A New Sport for Searchers: Google Whacking

And now for something completely different: 'Googlewhacking' is a new competitive sport that tests both your searching skills and your mastery of language -- and it's catching on like wildfire!

Google's index of web pages is generally regarded as the largest of all the major search engines. This means that for most searches, it's not uncommon for Google to report millions or even tens of millions of pages containing your search terms.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, however, there are combinations of keywords that return only one single result on Google. Web entrepreneur, online commentator and gadfly Gary Stock is obsessed with finding these combinations. So much so that he's created a game, complete with rules, that he calls "Googlewhacking."

In essence, Googlewhacking is simple. Simply try to find those elusive combinations of search terms that are so rare they return a single result on Google. According to Stock, "The sweetest words ever returned are 'Results 1 - 1 of 1.'

For example:

"microsoft crenelation"
"orchestrator bamboozling"
"metronome dewpoint"
"plectrum irradiation"

Stock lays out the rules for keeping score: One point for a pure googlewhack, meaning a single result for your query; one point if you learn something; and a bonus point if you "laugh even more" at the results. The irony of Googlewhacking, however, is that success actually breeds failure, so to speak, for when you find a whack and report it online, that page will soon be crawled by Google and the Googlewhack will lose its uniqueness.

Stock also suggests that Googlewhacking can be used for faux research projects, answering such previously unanswerable metaphysical questions as:

What did the Sumerians see in those pictographs?
cuneiform meatspace

What's the only way to defeat both Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan at once?
octopi jujitsu

What does Linus Torvalds consider his greatest achievement?
eponymic linux

Stock says that his higest hope is to call up Google's "Zeitgeist" page and see the following:

Top 5 Gaining Queries
Week Ending Jan. 28, 2002

1. parsnips
2. carburetor
3. trombones
4. schadenfreude
5. yams

"When 'asparagus' replaces 'britney' in the top ten (truly 'The Battle of The Spears') my work will be done," he says.

Say this for Stock's new sport: it's one of the wackiest ideas to capture the imagination of Google users in a long time.

Googlewhacking: Concept and Basic Rules

Google Zeitgeist

Googlewhacking: Advanced Scoring for True Maniacs

Search Headlines

NOTE: Article links often change. In case of a bad link, use the publication's search facility, which most have, and search for the headline.

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About the author

Chris Sherman is a frequent contributor to several information industry journals. He's written several books, including The McGraw-Hill CD ROM Handbook and The Invisible Web: Uncovering Information Sources Search Engines Can't See, co-authored with Gary Price. Chris has written about search and search engines since 1994, when he developed online searching tutorials for several clients. From 1998 to 2001, he was About.com's Web Search Guide.