Duck! Google's Cutts Responds To Search Filter Bubbles

Jun 21, 2011 • 8:37 am | comments (8) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine

Google Search Filter Bubble - Duck Duck GoA month or so ago, we reported on a presentation given by Eli Pariser on "filter bubbles." We asked is personalization a form of censorship and almost 75% of you said yes it is.

I wasn't so sure, I voted no.

Now, DuckDuckGo, a cool new up and coming search engine, is piggy backing off that presentation saying they offer no personalization, thus no filters and you get the raw internet when searching DuckDuckGo. Go scan to see their point.

Matt Cutts of Google finally responded to all of this via a HackerNews thread saying:

  • If someone prefers to search Google without personalization, add "&pws=0" (the "pws" stands for "personalized web search") to the end of the Google search url to turn it off, or use the incognito version of Chrome. Personalization tends to be a nice relevance improvement overall, but it doesn't trigger that much--when it launched, the impact was on the order of one search result above the fold for one in five search results.
  • Personalization has much less impact than localization, which takes things like your IP address into account when determining the best search results. You can change localization by going to country-specific versions of Google (e.g. search for [bank] on vs., or on you can click "change location" on the left sidebar to enter a different city or zip code in the U.S.
  • We do have algorithms in place designed specifically to promote variety in the results page. For example, you can imagine limiting the number of results returned from one single site to allow other results to show up instead. That helps with the diversity of the search results. When trying to find the best search results, we look at relevance, diversity, personalization, localization, as well as serendipity and try to find the best balance we can.
  • I saw Eli Pariser's talk at TED and was skeptical, although I did enjoy his example of Facebook starting to return only his liberal friends because he only ever clicked on the links his liberal friends shared. I had a number of concerns browsing through Pariser's book, but I would encourage anyone interested in these issues to pick up a copy; it's a thoughtful read.

Matt then answers a bunch more questions in the HackerNews thread. It is good to get a response to this from a Googler, especially Matt.

Forum discussion at HackerNews.

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Serperb Cheshire

06/21/2011 04:32 pm

URL parameters is not a very user friendly way of switching off personalised search. I believe it should be off by default.

Joe Youngblood

06/21/2011 10:37 pm

i started using duck duck go today, setting it as default at work. i guess i'm just tired of Google's PR spin and vindictiveness., although i might think about buying a self driving car....


06/21/2011 10:52 pm

It's quite funny how he doesn't see localization as part of the filter bubble when it is. It's funny when he recommends &PWS=0 when Google has introduced numerous features that ignore that flag. I like Matt I really do, but it's like that nervous laugh quip of Marissa Mayer when she says "I just don't see us that way" ... 


06/21/2011 11:52 pm

 Matt is just a Google corporate poodle now. The old Matt is gone. So I have to waste 30 seconds to scroll on my url window just not to be censored? You can also disable instant search, after 30 seconds of work and you need to do for every single session..

Haseeb Najam

06/22/2011 04:13 am

Strangely, infact unfortunately, Matt never answered anything straight and to the point. If asked about something, he will tell you all sort of things in reply but the actual thing. I guess he had a very good training of PR :)


08/11/2011 07:26 pm

the only true way is to delete cookie, which is too brute force and the only viable alternative is keep one anon-browser on the side just for google ;)


01/16/2012 09:50 pm

An update to this article would be nice including Google's new Google Plus integration into search results. Even more censoring and self-promotion going on.


01/26/2012 12:15 am

This article has new relevance in light of Google's privacy policy changes.

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