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December 27, 2006

Google Myths

I've heard many inaccurate things about Google this year, and most of them are spread by word of mouth. Maybe Google should do a better job at explaining things that may seem trivial to computer experts, but difficult understand for other people.

1. Google Desktop indexes your files and uploads the index to Google's servers. (Michael Arrington)

No. Google stores the index on your computer. If you enable a feature called "search across computers", Google will securely send copies of your indexed files to Google servers. The feature is disabled by default.

2. Gmail indexes your emails and makes them available for everyone. (Darbacour)

No. Google indexes your messages so you can search them. This feature is now available in other webmail applications (Yahoo Mail, Windows Live Mail). Google doesn't make your messages or the indexes public.

3. Google doesn't delete my Gmail messages.

In order to keep your email safe, Google needs to have multiple backups of your data. "You may organize or delete your messages through your Gmail account. (...) Residual copies of deleted messages and accounts may take up to 60 days to be deleted from our active servers and may remain in our offline backup systems." (Gmail Privacy Policy)

4. Google doesn't improve search anymore to increase its earnings from ads.

You may not perceive too many changes in Google search, but Google tweaks its algorithms often to improve search results quality, removes spam sites and tries to add more fresh results. On the visible side, Google added search refinements, more direct answers, malware warnings and address recognition.

5. Search results should be ranked by people, not by algorithms.

Google uses the links from other pages the determine the importance of a page, and those links were placed by humans. Google also monitors user's clicks to determine if the search results are relevant.

6. Google is spyware.

"Spyware is software that reports on your activities or gathers personal information about you and sends it via the Internet to third parties without your knowledge or consent." If you use software like Google Toolbar or Google Desktop, some features may send personal information to Google, but most of them are either turned off by default or require your explicit approval. Google also uses cookies to save your preferences and records queries, clicks, usage patterns to deliver better results. The problem is not that they record it, it's what they do with it. And Google tries to protect it from third parties (like US Government).

7. Google Earth shows real-time images.

No, what you see "are photographs taken by satellites and aircraft sometime in the last three years".

8. Google is the best search engine that will ever be built.

Google is far from a search engine that "understands exactly what you mean and gives you back exactly what you want". But its goal is to reach that state. (Google's philosophy)

9. Google favors Wikipedia, Technorati, blogs.

Well, not exactly. These sites happen to have many backlinks, and oftentimes quality links. I know many people that link to Wikipedia to show an explanation for a concept or an acronym, link to Technorati to tag their blog posts or link to blogs because they are infectious.

10. Google will take over the world.

Those who control information, control the world. Hopefully Google will be a benevolent dictator (guess what? I linked to Wikipedia).


  1. I could swear I heard a baby cry somewhere when I was reading Darbacour's posts.

    sidenote: he gives libertarians (that's how it's actually spelled) a bad name =/ and he's not even truly one.

  2. Ah, forgot to mention this in my previous comment: Google didn't give in to the controversial subpoena for providing a stock of query while Microsoft and Yahoo (among others I believe) did. One would think that such action says a lot about Google.

    I've read somewhere (Lifehacker, I think it was) that "conspiracy theorists of the past are today's major privacy advocates;" I find it mildly amusing.

  3. You made my day! It's so nice to see OTHERS debunking Google myths once in a while.

    All the best of the season to you and yours, and keep up the interesting posts! :-)

  4. >
    > "One would think that such action says a lot about Google."

    Well, they still keep the search data indefinitely, though they could:

    1) Regularly remove all associations to IP addresses (and Google accounts, for that matter), like every month, replacing these informations by a unique random-generated number (well, the duration might depend on local laws, if websites are required to keep logs for x months/years, and not just ISPs). It would still permit them to use these data for improving search results (like suggestions), while avoiding some privacy issues (far from all, however).

    2) Regularly delete all search data. I understand that if they change some algorithm depending on search data, they will lose the possibility to run the updated version, against the older search data, but is it that a big deal? They could delete the data after like two years. Would two year old data, not duplicated since then, really matter that much? (when they already extracted most informations, like for suggestions...).

