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PC World

Search engines gang up on Microsoft

November 15, 1999
Web posted at: 9:28 a.m. EST (1428 GMT)

by Tom Spring

(IDG) -- Could Microsoft be "more evil than Satan himself"? Even Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson would not make that ruling. But the jury may still be out at popular search engines.

Try running the query "more evil than Satan himself" at the Google search site. According to the folks at Google, the URL for damnation is

Sound odd? It gets weirder.

Google insists it has got it right. "No one spammed us or spoofed us," says Cindy McCaffrey, a spokesperson for Google. She says the query results are legitimate and maintains the listing is simply an "anomaly caused by quantum fluctuations in Web space." Huh?

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Is AOL in on It?

At America Online, keying in "more evil than Satan himself" delivered Microsoft's home page as the top choice among AOL recommended sites.

"That should not be there and we will take it down immediately," says John Ayers, vice president, and Navigational Services. Shortly after being alerted to the function, AOL representatives confirmed the listing as an AOL "prank" and removed it.

Recommended sites are handpicked by AOL editors, the company says, and are meant to "help you quickly find official sites."

The AOL-managed Netscape search engine also delivers Microsoft as its top pick for the home page for the Prince of Darkness. However, Google powers Netscape's search engine when a match isn't found within Netscape's own index of Web sites.

Spam Fodder

The ridiculous search result is quickly becoming the latest Internet legend. McCaffrey says search queries for the phrase "more evil than Satan himself" are more popular than they are for "sex." She says three weeks ago Google started getting e-mail from users alerting them to the listing.

Identical queries at Infoseek, Yahoo, and DirectHit yielded no mention of Microsoft in search results. A search with Lycos drums up Web sites that mention Joseph Stalin, Adolph Hitler, and Pol Pot, but no Microsoft.

Google Says: No Goof

Google says its heavy reliance on link popularity may have caused Microsoft's home page to filter to the top of the results. It suggests zealous Microsoft critics with a penchant for posting their opinions about Microsoft on the Web could be inadvertently tainting Google search results against Microsoft.

Microsoft declined comment. Perhaps it has more pressing things to worry about.

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