What Made Google Drop ‘O’ From Its Logo! [Answer]

Form last few days a post by Brian Brown on SEOMoz about Dropping ‘O’ from Google logo on search result page is creating buzz. After investigating entire issue in detail, here I am posting my reasoning.

First and most important, if you have missed it, appending &num=100&start=990 to any search URL forces Google to drop second ‘o’ from logo they display on search result page.

To make difference clear, I am posting original and modified query around with relevant portion of Google search result pages…

Original Query: http://www.google.com/search?q=Rahul

Rahul - Google Search-1.jpg

Modified Query: http://www.google.com/search?q=Rahul&num=100&start=990
rahul - Modified Google Search .jpg

As you have might have noticed there is no yellow colored ‘o’ in modified search result page.

You can also obtain same modified search result page from appending &start=991 to original query. In fact any number equal to or greater than 991 after ‘start’ will force yellow ‘o’ to be dropped. Try This.

Lets move to reason part now…

Google is fooling us… ;-)

If you have noticed, on modified query page, just below search box Google says, Sorry, Google does not serve more than 1000 results for any query.

First conclusion – Google is fooling us by saying it has few million results for popular search term like paris hilton. In fact they never had more than 1000 results for any search term! May be they had it in past, but today, even for sex, they says sorry… like above.

Mysterious yellow ‘o’…

On Google search result pages, Google logo we see is made of separate images. Yellow and red ‘o’ are rendered from different images. If there is only one search result page (check this), the Google logo at bottom of search result pages highlighted in below screenshots never shows up. For each extra search result page (upto 10, on each side), a yelllow ‘o’ image is inserted which link to relevant search result pages.

Check following logo captured from this query page…

rahul - Google Search yello _o_ .jpg

or check this

_rahul bansal_ blogger pune - Google Search.jpg

As you can see number of yellow ‘o’ changes for different query.

Conclusion – How many number of yellow ‘o’ will show up depends on number of search result pages. For ‘no result’ and ‘only one result page’ conditions, no Google logo showed at all.

Connecting the ‘o’s…

Its apparent that Google handled two exception conditions but forget to add a condition like, ‘if user request results beyond first 1000, do not show logo’ at all.

Google is smart enough to prevent user going to error page from navigation links. Check this query. This is last one, so do not loose your patience! ;-)

Google Search Mystery.jpg

The above one shows results #981-992, just before hitting limit of 1000. Above one does not have next link!

Google in fact, partially anticipated query modification via URL change and put error message “Sorry…” on search result pages beyond 1000. They just forgot to remove bottom logo generation logic from such pages.

As logo logic is there without any linkable result page, Google logo renders without any yellow ‘o’. NO result page means NO yellow ‘o’… !

Red ‘o’ in logo always stand for current page and is not hyperlinked. But depending on search query upto 9 yellow ‘o’ inserted.

In the end…

Revelation – You come to know how Google fooled us by showing some pseudo-count of millions of search results for popular queries. :D

Apart form this, there is nothing else except fun! If you think you owe me something for the revelation (or fun), you can instantly clear your debts by donating some bucks for my baby Orkutfeed! :P

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  • aryan

    First of all u cannot say that google is fooling us since it itself is displaying that it serves only 1000 query results(as in the error message “Sorry, Google does not serve more than 1000 results for any query”).
    Secondly ur argument “…Google fooled us by showing some pseudo-count of millions of search results..” is totally baseless. How can u prove that? It may also be possible that google actually found the million results matching the query but displaying (or serving) only 1000 most relevant or popular ones at the time query being searched.
    The only thing which is correct in ur post is that Google just forgot to remove bottom logo generation logic in one of the exception conditions…thats it!

    • http://www.devilsworkshop.org Rahul Bansal

      @Aryan
      First thing, I wrote this in sarcastic sense! Can’t you see this ;-) and this :P …? :D

      Anyway if you like to read serious explanation, I can give that too with this simple example.
      Say a person “claims” that he is a millionaire. When asked to “prove” his “claim”, he shows only $1000 and say “Sorry…” like Google. Now in real world, the person will be valued at just $1000!
      You can not force one to believe. The best way is to always “prove” whatever you “claim”. :-)

  • aryan

    Lets say a query generates 12 million results.Google does have some limitations and it cannot display such a large quantity of result pages so the company may have a policy to display 1000 query results at a time.

    If a person claims that he is a millionaire and if the whole world regard that person then u cannot complain “…no he is not showing me his millions or billions in cash…therefore he’s not!!”
    I think u got my point ;) :D.

    If u still have some doubt mail some official frm google and ask him to prove their ‘claim of being a millionaire’ ;).They will surely give u a proof :).

  • http://satanic-bible-for-lyf.blogspot.com mankie

    sharp eyes dude ;)

  • http://prakharagrawal.wordpress.com/ Prakhar Agrawal

    good work ..

    i would like to make a small correction though ..

    ” In fact any number equal to or greater than 991 after ‘start’ will force yellow ‘o’ to be dropped. ”

    Actually, any number greater than 900 will force the ‘O’ to be dropped and display the error page. e.g. Take 901. Now when you make this query, you ask google to show the 100 results starting from the 901-th result. That crosses the limit of 1000. Hence the error.

    • http://www.devilsworkshop.org Rahul Bansal

      @Prakhar
      By using any number equal to or greater than 991 after ‘start’, you no need to force Google to display 100 results. To force 100 results, we have to modify another parameter. But with start >= 991 you can get it done with only one parameter. :-)

  • http://prakharagrawal.wordpress.com/ Prakhar Agrawal

    Also, Mr Aryan .. you seem to be a devotee of Google. Use this simple logic. Say for example, when you search “School” on Google, suppose they have these “so-called” millions of results, but according to you they find only the first 1000 relevant .. and show only till 1000 results ..
    Now, if this factor was based on relevancy, it would have been a variable number, not a constant like 1000. That means, when you search “Air” .. or anything else.. there may be 1200 relevant results .. but Google shows only 1000. Now thats where the point lies. When you can’t show beyond 1000 results, why do you boast of having a billion results, no matter you actually have them or not?

