If You Do A Search Almost No One Does, Google Might Point You To Unauthorized Version Of House Of Cards

from the reporting? dept

We've noted in the past that various copyright maximalists who are hellbent on blaming Google for their own failures to adapt and innovate, like to point to various searches on Google that point to what are likely to be unauthorized sources. They'll use examples like adding "download" or "free" to a search and then point out that the link appears to go to an unauthorized source. But that's silly, because (1) the people doing such searches probably aren't going to pay for the authorized version anyway and (2) very few people do those searches.

Chris Crum over at WebProNews has a story that's been getting some attention claiming that Google points to an unauthorized site ahead of Netflix if you do a search for "watch house of cards" on Google. Here's the screenshot he's showing:
While that may sound damning, it only matters if people are actually doing that search. But they're not. Most people are just searching for plain old "house of cards" as you can see by looking at the Google Trends searches on both terms:
The red line is people searching for "house of cards." The blue line that is basically across the bottom is "watch house of cards." In other words, this search that Crum and others are making out to be some evidence of Google "favoring" unauthorized sites over the official Netflix channel is a search that almost no one uses. The one that everyone does use -- "house of cards" -- doesn't appear to show any links to unauthorized sites.

You could argue that perhaps Netflix should do a bit more optimizing on searches for shows with "watch" before them, but given the fact that it appears almost no one does that search, why should they bother?


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    Ninja (profile), Feb 21st, 2014 @ 9:22am

    but given the fact that it appears almost no one does that search, why should they bother?

    Because reasons. PIRACY. And terrorism. Also, the children (is it suitable for children?).

     

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  2.  
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    Ninja (profile), Feb 21st, 2014 @ 9:30am

    Re:

    Oh and also, thanks for providing the proper terms to search for free, infringing streams.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
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    blaktron (profile), Feb 21st, 2014 @ 9:57am

    Re: Re:

    Someone streaming house of cards from anywhere other than Netflix either has a VERY specific reason for doing so, or is an idiot. Neither situation is going to be resolved by Google changing their algorithms.

     

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  4.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Feb 21st, 2014 @ 10:01am

    What Google should do...

    ...is hide the spoilers in the search results!

     

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  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 21st, 2014 @ 10:08am

    Re: Re:

    That was my thought. They seem hell bent on making it easier for people not skilled in piracy to become pirates. It reminds me of what I said back during the big public Napster case that was all over the news. You know what kids that didn't know about Napster thought when the saw all of the news coverage about that trial? "Oh so if I go download and install this software, I can use it to download music for free. That's awesome!" Dumbasses never learn.

     

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  6.  
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    Skeptical Cynic (profile), Feb 21st, 2014 @ 10:20am

    Why?

    WTF? Why should Google care. Their job is to provide search results. If someone searches for something they should provide under their methods what they think is the best result. Legal or otherwise. They are NOT, NOT the arbiter of what is or is not legal. And if they are for some reason required to care then those laws need to be changed.

     

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  7.  
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    PaulT, Feb 21st, 2014 @ 10:24am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Reason 1: Netflix still have to abide by regional restrictions for their service and many countries aren't able to access it some trickery. As ever, none of these reports ever look at whether the legal option is available in places where laws are circumvented

    Reason 2: some people just won't pay no matter what. While sad, those people don't represent lost revenue

    Reason 3: people are pirating to watch in a situation where they cannot stream, so are supplementing for a service not legally available for them through netflix - who they might already be paying either way

     

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  8.  
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    Designerfx (profile), Feb 21st, 2014 @ 10:30am

    Re: Re:

    Indeed, one could surmise that the author of the article is perhaps leaning people *towards* infringing streams, or inciting copyright infringement perhaps?

    /riaa logic

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 21st, 2014 @ 10:36am

    Re: Why?