  5. Nice list. I especially love point 9. "Google favors Wikipedia...I know many people that link to Wikipedia...". Actually the statement from the title is true. Google prefers Wikipedia. It prefers Wikipedia because it has high pagerank and because people like it. It is amazing how this rate-thingie works... I L♥ve Google and Wikipedia :-)

  6. "I L♥ve Google and Wikipedia :-)"

    You are sad...

    Google favours high page rank, wikipedia results often have high page ranks thats what he is trying to say so myth 9 is busted.

  7. In the interest of fairness concerning #2, there was that one brief issue when Google Base first came out...

    ...but that was just once, and they fixed that right away. As far as I know, that's the only time they've ever made e-mails available to anyone beyond the sender intended recipients.

  8. Google is Evil.

    Any corporation that gets that big is necessarily evil.

  9. 9 of the 10 things here should be completely obvious to the most noob of noobs, and one of them is just straight up incorrect, and that is #1:

    "Cached Links

    Google takes a snapshot of each page examined as it crawls the web and caches these as a back-up in case the original page is unavailable. If you click on the "Cached" link, you will see the web page as it looked when we indexed it. The cached content is the content Google uses to judge whether this page is a relevant match for your query.

    When the cached page is displayed, it will have a header at the top which serves as a reminder that this is not necessarily the most recent version of the page. Terms that match your query are highlighted on the cached version to make it easier for you to see why your page is relevant."

  10. Regarding Tien's comment that #1 is incorrect due to "cached links". #1 was referring to Google Desktop, not the Google search engine. We all know that the Google search engine will keep cached copies of pages it crawls (unless the website is configured to not allow bots to cache its pages). #1 is talking instead about Google Desktop and whether or not it stores the index of your local machine's files on Google's servers. It only does so if you opt-in to this feature.

    On a side note, I would like to offer #11... the most misunderstood Google Myth, in my opinion.

    "Google Censored in China"

    FALSE. Google did not change in China and, instead, created a secondary site, is self-censored (by removing search results that Google's servers have determined lead to websites which are already blocked by China's firewall.) This alternative site,, is provided to users in China who don't want to deal with the constant headaches of site outages and following links that are blocked by China's firewall. The original non-censored website is still available to the people of China who may wish to see non-censored results, though they will still run into problems caused by China's firewall.

  11. >
    > "Google Censored in China"
    > FALSE. Google did not change in China and,
    > instead, created a secondary site, [...]
    > The original non-censored website is still
    > available to the people of China who may wish to see
    > non-censored results, though they will still run into
    > problems caused by China's firewall.

    This does not change anything, as users from China have to use a proxy/anonymizer, to access (well, as it seems), so even if, in China, was censored, they would still be able to connect to the non-censored version, by accessing it through a proxy/anonymizer.

    If you want to create a better world, start by doing things right.

    Google censoring results, "to improve access to knowledge, in China", is the same as the USA attacking Irak, "for democracy", or some countries developing and keeping nuclear weapons, "to deter attacks and maintain peace".

    Plain and simple.

  12. Sir Kirby said...
    "Google is Evil.

    Any corporation that gets that big is necessarily evil."

    This is an extremely sophmoric and uninformed statement. If you want to suppose about a subject then you need to quailify your argument.

    You could say "Google is evil because...(your statement here) or you could say "Any corporation that gets that big is necessarily evil and here's why followed but bullets listing your reasons.

    Making absolute statments without backing them up is just silly.

    Just a head's up for you

  13. >
    > This is an extremely sophmoric and uninformed statement.

    So true.

    In fact, all corporations, are necessarily evil.

    The very concept of groups, is completely superficial, and purely subjective. In all cases, strictly uncertain, just as everything else.

    The concept of groups, is the root of all discriminations, and of all classifications.

    It is most of jealousy, popularity, manipulation, passivity, exclusion, heteronomia, fixisms, elitisms, specialities.

    As a consequence, it is the foundation of all dictatorships.

    By definition.

    Groups are evil, and we do not need them.

