Microsoft Corp. is no longer considered to be hell, according to the Google search engine.
Last week, Computerworld reported that if someone typed the phrase "go to hell" (with quotes) into Google Inc.'s search engine, the No.1 ranked search result was Microsoft's home page (see story). AOL.com ranked a close third behind the site Hell.com, and the University of North Carolina (UNC)-Chapel Hill came in at No. 6.
Just two days later, however, Hell.com topped the list of search results for "go to hell," and Microsoft, AOL and UNC were nowhere to be found -- at least not in the top 30 diabolical search results.
So, what happened?
"Every 30 days Google switches over to a new index," said Nate Tyler, spokesman for the Mountain View, Calif.-based Web search company. "Every time we do a new crawl of the 2.4 billion Web pages, we come up with a new index."
Tyler said it was just a coincidence that the index was refreshed right after the Computerworld story appeared.
Even so, Danny Sullivan, editor of the Darien, Conn.-based newsletter "SearchEngineWatch," isn't so sure.
Sullivan acknowledged that Google is, indeed constantly doing updates and that on Thursday, the day after Computerworld's story appeared, the search engine company did make significant changes in how it looks at links across Web sites.
However, Sullivan said he wouldn't be surprised if humans went in to the search indexes to see what was producing Microsoft's No. 1 ranking in the "go to hell" search -- and to figure out a better way to rank sites. (Google's indexes are updated automatically.) "That would have been done separately from the [automated] changes that were made," he said.
Sullivan said that one of the reasons Microsoft initially topped the "go to hell" list of Web sites was probably because Google searches look at the number and target of people's "go to hell" links. If a lot of people had "go to hell" links pointing to Microsoft, then Google thought that was the best match for that search.
In fact, Sullivan said, searching for the phrase go to hell Microsoft (without quotes) served up 273,000 Web pages -- although he said a number of those pages have come up in the past two weeks. And a search on the phrase go to hell AOL (again without quotes) returned 412,000 Web pages, he said.
Those results indicate that a number of people apparently don't think highly of those two companies, Sullivan said.
By comparison, a search on the phrase go to hell Ghandi returned just 7,430 Web pages, he said.
"It seems a lot of people are telling those companies to go to hell," he said.