    Because Google is the internet and is therefore responsible for inappropriate pictures, attempts to sell illegal stuff, piracy, etc.
    At least according to the RIAA, MPAA, SIAA (stupid idiot association of America), and everyone else who doesn't understand the internet or that algorithms are not out to get you.

     

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  10.  
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    ComputerAddict (profile), Feb 21st, 2014 @ 10:37am

    Anyone else notice that the stream-TV link description?

    ' "House of Cards" explorers the ruthless underside of british politics '.

    That is the BBC 1990 TV series.. not the Netflix one...

     

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  11.  
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    Vidiot (profile), Feb 21st, 2014 @ 10:42am

    Re:

    Wow... great catch. Renders all else moot. Including a Mr. Chris Crum at WebProNews; no actual research was necessary to debunk that, Chris... just careful reading!

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 21st, 2014 @ 10:45am

    or maybe Netflix should change the title of their page to "Watch House of Cards"

     

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  13.  
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    kenichi tanaka (profile), Feb 21st, 2014 @ 10:46am

    I have to admit that I do those type of searches. But only because those kind of sites are very prevalent on the web. Doing a search for 'watch free ' are so common that it's hard not to find them.

    The problem is that you need to be very specific in what you're searching for. While I don't feel this is Google's fault, nor that they could be held liable, why isn't the entertainment industry doing THEIR job and contacting the host providers of these websites or if the host provider info is hidden, sue those services that hide that info.

    I think if the entertainment industry actually did its job instead of demanding that search engines remove links (what does that except create more instances where even more links pop up), it just creates a situation where websites simply change their domain name.

    Kick Ass Torrents, Pirate Bay, Demonoid and many others have changed their domain name suffix so many timis that it would literally make your head dizzy.

     

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  14.  
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    DannyB (profile), Feb 21st, 2014 @ 10:48am

    Re: Why?

    If Google provides search results to unauthorized content, then the owners of that content should treat it as a gift. Look, Google just made it easy for you to locate that unauthorized content that you want to get shut down.

    Getting the search results off Google won't make the unauthorized content go away, nor will it make it much harder to find.

    Talking about Google is counterproductive. Go after the source of the unauthorized content. Leave everyone else alone.

    Oh, and while you're dealing with that unauthorized content, please be careful about innocent bystanders who might happen to be on the same server, or the same ISP, or same country, or same planet. Please don't nuke an entire server, ISP, country or planet because one user has unauthorized content located on that planet.

     

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  15.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Feb 21st, 2014 @ 11:02am

    Re:

    "I have to admit that I do those type of searches. But only because those kind of sites are very prevalent on the web."

    Huh? I'm not following the logic there...

     

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  16. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 21st, 2014 @ 11:13am

    LOL

    Google shill Mike Masnick still thinks people aren't fully aware that Google can change their search function to produce whatever result they wish.

     

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  17.  
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    Chris Crum (profile), Feb 21st, 2014 @ 11:23am

    I wrote it

    Mike,

    Glad you pointed this out. I should have checked the trends for frequency of search, and included it to begin with. I've updated the article to note the lack of search volume.

    Since I wasn't really going for quite the damning piece that everyone has made it out to be, it really didn't occur to me at the time to even look at search volume. That is to say I wasn't trying to suggest that this is how the majority of people search for these shows. The post was about an observation, and nothing more. I wasn't seeking out the story to begin with. I just happened upon the HoC search, found it odd, and decided to see what happened with similar queries for other Netflix shows, and it became what it became.

    Contrary to what people are saying, I wasn't going for "misleading". Again, just observation ("Hey, that's odd that Google is showing these sites ahead of Netflix for this."). This isn't any kind of crusade on my part. I just think it makes sense to point people to the source of the content as a search engine. THE search engine as far as most of the world is concerned.

    I came at this from a background of covering Google and its search results in general (which I've done for years). I often write about erroneous information Google shows in the Knowledge Graph, for example. This was an extension of this type of coverage more than anything, not to suggest Google is out to give people pirated material over the source on purpose or for the majority of searches.

