Going for the win-lose is a bad sign for Google

Valleywag just wrote about something that’s been bothering me for a few weeks now.


Google has stopped linking directly to sites in their main search results and is instead passing each url through a really long, gnarly redirect. This is something Yahoo! has been doing for a long time and it’s pretty lame. You can’t cut and paste links out of the search results any more, and it takes longer to get where you want to go because you have to go through a middleman. It’s a subtle thing, but it’s really annoying. I’ve always believed that the lack of such redirects was a big reason why Google always maintained a lead over Yahoo! in the search wars.

What’s the point of these redirects? They’re there so that Google/Yahoo can accurately track clicks on their search results pages. I previously assumed that Google, because they weren’t beholden to archaic link tracking methodologies like Yahoo!, was using javascript click handlers and ajax to do the tracking behind the scenes. I guess I overestimated them.

This is a bad, bad sign for Google. It means they are, perhaps for the first time, willing to sacrifice the quality of the user experience in order to feed more data to the reports read by upper management. Google wins here (short term), but the user loses. It’s very un-dude.

A change like this could only be made to their #1 money-maker if their fantastic culture and spirit is eroding and giving way to typical big company BS. It means that some VP managed to put his short term goals ahead of the company’s long term success. Perhaps they’ve let too many Paul Buchheit’s get away and hired ladder climbers in their place.

If I owned any Google stock, I’d sell it soon (although, to be fair, I’ve said that a few times before and I’ve been wrong every time).

2 Responses to “Going for the win-lose is a bad sign for Google”

  1. Eran Sandler Says:

    As far as I know it only happens when you are logged in (due to Gmail or any other Google app).

    If you’ll log out and perform the search you’ll see that it will have the garbled URL.

    I think there are two reasons why they did it:
    1) When you are logged in they have their personalization engine on, so it needs to know which link you clicked.

    2) They didn’t do it using JavaScript or another technique, probably to circumvent JavaScript problems on devices that don’t support it or on browser that it can be turned off.

    There are still various techniques in monitoring that without the redirect link that I think they are using to some extent when you are not logged in.

  2. Adam Jacob Muller Says:

    It depends on the browser you use. With safari for example I get regular URLs. With camino, I get redirect URLs. I am assuming therefor that it has something to do with some limitation or issue with the browser not working 100%.