Wired Article: How Google’s Algorithm Rules the Web

Wired is one of two magazines I subscribe to, and at something like $8.00 for a year’s subscription, probably one of the best values I can think of. The March 2010 issue is of particular interest to me for its article on Google’s algorithm. Thankfully, Wired is about as open-source as they come, so you can read the full article yourself here. But before this becomes any more of a love-fest/free advertisement, I should probably move on.

The article contains no groundbreaking revelations about the constitution of Google’s ultra-secret algorithm (darn!) but it does give the reader a new appreciation for just what an incredible achievement the algorithm represents. As the writer illustrates, type “mike siwek laywer mi” into any other search engine, and you will receive random or nonsensical results. But type it into Google, and the algorithm instantaneously parses out the terms to understand that “Mike Siwek” is a person’s name, “lawyer” is his profession, and “MI” represents the state of Michigan. And voila! You receive the listing for Michigan attorney Mike Siwek.* In short, Google is paramount because it understands the meaning of your search. And so far, it’s the only search engine that does.

Of course, if this sort of thing interests you at all, you would be better served to read the full article than my impressions of it. My only disappointment with the article (besides it not revealing the algorithm’s darkest secrets) is that it touches briefly on the growing debate about whether Google’s dominance is anti-competitive, but fails to explore the topic fully. Perhaps in a future article, Wired? I’ll look for it in the same issue as the Great Algorithm Reveal.

*Fascinatingly, a Google search for “mike siwek lawyer mi” DID produce the attorney’s business listing…right up until Wired published this article. Since that time, the Wired article itself (as well as numerous pages referencing the article) have overtaken Mike Siwek’s listing in the search results! This is not a surprising consequence, given the PageRank and popularity of the Wired website as compared to Siwek’s own page…but I bet it’s one that Wired did not anticipate when it published the article. Nothing like a little irony for a Monday afternoon!

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