Posts Tagged ‘search engine’

There are the questions you ask friends, family and close confidants. And then there are the questions you ask the Internet. Search engines have long provided clues to the topics people look up. But now sites like Google and Bing are showing the precise questions that are most frequently asked, giving everyone a chance to peer virtually over one another’s shoulders at private curiosities. And they are revealing interesting patterns. Frequently asked questions include: When will the world end? Is Neil Armstrong Muslim? Was George Washington gay? The questions come from a feature that Google calls “autocomplete” and Microsoft calls “autosuggest.” These anticipate what you are likely to ask based on questions that other people have asked. Simply type a question starting with a word like “is” or “was,” and search engines will start filling in the rest. People who study online behavior also say the autocomplete feature reveals broader patterns, including indications that the questions people ask of search engines often veer into the sensitive and politically incorrect. “Your search engine is your best friend, and you talk to it about everything, even things you might not talk about to your real best friends,” said Danny Sullivan, editor in chief of Search Engine Land, a Web site that covers the search industry. “It’s a way that search engines reflect society.”

In Search Engine Results, a Peek at What We Wonder – NYTimes.com