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Google Businesses The Almighty Buck The Internet

The 110 Million Dollar Button 191

Posted by Zonk
from the that's-a-big-twinkie dept.
Reservoir Hill writes "The 'I'm Feeling Lucky' button on Google's search page may cost the company up to $110 million in lost ad revenue every year according to a report on American Public Media's Marketplace. Tom Chavez says that since the company makes money selling ads on its search results page, the 1% of users who use the 'I'm Feeling Lucky' button never see Google's ads - the button automatically directs them to their first search result. So why does Google keep the button? Marisa Mayer, Google's vice president responsible for everything on the search page, says that 'it's possible just to become too dry, too corporate, too much about making money' and the 'I'm Feeling Lucky,' button reminds you that 'people here have personality.' Web usability expert Jacob Nielsen says the whimsy serves another business purpose: 'Oh we're just two kind of grad students hanging out and having a beer and having a grand old time,' not you know, 'We are 16,000 people working on undermining your privacy.'"
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The 110 Million Dollar Button

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  • Small change (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Finallyjoined!!! (1158431) on Friday November 23, 2007 @09:32AM (#21453237)
    Has anyone here ever used the "I'm feeling lucky" button. I think I did once in 1999. Usually it's the second or third result that's the most relevant.
    • Re:Small change (Score:5, Informative)

      by mastershake_phd (1050150) on Friday November 23, 2007 @09:36AM (#21453261) Homepage
      Has anyone here ever used the "I'm feeling lucky" button. I think I did once in 1999. Usually it's the second or third result that's the most relevant.
       
      Never have, but if you type a phrase into the address bar in Firefox it does the same thing.
    • Re:Small change (Score:5, Informative)

      by bahstid (927038) on Friday November 23, 2007 @09:52AM (#21453357)
      I think I use it almost all the time recently - in recent firefox versions I just type what I want in the address bar and it seems to get me where I want, or for more complex things I end up with a more usual search page. For example entering "slashdot wiki" in the address bar takes me to the wikipedia entry about slashdot [wikipedia.org] but "110 million slashdot" gives me a normal, as if using the search bar result with this discussion as top link. Best feature ever.
    • by Threni (635302)
      I never use it. Perhaps Google are counting on `I'm feeling lucky` taking you straight to a site which contains Google's ads, and that you spend more time looking at ads once you've got to a site than when you're actively looking for the site.
    • The best use for "I'm feeling lucky" is when you already know the first result will be the most accurate. For example, searching Wikipedia for a topic. Open google, type "wikipedia slashdot", press tab twice and hit enter and you are instantly at the correct page.
      • That's exactly how I use it. For example, I can type "mail", then click the "I'm Feeling Lucky" button, and immediately be taken to the Gmail login page.

        It can be a definite timesaver if one knows that the first search result is the desired one (or at least a result that is relevant to one's needs).
    • by abscissa (136568) on Friday November 23, 2007 @10:20AM (#21453547)
      I never got lucky by pushing a button. Unless "pushing a button" is used metaphorically to include phrases such as "I love you," "you are so beautiful," "just one more drink" etc.
    • by owlnation (858981)

      Has anyone here ever used the "I'm feeling lucky" button. I think I did once in 1999. Usually it's the second or third result that's the most relevant.

      And increasingly so... It's one of the significant issues with Google having so much dominance. From 1997 til 2001 or so the I'm Feeling Lucky button was a useful and fun tool. These days it pretty much fails more often that not in my experience. Since Google is the number one search engine and, as far as I can see, there's been little advance in search sin

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by wilx (1065624)
      I do. There are certain searches, like search for PuTTY, for which I know it definitely does find what I want.
    • by timeOday (582209)

      Has anyone here ever used the "I'm feeling lucky" button. I think I did once in 1999.
      That presumption is probably why the first two sentences of the summary quantify the impact of the button, both in dollars and percent of users. At least address the facts presented.
    • by Greyfox (87712)
      Not after feeling lucky with LaTeX (You quickly learn to add "document preparation system" to the THAT search. A quick eyeball-boiling later and I swore off the use of that button forever!
    • by drinkypoo (153816)
      Basically all it's useful for is when you know the terms which will result in a given page, like "putty ssh download". Then it functions something like a bookmark by keyword.
    • by Atario (673917)

      Has anyone here ever used the "I'm feeling lucky" button.
      Every single day. Several times.

