Google can’t count! Here’s proof.

google, technology

That ?ber-smart search engine that whips through a bazillion pages faster than a speeding bullet… surely it can do something as simple as count, right?

Yes and no. While Google could undoubtedly out-count the best of ’em, it chooses not to in order to speed up its searches. That’s the word from a senior Googler to whom I posed this puzzle.

In short, Google was telling me it found [x] hits for the quoted string “Adam Lasnik”… and a number significantly smaller than [x] for the shorter string “Adam” — an unintuitive and clearly wrong calculation.

I actually stumped several Googlers, who kindly ushered me up the chain to a Senior Googler. Even he wasn’t certain what was going on, so he promised to get back with me… and he did.

The situation was caused by “an anomaly in our results estimation process that should go away in future releases.” And indeed, as you can see now from comparing the search results, either the problem has been solved or that Googler slyly did a bandaid fix on my name :D.

* * *

But Google’s aversion to counting is still evidenced in other areas.

Check out these screenshots from a Google Desktop search on my machine for the (literal) string “sample.”



“In this case, the number of results displayed is only an estimate” admitted one of the Desktop Googlers. Indeed ;-). But wouldn’t it make more sense for Google to say “>100, >1000, >10,000” etc.?

When you get right down to it, Google’s like those overarchieving kids who are capable of doing all the mundane tasks of life we’re all expected to tackle… but prefer not to. They have better things to do. So they lie to those in charge and say, “Uh, yeah, sure… I counted 837” when, in fact, they just looked at the student council ballots and made a smart guess based on the thickness of the stack and the average dimensions of the balloting paper.

Come to think of it, it’s probably those very kids who are running around creating kickass-albeit-counting-challenged things at the Googleplex, eh?

4 comments… add one
  • Anonymous Jun 3, 2005

    I was thinking that maybe Google is using the same engine for their general ledger and doesn’t really know that i is losing money!

  • Adam Jaonis Apr 2, 2007

    Nobody said Google was perfect. They will have anomalies from time to time. Give them credit for admitting their mistake. I am sure they appreciate you catching that.

  • John Mar 4, 2008

    Google day by day makes it self a perfect search engine,
    When you are visiting from Japan, Google will automatically find the same, you need not mention it as California.

  • SEO Florida Aug 7, 2008

    Google is now not just a Search Engine, It has covered and made their business successful in many internet and online industry.

What do you think?