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Microsoft bias in MSN search results, surprise

I was looking to see what search sites might have a particular bug that I (ahem) came across and was trying the search for the number 0 in various places. There is a pretty good Wikipedia page about zero. Zero has a rich and interesting history and there are many other potentially reasonable results.

But I was surprised to see MSN search had demoted their good results below some crappy ones from MSDN:

Lame! Falling into an inferior lex position and a lower overall relevance page to boost their own network results...give em credit for being old school. :)

...

I found my bug on Yahoo Search. I had tried a lot of smaller engines first because I didn't think a major would have this bug. You can't search for 0 on Yahoo. You can search for all the other numbers, but not 0 ...

Why?.. Because 0 is false. It suggests Yahoo is using a scripting language to front their search form, and a programmer did something like if ( $query ) rather than if ( $query ne '' ).

Comments (17)

The searching for zero thing on Yahoo is an interesting find.

Andrew:

Try searching for 0 on AltaVista. It searches for 'restrict' instead.

Al:

I'm sure plenty of folk will have fun trying to rip your product a new one when its out Rich, best hold the criticism until you can fend off the angry farmers with pitch forks.

;p

They'll do that anyway, Al. :)

The searching for 0 thing is a minor bug, easily fixed and is more amusing than anything.

The MSN search results issue is not a technology criticism. It's lame because their algorithm would have worked great by itself. But they clobbered it with a blatant editorial choice to override the algorithm with self-promotion.

Editorial choices in google are more subtle and harder to spot. It's rare to see such an obvious editorial bias these days. That's why it's interesting... especially coming from a company trying to gain more credibility in search.

Tom Chizek:

On the other hand Google does not even get the Wikipedia entry on the first page. There are just too many products/services that use "0" in their name to have that be a reasonable search case - try "0 (number)" and all of them prioritize the reasonable pages to the top.

Yes Microsoft prioritized their content to the top but they also hit a reasonable choice in the top three which was better than most of the search providers I checked (after reading this entry ). The only major that was smack on that I found was AOL search (!?! - not a search engine that I normally try!)

I get the wikipedia page for 0 in pos 1 on Google. The rest of kindof not-so-good. MSN has the "0/1 knapsack problem" page which is a nice answer, but the rest are so-so as well.

Danny DiPaolo:

Re: The searching for "0" on Yahoo! thing. If you use their Web Search API you get the expected results.

Yeah you can quote "0" too and avoid the bug.

Arin:

Google used to choke when you searched for random html entities. they used to just have a blank page come up... no message saying "zero results"... nothing.

looks like they fixed it since i wrote about it. the bugs i found are here if you wanna check em out

Yahoo has other issues when you search for stuff like •

Chris N.:

If you search for 00 on Yahoo you get results. Shouldn't that be the same value?

This is PHP bug #46, out of about 45,000

http://bugs.php.net/bug.php?id=46

Shows you how old the version of php that yahoo is using....


Gabriel Womacks:

Search for 0 in msn search for me doesn't bring up anything Microsoft related.
Are you sure it might not just be taking into account something you've searched previously? I know Google does that for me sometimes - ranking things that I've searched for previously higher, even when they're not related to what I'm searching for now.

They've fixed it.. no more MSDN promotion in 0's results..

google primes its own search with its own brands and offerings... online video used to bring up google video as #1 search result, not youtube which was 1million times larger. ditto for 'blog' search which brings up google's blogger and not the larger wordpress, typepad and others that dwarf blogger.

google manipulates its search index to promote its own offerings.

funny that the media hasn't taken google to task on this 'artificial' search result

I just searched for 0 on Yahoo.com and it worked. Wikipedia came up first.

As a young, talented (and handsome) programmer working on my own search engine, I've found that all of the big three push their own content to the top.

Try searching for "email" (without quotes) on google. Is Gmail really ahead of Hotmail, Yahoo mail and AOL mail?

My search engine is running off Yahoo BOSS and it passed the 0 test. Funny, I've actually seen the number 0 searched for in the logs before!

I agree it's pretty lame to push your own content to the top if you are a real search engine. However, displaying your content over to the side or something should be OK. As long as the user gets un-biased search results.

(click my name to visit my new search engine...relaunch coming soon)

anonymous:

I am sorry to tell you that in ruby, any value other than nil and false behaves like true, even 0.

Rich, it seems as if all big search guys are correcting the bugs based upon your pointing to them..... huh? Yahoo and MSN shows Wikipedia for "0" now . god enf .
Also Google wanted to keep their track record so they started showing Youtube videos after they bought it.... still you have a reason to say that they are not showing Yahoo/MSN or AOL videos hehe... But ultimately question for you?
Do you want them to correct their problems or you want say that you will not have such double standards with your search engine "Blekko" . I am eager to see that soon.
Good Luck !

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