I can’t remember the last time I used Google to find a piece of factual information and ended up with a completely wrong result.
The rare exception recently was a search I did for:
“I promise you I will” lyrics
I was trying to find the name of the artist whose song repeats that phrase over and over. Here’s what Google found:
Top result: Depeche mode
8 of the top 10 results: Depeche mode
13 of the top 20 results: Depeche mode
The real answer?
A one-hit wonder band called When in Rome. The poor guys had their one hit and pretty much everyone seems to think that it’s actually a Depeche Mode song.
This illustrates one potentially interesting weakness with web search. If a majority of people, including reputable ones, believe something to be true and keep adding links to things they believe are true, that’s what Google is going to put up at the top. I found some threads on last.fm where many people were adamantly insisting the song was Depeche Mode.
Only 3 of the top 20 results point to When in Rome. I was only able to completely confirm the truth by previewing the song on iTunes and it was clearly the song I was looking for.
It’s interesting to think about how this might have come about.
Perhaps one person put up incorrect information and others mooched off it. Then, others came along and found those sites and trusted them when they shouldn’t have. Eventually, it snowballed and now it’s extremely difficult to get the correct search result for this query and very difficult to correct unless enough people care enough about it to put in the effort.