than 100 “well-known” Googlebombs since 2001 and most were for very off-the-wall phrases which, in the eyes of such a large corporate entity, were not a high priority to fix. Googlebombing seems harmless, but Google should have been concerned that relatively small groups of web users could so easily alter search results. However, Google claims that the reason that the company has decided to finally give in and fix the algorithm was because too many people had begun to assume that the negative associations—particularly the political ones—were Google’s own opinions and that the company was intentionally associating the terms with various parties. “That’s not true, and it seemed like it was worth trying to correct that misperception,” Cutts said.