  • http://prakharagrawal.wordpress.com/ Prakhar Agrawal

    @Rahul

    I got it. 991 and more is valid, when u append .. “&start=991″ .. but, in my case, i appended .. “&num=100&start=901″ .. just like Brian did in the original post.

    Hence the difference in numbers.

    • http://www.devilsworkshop.org Rahul Bansal

      @Prakhar
      Both way you can cross 1000. With start=991 + default 10 it becomes 1001. Same is the case with num=100 + start=901.
      So either way is right! :-)

  • http://www.devilsworkshop.org Rahul Bansal

    @Aryan
    Sorry for late reply as I missed your last comment.

    Now its cool that you trust people without proof. But sorry to say I am too practical to do that. :D

    And check Prakhar Agarwal’s comment above. He answered it better than me. ;-)

    And why don’t you start an email thread with Google and copy it to me. As you love Google they are more likely to respond to you. :P

  • http://www.whoisabhi.com Abhishek

    that’s terrifying !!
    then why does google shows 12000000 a long number of searches found.

  • http://www.devilsworkshop.org Rahul Bansal

    @Abhishek – Well I am really feeling that they made search algorithm to work with very small set of result from Day 1. This may be secret of speed and as people don’t care about beyond first few results, it worked very well for them.

  • aryan

    The reason why not serving more than 1000 first result is obvious, Google is basically saying this: “if you can’t find it in this first 1000 result, very likely that we have misunderstood your query and the next one million queries would also be irrelevant, please reword your queries and don’t waste your time browsing through all these queries.”

    Unless you’re very bad at making words for queries, you should have found your results in the first 10-20 results as their sorting engine is extremely advanced.Most people don’t even go past the first page of search results, so displaying the top 1000 results should more than sufficient. You’ll also notice that the quality of search results decreases considerably after the first 40-50 results. To find other good results, use a more specific query.

    And not only that, there are security concerns too. The only people who would normally browse through the first 1000 queries is likely data miners trying to search through all data about a particular something that isn’t always good. By limiting search result, they’re preventing them from getting too much information.

    And on the backend, by limiting to 1000 results, they save their processing power a lot while serving (nearly) everyone well enough.

    And if u argue adamantly that :
    “There is no point saying I found a million pages, while you let me see only 1000. It’s cheating.
    Instead why not say, ‘Boss, here are the [1000] results for your query ?”
    Then FYI that number is only an estimation and that estimation could be very valuable because it gives information about the popularity of a subject: for example, there are 213,000 results for [Microsoft Popfly] and 725,000 results for [Yahoo Pipes], so more people are interested in Yahoo’s application.Those of us who actually understand how to use a search engine can use this to tune our searches.

    There is no possible reason to want to see more than 1000 entries, unless you’re data miner or have some form of OCD.

    • http://www.devilsworkshop.org Rahul Bansal

      @aryan
      Well I agree that 1000 limits is good and valid.
      My point is “lack of transparency”…

      When you search “music” Google shows… “Results 1 – 10 of about 2,790,000,000 for Music”
      They should better show something like… ” Results 1 – 10 of about 1000 Available and 2,790,000,000 Estimated (?) for Music”

      Also the question mark after Estimated word should point to a help-info page where they can put details like you made available in your comment. ;-)

  • aryan

    Well if u don’t understand that “about 2,790,000,000″ itself says that its just an estimation then dont worry….some person frm Google must read ur blog and he will definitely take up ur ingenious idea of putting something like…” Results 1 – 10 of about 1000 Available and 2,790,000,000 Estimated (?) for Music” ;)

    and they will surely point the (?) to this post’s comments page ;)

    • http://www.devilsworkshop.org Rahul Bansal

      @aryan
      Ya they better follow this ingenious suggestion as not everyone in this world is extra smart like u :P

  • kumar

    @Rahul
    You are absolutely correct. I guess this is absolute fooling which we would never expect from a leading search engine. Great observation dude….
    @aryan
    It’s not a matter of result, it’s a matter of trust. why do you use google, b’coz you trust that google serves your needs better. But in this case it has been fooling us and no point in arguing about it, rather to accept the fact.

  • http://www.devilsworkshop.org Rahul Bansal

    @kumar
    Thanks man for elaborating my point. :-)

  • Ano

    Google only gives you less than 0.0001% of the search results for queries on the biggest and most interesting search terms, like searching on “Google” itself. This promotes google-think where everyone sees the same small subset of information on a subject and they won’t let anyone validate their page count either, which is handy for them when comparisons are made.
    Yes, those with hours on their hands can try to tweak search queries with obscure words to try to peek into the “tail” of the results but where is the service in that?

    The 1000 result limitation is a great way for Google to manage its image, terrible way to service its self-stated mission “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”, unless they think letting people access less than 0.0001% of the pages on a subject is a pass mark for accessibility!

    Google is now an advertising engine and this 1000 result limitation just helps limit results to the select few that are likely to more positive about their subjects and more pleasing to Google’s advertisers. Google have since added behavioural targetting to their ads where your search history helps their advertisers target your wallet.

    The world will be better when Google stops pretending, admits to being the worlds biggest marketer and lets some other company or collective give the public what they most wanted in the first place – a good search tool that simply works for them, not against them.