    You make a good point about Netflix doing some more optimization on their part.

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 21st, 2014 @ 11:24am

    Re:

    Dumbass, the search algorithm is dynamic and always changing the orders based on how many people do the search and what they click on afterwards. Google likely didn't alter a thing. More likely is that people did the search and clicked on the later result pushing it higher in the rankings or Netflix altered the content of their page which changed it's SEO ranking and it appeared higher once it got re-indexed.

     

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  19.  
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    Zos (profile), Feb 21st, 2014 @ 11:25am

    i've occasionally been down to using both those search terms, for something old or hard to find. (an epub copy of slaughterhouse 5 i just dug up for a friend today for example, no seeds anywhere).

    they'll usually get you there, though you'll need to disinfect afterwards, because the other 90% of the hits are of course cyberaids

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 21st, 2014 @ 11:26am

    Re:

    Can Google change it's search results to produce the result of you shutting your face? They do run some ads, but that' s it. Mike is not shilling for Google or any company. If you want to replace OOTB, get a screen name so we know who to hate.

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 21st, 2014 @ 11:28am

    Re: I wrote it

    Did you notice the comment from another person earlier about how the Stream-TV link isn't even the same content though?

     

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  22.  
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    Chris Brand, Feb 21st, 2014 @ 11:29am

    Re: Why?

    Actually, the interesting question is which of those links the people who do that search actually click on. If it's the first (unauthorised) one, then Google's doing a great job of pointing people to what they're looking for. If it's the second (Netflix), then Google has every incentive to swap the two around.

    Of course this is *always* true for *every* search, regardless of terms. Either the top link is the the one most people doing the search are looking for, in which case there's nothing to fix. Or it's not, in which case Google *already* has every incentive to fix it.

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 21st, 2014 @ 11:30am

    Re: Re:

    "Can Google change it's search results to produce the result of you shutting your face?"

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u5HOt0ZOcYk

     

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  24.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 21st, 2014 @ 11:38am

    Re:

    Why should they?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
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    Chris Crum (profile), Feb 21st, 2014 @ 11:50am

    Re: Re: I wrote it

    I didn't check to see if they were the actual show. The point was more about Google giving bad results than House of Cards being pirated, but that's certainly worth noting.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 21st, 2014 @ 11:53am

    Re: Re:

    Someone already pointed this out to him?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    identicon
    Clueless, Feb 21st, 2014 @ 11:53am

    New contributor?

    Who is this Mike Masnick fellow? I'm unfamiliar with his work.

    Sorry for being a petulant douche. I just miss my daily Masnick fix. Did I overlook an announcement surrounding a staffing change? Searching did not reveal any useful info. I've even contemplated the horror of establishing a Twitter account to keep up with Mike.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
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    DannyB (profile), Feb 21st, 2014 @ 11:55am

    Re:

    The whole point is that Google should not be influencing search results.

     

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  29.  
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    Chris Crum (profile), Feb 21st, 2014 @ 12:12pm

    Re:

    Actually, the whole thing says: "“House of Cards” explores the ruthless underside of British politics at the end of the Thatcher era. Reset against the backdrop of modern-day U.S. electoral politics, this new one-hour drama follows Kevin Spacey as an ambitious politician with his eye on the top job."

    It also has a picture of Netflix's Kevin Spacey version.

    http://stream-tv.me/watch-house-of-cards-online/

     

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  30.  
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    Chris Crum (profile), Feb 21st, 2014 @ 12:15pm

    Re: Re:

    See my other reply where I point out the rest of that text, which involves Kevin Spacey, and the picture which shows Netflix's version. Still, the point was about Google's poor results more than piracy.

     

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  31.  
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    Chris Crum (profile), Feb 21st, 2014 @ 12:17pm

    Re: Re: Re: I wrote it

    Now that I do check, the description is for Netflix's version regardless of what this other person in the comments said (see my replies above).

