Google search leads to Gates of 'hell'

Could Bill Gates really be the devil?

Some competitors may have thought so for years, but now Google Inc. seems to thinks so too.

Currently, if you type "go to hell" into the Google search engine -- you have to use the quotation marks -- the No. 1 search result is Microsoft Corp.'s home page. (For what it's worth, AOL.com comes up as No. 3, and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill comes in at No. 6.) When asked about the devilish search result, Google spokesman Nate Tyler said it's an anomaly that Microsoft ranks ahead of even Hell.com, not to mention AOL and UNC.

"From time to time, our users inform us of circumstances where our search results are a poor match for a particular query," Tyler said. "This type of feedback is invaluable to helping improve the overall quality of the Google search engine. Our technology is very complex, and we're always making an effort to improve the effectiveness of our ranking algorithm."

However, Google seems to be the only search engine that equates Microsoft with hell. If you type in "go to hell" at Lycos, AltaVista and Ask Jeeves, which use different search algorithms to yield results, you're served up sites that all include that phrase.

A Microsoft spokesman declined to comment on the results of the Google search; AOL did not return several telephone calls seeking comment.

Others, though, are talking about the anomaly online.

The webmaster at The Official Microflaccid Web Page, said on his site that he created the page in early 2000 after searching on Google for "the Antichrist" and discovering that Microsoft ranked third in that search. (It no longer does.) Readers of FlashGuru's MX 101site, think they know why Microsoft ranks No. 1 in the "go to hell" search at Google. A reader on that site calling himself Atomgas said that it's not Google's fault, but rather the result of all the Web site authors who have a bone to pick with Microsoft.

"It's the they way Google works and what makes Google [the] best search engine ever," Atomgas said. "The difference between Google and other search engines is exactly this: Google makes the priority of the found results by the number and target of found links. If many people have links 'go to hell' pointing at Microsoft, Google will think that this is the best match to show to you, so the result[s] just show the mood of many Web site authors, not Google's opinion."

Tyler said that's true in part, but it's only one of the factors Google takes into consideration when performing a search.

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Linda Rosencrance

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