Is Google’s Ajax Search Evil?

Google has quietly changed the search functionality in the United States in such a way that it’s breaking firefox extensions, and other website analytics tools. According to The Next Web this is what is happening: 

When you search in Google normally you’ll notice the URL’s after you search look something like this:

http://www.google.com/search?q=test – when you search for “test”

well, in Google US, which for most people, has the ajax feature enabled …the URL turns into this:

http://www.google.com/#q=test – with a “#”

According to Zee web browsers don’t see anything after the ‘#’ and this is what is causing all the fuss. If browsers don’t see anything past the ‘#’ that means analytics programs won’t see anything either (Does Google Analytics fall under this?) and therefore they won’t register what search terms were used to find your site.

Let me explain, under the current methodology, if I click your link on google after doing a search for pink jackrabbits your analytics software will be able to get that information. However, if google implements this change across the board, then this will all stop. You’ll still know I came from google. But, you won’t know what search terms I used to find you.

If all this is true, then this will be a fundamental change that will affect all website and content developers. 

It should be noted, that at the time of this writing searches from the google toolbar (including the latest beta), the firefox start page and from the firefox search box did not utilise the new method.

Do you think this is an example of Google being “evil”? Can google change something fundamental about their site functionality without consulting the rest of the Internet? Do they need to be concerned with how changes they make to their site affect other companies? Should they be stopped from making changes to their site that could negatively affect other companies even those that compete with functionality they provide (Google Analytics)?

In my opinion, as a believer in Free Markets, they shouldn’t be forced to do anything. It is their service and they should be able to do what they want. We are free to use Google, or Yahoo, or even MSN. Granted, the vast majority of the Internet population does use Google. Yes, they should consider what the changes they implement will do to other services that depend on them. But, I don’t believe they have to. That’s a key difference. Should they? Yes. Must they? No.

Share your thoughts in the comments!

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  1. I didn't accuse them of being evil. I just asked a question. I believe in the free market system. It's their website, they can do what they want.Some are calling this action evil. I'm just trying to dialog and get people's opinion.

  2. What exactly is the point of doing something like this beyond deviating from web standards? I know nothing of AJAX that would require such a change. In fact, the only reason I can surmise would be reason to do this would be to hide the query on purpose. If that is the case, then I would have to rub my chin with a quizzical look on my face and for the first time ponder if indeed google is acting in an evil fashion.I'd also now want to test that HTTP_REFERER actually drops all parts of the query string after the pound sign, otherwise it's still parseable even if it would cause existing analytical software to choke.

  3. I didn't accuse them of being evil. I just asked a question. I believe in the free market system. It's their website, they can do what they want.Some are calling this action evil. I'm just trying to dialog and get people's opinion.

  4. What exactly is the point of doing something like this beyond deviating from web standards? I know nothing of AJAX that would require such a change. In fact, the only reason I can surmise would be reason to do this would be to hide the query on purpose. If that is the case, then I would have to rub my chin with a quizzical look on my face and for the first time ponder if indeed google is acting in an evil fashion.I'd also now want to test that HTTP_REFERER actually drops all parts of the query string after the pound sign, otherwise it's still parseable even if it would cause existing analytical software to choke.

  5. […] Is Google’s Ajax Search Evil? Posted on Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009 in Business – Comments: (5) Google has quietly changed the search functionality in the United States in such a way that it’s breaking firefox extensions, and other website analytics tools. According to The Next Web this is what is happening: When you search in Google normally you’ll notice the URL’s after you search look something like this:http://www.google.com/search?q=test – when you search for “test”well, in Google US, which for most people, has the ajax feature enabled …the URL turns into this:http://www.google.com/#q=test – with a “#”According to Zee web browsers don’t see anything after the ‘#’ and this is what is causing all the fuss. […]

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