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
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    Gwiz (profile), Feb 21st, 2014 @ 12:21pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Still, the point was about Google's poor results more than piracy.

    Just curious here - if the Stream-TV link is the one that gets the most clicks (I have no idea if it is or not) when doing this search, then why would it be considered a "poor result"? Isn't that what Google is supposed to do?

     

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  33.  
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    Chris Crum (profile), Feb 21st, 2014 @ 1:42pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    In my mind, the most relevant result for a Netflix show is Netflix. Otherwise, it's basically like favoring a scraper site over the original content being scraped.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 21st, 2014 @ 1:50pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    But Google doesn't really micro-manage that really except for devaluing pages that are obvious attempts to game the system. The algorithm handles it and is based on click-throughs for search terms along with user browser history as well as the content on the indexed page, the page url, and cross-links from other sites. So it's not surprising to see anomalies sometimes or changing ranks for subsequent searches.

     

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  35.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 21st, 2014 @ 1:51pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: I wrote it

    I saw that. I didn't follow to look into it thoroughly either.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
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    Gwiz (profile), Feb 21st, 2014 @ 2:15pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    In my mind, the most relevant result for a Netflix show is Netflix.


    Ok, fair enough. But what about the in real world? Take Techdirt as an example, there are plenty of times where Techdirt does commentary on an article and it gets pushed up higher on Google than the original article because that is where people are clicking.

    What about an article from Podunk News that gets picked up by AP and published by a major news outlet? The major outlet will get a higher ranking because that is where people are clicking.

    How is this different and why would it be Google's responsibility, if that is where people are clicking?

     

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  37.  
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    Jay (profile), Feb 21st, 2014 @ 2:18pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "Reason 2: some people just won't pay no matter what. While sad, those people don't represent lost revenue"

    Let's hold on in regards to the "won't" here.

    Remember, Netflix, as you've stated, has to abide by restrictions in availability against what customers may want.

    Consider the fact that they compete with areas which have less income to spend on a monthly fee for "all you can eat" streams.

    So people "can't" pay for the stream at all times, hence other places become popular.

    This doesn't contradict your other reasons and R3 actually picks up on this. Still, in R2, there could be a fact that the pirates tend to spread the news on a show for other people which makes up for their lack of payment through free advertising.

     

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  38. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 21st, 2014 @ 2:21pm

    Re: Re:

    "the search algorithm is dynamic and always changing the orders based on how many people do the search"

    Oh really? Go tell that to Rap Genius. Dumbass indeed...

     

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  39.  
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    Gwiz (profile), Feb 21st, 2014 @ 2:21pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    But what about the in real world?

    Whoa. Dyslexic sentence alert!

    That's supposed to be:
    But what about in the real world?

     

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  40. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 21st, 2014 @ 2:30pm

    Re: Re:

    "Mike is not shilling for Google"

    hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

    http://thetrichordist.com/2012/10/30/techdirt-is-a-never- ending-dumb-off/

     

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  41.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 21st, 2014 @ 2:35pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    As I explained in my other comment, the only time they do anything like that is when someone is obviously trying to unfairly game the system poisoning it so that it doesn't return the most relevant results.

     

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  42.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 21st, 2014 @ 2:42pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Really? Try harder.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  43.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 21st, 2014 @ 2:49pm

    Am I the only one....

    ... who thinks that if Google stopped listing infringing sites the majority of the IP holders/watchdogs wouldn't know where to go to find "infringes"?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  44.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 21st, 2014 @ 3:04pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    *Links to RIAA shill Lowery*
    MY SIDES!!!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  45.  
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    Gwiz (profile), Feb 21st, 2014 @ 3:16pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    In my mind, the most relevant result for a Netflix show is Netflix. Otherwise, it's basically like favoring a scraper site over the original content being scraped.


