Google auto-complete

As I write this, thousands or millions of people around the world are using Google auto-complete to remind them how to spell things as they type in searches.  What people may not have noticed is how biased this is towards people who grew up using paper dictionaries.  As a random example, I was searching ‘Holofernes*’ today, not remembering the spelling, I started typing.  It was lucky that I remembered that the word started with ‘holof-‘.

My question is how much will the different auto-complete style of ‘awesome bars’ change things, because people can start typing at the start of any word in the phrase…Perhaps not so much, because English is not yet truly phonetic…What kind of change would you see if auto-complete went phonetic?

*It was for a ‘Hollow Furnace’ pun.

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2 Responses to “Google auto-complete”

  1. Nox Says:

    This may have more to do with the quantity of content on the Internet than with dictionary-like spelling requirements; Holofernes would not come up on autocomplete when you type ‘holo’ because there are too many more popular keywords that correspond to those letters. ‘Holophernes’ is parsed to ‘Holofernes,’ though, as is ‘Halofernes.’ ‘Hollofernes’ works, but ‘Hollowfernes’ does not. It would seem that Google is using some sort of soundex check, along with more general compensation for common spelling errors. That doesn’t seem to correspond to the old dictionary problem; it is a new problem, of remembering how your query should sound and then hoping that more popular queries don’t sound similar…

  2. senatorcranky Says:

    My understanding is that Google does/did a simple “when people search for A, what do they actually mean?”, by some method probably like ‘what do they actually click on?’

    Which probably totally obviates all of my arguments…I would be most interested to see how common it is to not find what one is looking for because of bad spelling in the early parts of a word.

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