    What we need, is more people thinking by themselves, and thinking right, that is, reasonably.

    Of course, you can interact all you want, with others, but you should better forget about the concept of groups. It's useless and dangerous.

  14. >Groups are evil, and we do not need them.

    The United Nations is a group, therefore the U.N. is evil.

    The Red Cross is a group, therefore the Red Cross is evil.

    The ACLU is a group, therefore the ACLU is evil.

    You and your friend are a group, therefore you and your friend are evil.


  15. >
    > The United Nations is a group, therefore the U.N. is evil.

    Of course it is. UN is here so people think things are getting better, and they can leave their responsability, to such organizations.

    And check out for examples of common problems. UN is no better. It is even worse, considering what it should be.

    UN is not needed, in a better, peaceful world.

    > The Red Cross is a group, therefore the Red Cross is evil.

    Red Cross and most similar "humanitarian" organizations mostly do temporary and limited damage relief. When there is some thought (and money) put into longer term reconstruction, it has seldom anything to do with greater independance of these people (though there sure are good exceptions).

    Red Cross is not needed, in a better, peaceful world. For natural problems, people would be far more free to go and help with damage relief and reconstruction (of course, in a better world, there would be far less problems, if any, having to do with huge and weak constructions, and with money).

    > The ACLU is a group, therefore the ACLU is evil.

    It's the same. These groups are here because there are problems, which shouldn't be.

    They create a climate of stability, in a situation which should be most temporary. They do limited and temporary relief, when the highest priority should be to really build a better world.

    They waste so much energy, trying to solve local problems, that they do not have much time left for what really matters most, that is quickly solving the global problem (and considering the amount of energy wasted, notably on duplicate efforts -just like open source, search engines, etc., by the way-, it shouldn't be that hard to achieve something like this).

    It might seem cold (if not more), to the people, in the field, who save people daily, from all kinds of problems (which actions I do respect very much), but you have to think about this: is this better to save people for eternity, or to concentrate on quickly creating a better world, where everyone will be ok?

    In fact, most problems are due to the passivity and slowness, on the question of doing something better.

    No, their actions are not "a start". The start would be to concentrate fully on what we need, and what we want, for a better world, with everyone. Then, simply apply, as much as possible, within the current system (depending on the number of participants). The rest will follow logically.

    What we need most, is a serious and well-thought framework. A really simple, reasoned and reasonable framework.

    Everything else is a waste of time, and only pertains to the continuation of the current situation. At most, we see small good evolutions, but the bad evolutions are far more numerous, and the balance is that the global situation is worsening everyday.

    > You and your friend are a group, therefore
    > you and your friend are evil.

    We are no group, we are individuals, and each and everyone of us think and act for themselves, in a reasoned and reasonable way (well, me and my imaginary friends, at least -in the context of today society, thinking is not incompatible with taking the time to have "real" friends, but it doesn't seem to help either (though I'm currently creating my own website, and I hope to be able to meet more people with similar, or compatible interests -at least these people who browse the Internet, or know people who do)).

    You don't have to care too much about details and precision. What is important, is that groups lead to too many, and too great problems. We should just forget about it.

  16. I dont think that google is evil..

  17. Well there are Millions of Myths about Google and probably will grow into trillions as Google will grow.

    But post like this give some temp releif.

  18. Google is a special company. Other companies have a hard time reaching Google.
    When a company tried to reach Google in regards to a technology patent they claimed
    Google should pay for in regards to a product, they did not receive any answers.
    IMB, Microsoft and many large companies paid for the patent of a technology
    this company owned. Google refused to cooperate or respond. Finally one day
    they got hold of Google, and Google told them like a Mafia: "Fuck off.".
    The company said Google is the world's most arrogant company.

    When visiting the Google compound, one finds silence. A place with as many
    as 20000 employees, but empty streets. One might think it is a weekend.
    Unlike other companies, Google has no business visitors, they are
    self-sufficient, closed down like a government (actually as a mob).