      Works pretty well as a "get me to this page I was at the other day but can't remember the URL of, but can remember a few prominent words from" button.
  • Or.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by niceone (992278) * on Friday November 23, 2007 @09:33AM (#21453239) Journal
    They know that the first result is pretty unlikely to be what you want, so you'll have to come back and do a real search anyway...
    • 110 million seems like a huge exaggeration anyway. But the second they remove the button in the name of profits they'll lose just that many customers for being greedy. Restaurants pull this crap all the time. They'll have something I really like, deem it not profitable, I stop going. There's a local restaurant here called "Hurricane Wings". It used to be super badass with really good food. Then they went corporate. They raised prices, started charging per soda refill, starting charging for your first servin
    • They know that the first result is pretty unlikely to be what you want, so you'll have to come back and do a real search anyway...
      That's why I keep a rabbits foot wrapped in four leaf clovers next to the keyboard...
    • by sootman (158191)
      I'm the exact opposite--I never go to google.com anymore. My two main browsers--Safari and Firefox--both have search boxes built in and it's the front page of google that I never see.
  • That's silly. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by JackHoffman (1033824) on Friday November 23, 2007 @09:33AM (#21453243)
    Have they accounted for the image benefit of the "I'm feeling lucky" button? Would Google have as many users for normal searches if that button were not there? Accounting will make everything look bad if you tell them to.
    • RTFS (Score:3, Informative)

      by p3d0 (42270)
      This exact point was made in the story's summary:

      Marisa Mayer, Google's vice president responsible for everything on the search page, says that 'it's possible just to become too dry, too corporate, too much about making money' and the 'I'm Feeling Lucky,' button reminds you that 'people here have personality.' Web usability expert Jacob Nielsen says the whimsy serves another business purpose: 'Oh we're just two kind of grad students hanging out and having a beer and having a grand old time,' not you know, 'We are 16,000 people working on undermining your privacy.'"

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Frosty Piss (770223)
        On the other hand, 90% of the sites that came up in my test of "feeling lucky" had Google Ads anyway.
  • Lottery! (Score:1, Funny)

    by the_Twisted (838440)
    Google has a database of "I'm feeling lucky" users for special purposes.
  • by neoform (551705) <djneoform@gmail.com> on Friday November 23, 2007 @09:36AM (#21453253) Homepage
    I bet their logo is too rainbow colored too, must offend homophobes into using a more straight looking site like yahoo. I bet they're losing at least $40 million as a result.
  • by Thanshin (1188877) on Friday November 23, 2007 @09:36AM (#21453257)
    Every time you open the page Google tell you, you're feeling lucky.

    They'd add a button for "I'm feeling smart" or "I'm feeling sexy" if they found a way of justifying such a button's presence.
    • by Slashidiot (1179447) on Friday November 23, 2007 @09:53AM (#21453365) Journal
      Well, sometimes you just feel lucky. It's fine to have a button to share it with google. Everytime I feel lucky, I go to google and press the button, I'm not searching for anything, I'm just feeling lucky.

      Luckily, they don't have the "I'm feeling bored to death", otherwise i would spend too much time there.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by stivi (534158)
        Hey, actually not a bad idea. Imagine a button labeled "I am feeling bored" with a function like 'random page' on Wikipedia ... it will take you to a random page on the internet with not-so-high ranking. And for example, analyzing time you spend on that page before you return to Google to press that button again it can optimize the offer. I bet you can reach some interesting pages this way that you would not reach otherwise. There will be lots of rubbish of course, but you are bored anyway, so it should not
  • Reason? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SharpFang (651121) on Friday November 23, 2007 @09:38AM (#21453269) Homepage Journal
    Google easily found out that one hardly ever uses the button. They removed it. Then users began complaining, where did it go?
    Users don't use it, but they simply feel happier, more secure, having it around.

    Personally I'm missing the "I feel lucky" capability from Firefox search bar. Say, enter a text - a partial URL, a set of 100% sure keywords etc and press shift-enter, or shift-click the magnifying glass. Quite often I KNOW the result will be first, sometimes because I used this search before, sometimes because there's no way anything else could have beaten it. Sometimes I don't remember if the domain was com, org, us, de, net, eu, etc.
  • by WibbleOnMars (1129233) on Friday November 23, 2007 @09:42AM (#21453307)
    Nah, it doesn't cost them anything like that. That's probably what it would cost if every one of those "feeling lucky" people had instead clicked on an ad, but let's be honest here, that would never have happened.

