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live.com – Useless Search

I’ve just started getting a lot of traffic referred by live.com. It seems that my post Porn for Children [1] is the second link returned from a live.com search for “porn” and my post Porn vs Rape [2] is the third link. These results occur in two of the three settings for “safe search” (the most safe one doesn’t return any matches for a query about “porn”). A query for “porn” and “research” (which would reasonably be expected to match a blog post concerning scientific research made my page the 8th listing (behind http://www.news.com.au/404, http://www.news.com.au/couriermail/404, and http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/404). It seems strange that a query which should match my page gives it a lower ranking than three 404 error pages while a query which shouldn’t match my page (no-one who searches for “porn” on it’s own wants to read about scientific research) gives it a high ranking.

One very interesting thing about the live.com search is that it doesn’t filter out some of the least effective ways of gaming search engines. For example the URL http://gra.sdsu.edu/research.php has a huge number of links to porn pages and pages that apparently sell illegal pharmecuticals) that are not visible (view page source to see them). The links that I tested were all broken so it seems that the other sites (including http://www.hcs.harvard.edu/~hraaa, http://base.rutgers.edu/pgforms, http://www.wccs.edu/employees, http://base.rutgers.edu/mirna, http://www.calstatela.edu/faculty/jperezc/students/oalamra, and http://institute.beacon.edu/), were cleaned up long ago. There is probably some money to be made in running a service that downloads all content from a web site and/or has a firewall device that sniffs all content that is sent out and makes sure that it seems to be what is intended (about half the URLs in question appear to relate to content that is illegal under US law).

As an aside, I did a few other live.com searches for various sites and the word “porn” and found one Australian university running a forum with somewhat broken HTTP authentication that has some interesting posts about porn etc. I’m not going to provide a link because the content didn’t appear to violate Australian law and you expect some off-topic content on a forum.

But to be fair, live.com have significantly improved their service since last time I tested it [3]. Now a search for “bonnie” or “bonnie++” will give me the top two spots which is far better than the previous situation. Although I have to admit that the Google result of not giving me a high ranking for “bonnie” is probably better.

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