    On my ride home from work I had an epiphany and figured out why this whole article is bugging me. It comes down to basic logic and reasoning. There's actually a really good reason why searches for a Netflix show would put Netflix itself at a lower rank.

    Most people with Netflix account would not go to Google at all, they would find it the same way they find any Netflix show - through the Netflix interface.

    People without a Netflix account who want to watch it legally most likely do a simple search for "Netflix" because the first thing anyone is going to do is get an account, then they would probably use the Netflix interface to find the show.

    That leaves those who either want to watch it illegally or those who are blocked because of regional restrictions. So it makes complete sense that the people who actually do searches that were described in the article click on the illegal choices, doesn't it?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  46.  
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    Gwiz (profile), Feb 21st, 2014 @ 3:45pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    thetrichordist.com/2012/10/30/techdirt-is-a-never-ending-dumb-off/


    Hummph. Read that article the other day when I was in a mood to wade into the stupid. (just like I sometimes get a hankering to wade into the crazy on those conspiracy theory sites.)

    That article is nothing but ad homs and run-of-the-mill schoolyard bullying. Come back when you can link to something with a real argument, please.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  47.  
    identicon
    Just Sayin', Feb 21st, 2014 @ 4:10pm

    Trying too hard

    I know you want to slam rights holders at every turn, but "watch name of program" isn't a dead search term, it's not much different in a sense than "download name of program" or name of program torrent". It all depends how people approach things.

    Since both of those searches I mentioned also turn up significant pirated results, well...

    If you are going to rant (while on vacation, or is it that new owner Karl is letting you still post), at least try to hit a valid target.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  48.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 21st, 2014 @ 5:29pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I sort of had the same problem, but for a different reason. That line seems to imply that any search that contains "house of cards" should list Netflix first, just because. If I search for "house of cards cast" however, Netflix isn't anywhere on the first page. IMDB tops the list, followed by wikipedia, then a couple other media sites. News sites round out the top 10. And yet, it's hard to call that wrong; does it really make sense to send someone to Netflix just because some portion of the search had something to do with their show?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  49.  
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    Jeffrey Nonken (profile), Feb 21st, 2014 @ 6:25pm

    So I recently found a reference that got me interested in a particular film, and noted that when I searched Google for it that film, I got a number of DMCA notices in place of download links.

    Using my mouse (and my astonishing Internet P0w0rz) I selected the next search engine in the browser-provided pull-down list and clicked Search. In three mouse clicks and as many seconds I had more download links than I could possibly use.

    Forcing Google to filter search results is SO effective because, you know, Google Is The Internet.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  50.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 21st, 2014 @ 7:49pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    average_joe just hates it when due process is enforced.

    Sorry, mate, but hurricane head currently holds the role of Lowery's shoelicker and cocksucker.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  51.  
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    Sheogorath (profile), Feb 22nd, 2014 @ 7:21am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    techdirt.com/2012/10/30/thetrichordist-is-a-never-ending-dumb-off/
    FTFY, Gwiz. BTW, gotta love the user name. Funny.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  52.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 22nd, 2014 @ 7:52pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Really? That's the source you chose? Embarrassing.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  53.  
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    Slicerwizard, Feb 23rd, 2014 @ 10:58am

    Frankly, I think you're being intellectually dishonest

    In my mind, the most relevant result for a Netflix show is Netflix.

    If more Google users click on the non-Netflix site, then it is the most relevant result. Stop being so dense.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  54.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 26th, 2014 @ 8:09am

    Re: Trying too hard

    It's not a dead search term because idiots like you are inflating the numbers, getting people to try it out.

    horse with no name just hates it when due process is enforced. DMCAed, Prenda fanboy!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  55.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 5th, 2014 @ 3:49pm

    Great observational writing, Chris Crum. Here's an idea for your next article: I just wanted to watch The Square, and Google tried to sell me a square watch. Ishn't dat VEEERD?!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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