Google’s parrot Polly wants a bigger cracker

I read this article entitled “Is Google going to hijack your content?” on the HuoMah blog; the contraversial topic being Google’s experimentation with longer snippet text.

First, the anatomy of Google search result:


On top there’s the clickable site link in blue whch lists the title of the page being hyperlinked to. Beneath the link is the “snippet” of text in black which is one or more excerpts from the content of the linked page ,with words from the user’s search query highlighted in bold. Below the snippet is the URL in green which indicates the source of this content, followed by a pair of light blue links with some advanced features.

As a rule, web content owners love the blue site link and the green site URL, but have mixed feelings about the black snippet. This is because the former elements are useful to bring search users directly to the content (where revenue-producing ads may be shown), whereas the snippet runs the risk of providing the answer to the search user’s presumed question without leaving Google at all.

The article I read this morning describes tests by Google on the effects of lengthening this snippet. This change would benefit end users by potentially answering their question in as few clicks as possible. It would also benefit Google because each user’s eyeballs will remain planted on Google’s SERPs (search engine results pages), and thus their ads, for a little bit longer. The only potential losers here would be the content owners who spent money and time to create this content.

This all culminates into the basic principles of the WWW, with potentially serious ramifications. For instance, the web is a series of open standards like HTML which provide the full source of every published page to every visitor. This means this material can be cut, pasted, copied, republished, and printed with or without the permission of the content author. This permission is implicit with the act of publishing content to the web – If you put your content on a web page you are effectively letting go of it.

I can’t duplicate these long snippet tests so I’ll be a good web neighbour by directing my readers to the screenshot on the source article. Compare it versus my screenshot above, showing the traditional 155 character snippet.

A quick interjection – Google doesn’t keep this motive secret by any means. According to Google’s corporate page:

Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.

Snippets aren’t the only means at Google’s disposal to fulfill this mission statement. They’ve recently added functionality allowing users to ask questions with common factual answers, and the answer is displayed in line with the organic SERPs (meaning the results linking to pages with the queried keywords – natural search behaviour). Even though it takes time and effort to compose web pages with these facts, it’s debatable whether Google publishing common knowledge could be considered stealing revenue from websites with the same data.


Personally, I’m ambivilent on the topic. I tend to gravitate toward whatever solution will most benefit the end-users, plus I expect a longer snippet might further entice those users to visit the source material. I do empathize with web content publishers, though, since they must opt out of Google (perhaps at their peril, traffic-wise) to suppress this “scraping” of their content.

In Google’s favour, they are quite generous in their own conformity with open standards. They permit the parsing and republishing of their search results (which can potentially strip out their valuable ads), and freely allow hooks into their other services (like Gmail) which allows you to enjoy their content without relying on their chosen form of delivery.

For content owners feeling at odds with the prospect of extended snippets, Google provides its usual choices: take it or leave it. Webmasters may opt out of Google search listings at any time; most do not.


1UP, 40 down

My wordless summary:


That’s right. 1UP has gone down the tubes. The top story on tells of its recent buyout by self-proclaimed “gamer lifestyle portal” UGO.

1UP has been in a desperate state for a little while now, mostly following parent company Ziff Davis filing for bankruptcy last year. It’s obvious that UGO picked up this hot property due to its street cred alone, oblivious to the fact that it’s 1UP’s reputable and highly intelligent staff that earned it this credibility. It’s obvious because UGO laid off 40 promenant staff, including some veteran editors whom I respected very much. A peek at UGO’s senior staff doesn’t instill much faith that they even know what “gamer lifestyle” is.

A full list of 1UP’s canned staff can be found in this Joystiq report.

I doubt these layoffs came as a surprise to any 1UP staff, though the immediacy probably blindsided most. It wasn’t long ago that Ziff Davis shut down Games for Windows Magazine (nee Computer Gaming World) with Editor In Chief Jeff Green jumping ship shortly thereafter, followed a week later by the intellectual and crass Shawn Elliottt, both of whom now work as game designers at major development houses. These two talented fellows are luckier than the others because they are now comfortably employed.

I’m pretty furious at UGO, whoever they are. They’ve spelled the end of my favourite TV show, the 1UP Show, and some of my favourite podcasts, not to mention the editorial articles that were heads and shoulders above pretty much every other gaming site. What made 1UP unique was the fact that they were journalists in the true sense of the word. Its editors were insightful and articulate and found a way to portray a fun editorial voice without dumbing down the verbiage or impact of the content. I don’t know where to get this experience now, but considering the numerous mentions of inane “Top” and “Best” lists on its front page I can guess it won’t be UGO.

As former senior editor Ryan Scott would say, “Damn.”

P.s., anyone know where I can get the full archives of the 1UP Show? I can only get the last 20 or so from Miro, but there’s been about 150 episodes. I contacted several people at 1UP over the years, begging them to let me pay for this free content so that I could own it on a disc, but no one ever replied.

P.p.s., here’s Jeff Green’s expanded reaction from his blog. This man worked for Computer Gaming World magazine for 17 years so I appreciate his omniscient more than any other on this matter. The other editors called him “Dad”.


Gaming the tubes

As a search engine enthusiast I love QuadsZilla’s SEO Black Hat blog. I sometimes don’t agree with his conclusions but I appreciate that knowing smirk implied in his prose. I think yesterday’s was his best yet, about gaming Google’s trial of a Digglike crowdsourcing feature. Cutting and concise.

Here’s his article on Google Hot or Not.

It totally reminded me of one of jPod’s Kam Fong‘s many underworld operations.