    Google archives usenet, a global public discussion place, one that has
    no owners. A lot of people are concerned about Google's unique privacy

    Usenet Groups are public and global. As with telephone companies, the
    rule is you should not infringe on the content of chat (unless provided
    on the company's space), be it of general interest, professional or
    little interest chat, commercial archiving of chat taken from a global
    public discussion space violates human rights. Google offers limited
    privacy, sets a business contract on people, takes people's private
    materials without written consent, and violate human rights. I
    don't care what a company does if it violates human rights.

    They established themselves as pirate and mob, Google pirated
    millions of copyrighted books from libraries for their profit.
    As mob they are untouchable.

  19. #3: "...may remain in our offline backup systems."
    You are able to read, aren't you?

  20. I think that's a standard disclaimer when you perform backups. They DO delete your data from the multiple backups, but some parts may not be deleted (or not in the 90 days timframe).

    Here's Yahoo policy regarding the same issue:
    "Please note that any information that we have copied may remain in back-up storage for some period of time after your deletion request. This may be the case even though no information about your account remains in our active user databases. "

  21. New myth:
    Google respects its users and their web browser choice
    - Google really only cares about Mozilla and IE, being the later due to market share. Safari and Opera are simply ignored, and many google services are not made available in these modern, standard compliant web browsers.

  22. "Google will take over the world."

    That's funny...

  23. great post! enjoyed reading it. keep it up.

  24. Just one little side note in the google china discussion... (Although I'm not defending China's censorship...)
    Actually about 10 000 results about the US government that are censored in the US version show up in the chinese version...

  25. No matter what the facts are! But Google is one of the best search engine across the world.

  26. mors said...

    New myth:
    Google respects its users and their web browser choice
    - Google really only cares about Mozilla and IE, being the later due to market share.
    Yes, and so does every other technology company out there. Google like any other company is a business that must make a profit. Mozilla and IE are the most prevalent and therefore Google and other technology companies design their products for them. The situation is the same with OS; most make their software for Windows only, some for Mac as well, but rarely ever for Linux. This has nothing to do with what the company cares about, but everything to do with what the majority of their market is using.

  27. "Google will take over the world." - Well I am not sure if this one is true or not but they certainly won't do a worse job of running it then the various governmnets of the world are doing now.

  28. "Google will take over the world." - Well I am not sure if this one is true or not but they certainly won't do a worse job of running it then the various governmnets of the world are doing now.

  29. GOD Damn GOOGLE. May this bloody company perish!!!! Long Live Microsoft, Long Live Bill Gates!!!

  30. these things if true are good to hear but about the spyware part google should not be collecting personal info at all this a breach of personal privacy must not be allowed in anycase

  31. Microsoft is worse than, and more arrogant than Google. Google uses open source software and it cares about open standards and the use of apps like Firefox. Google is a success story based largely off of their own work. Google doesn't buy companies at the rate that m$ does. With Google you at least have a prayer's chance in hell to get some privacy concerns answered. If you use tools like Tor and Privoxy you greatly reduce many of these privacy concerns.

    Microsoft is many times worse. May Gates rot in hell for many of the MAFIA rotten convicted felon PIRATE business practices, policies, hellaciously bad EULA agreements (read your xp one carefully), and threats and attempts to hijack various components of the computing landscape, intimidate business users of other people's software, reduce consumers' choices by forcing their browser on those who do not want it, and, like, use patents to enforce unfair advantages on the competition, at the expense of all future innovation from other startups. Microsoft's own startup period did not face such stringent restrictions; however in the name of the Almighty Dollar, greed has gone to their heads and they seem to have no problem imposing their oligopoly/corporate fascist ways upon the rest of the world.
    Bill Gates is not to be respected; he is to be loathed and despised by all of us who care about fair competition, security, privacy, consumer choice, and related topics. Google may not be perfect but my money and eye are with them. They are also one of the few companies with the guts, clout and will to stand up against the Evil Empire, whhich is also a great thing.

  32. Hi,

    I am a webmaster and working foe a client. Initially my website having 70 incoming links but now a days it reduces and becomes 20 links. Will you help me? I just wanted to the reason.