    Those people who use it are
    (a) people who already know that the result they want is the first one and wouldn't click anything else anyway.
    (b) people doing silly google-hacks, like "miserable failure", or whatever.
    (c) people who will come back any use google's regular search anyway for more results once they've seen the "lucky" one.

    For all these people, using the "feeling lucky" button isn't stopping them clicking on any ads, because they wouldn't click them anyway. In fact, it is actually likely to be adding to their brand awareness of google, and thus making them more likely to come back to google for other searches where they might click on ads.

    So yes, it might lose them a *few* ad clicks on the *actual* search involved, but long term, those people will be back and will click on other ads. Google isn't losing anything from this.
    • Agreed. One also has to wonder, does Google get any "referrer" revenue from any sales generated by the "I'm Feeling Lucky" links. It wouldn't be completely unreasonable to think that if a user gets to a company's website via the "I'm Feeling Lucky" button that the company might pay Google a small fee/commission.
      • by Storlek (860226)
        That's ridiculous. I just tried an "I'm feeling lucky" search for "mikeiscool" and got to your site. Now go pay Google money.

        Your statement is equivalent to saying that site owners should pay Google a search tax when they find a site.
        • No, it's not. If I had reached an agreement with Google beforehand that I would pay them for referrals to my site THEN I would have to pay them. Similarly to the 'Links' page on my site where I refer people to various vendors (Amazon, etc) I get revenue if they buy when referred through my site. Pretty basic E-Commerce, actually. I'm saying it wouldn't be entirely out of the question if it is an option for companies to become the "I'm Feeling Lucky" result for a keyword(s).
          • actually. I'm saying it wouldn't be entirely out of the question if it is an option for companies to become the "I'm Feeling Lucky" result for a keyword(s).
            I somewhat doubt they would do that. IIRC google has always been very hot on maintaining the seperation between search results and advertising. If people found the i'm feeling lucky result was different from the top search result because google were being paid do so I think it would be pretty bad PR.
    • by PopeRatzo (965947) *
      Of course it doesn't cost them anything like that.

      Anyway, I'm not sure of the purpose for this press release anyway. Are we supposed to feel a twinge of sadness over money that Google didn't make? One wonders whether some companies will settle for less than control of all the wealth in the world.

      What ever happened to "doing a good job, being financially successful" being good enough? Now success in business only seems to be measured by "total world domination" and "endless growth".
  • AJAX (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nmg196 (184961) * on Friday November 23, 2007 @09:43AM (#21453311)
    I've always thought they should add some AJAX so that you know where this button will take you before you actually click it.

    eg if you type in "oxford" the button should change to say "Take me to www.ox.ac.uk"
    • by mapkinase (958129)
      You mean performing actual analysis of your search input every every time you type "f", "o", "r", "d"?
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by stormhair (718450)
        They seem to handle it pretty well in Google Suggest:

        http://www.google.com/webhp?complete=1&hl=en [google.com]
        • by nmg196 (184961) *
          Google Suggest is for suggesting things you are likely to search on. It has nothing at all to do with results.
      • by slim (1652)

        You mean performing actual analysis of your search input every every time you type "f", "o", "r", "d"?

        Plenty of interfaces do this. It's likely they wait for a short pause between letters, just to save totally irrelevant searches.

        For example, I use the Flock browser. If you type into the search bar, it updates a drop-down list with results from Yahoo as you type. ... and you can do it in Ajax too. For example the gardening site Grows On You has a field for the botanical name of the plant you're writing about. It uses Ajax to populate a drop-down list as you type -- this is based on a fairly standard Ruby o

      • by nmg196 (184961) *
        Yes.
        You make that sound like a stupid idea.
        Google already do FAR more complicated things. Try planning a route in maps.google.com and then dragging the suggested route line. Google recalculates a suitable route several times a second and updates the map with the new route in real-time as you're dragging the marker. That's FAR harder than what I was suggesting. My idea wouldn't be much harder to implement than Google Suggest. Especially as most of the results can be cached.
    • by Zann (989340)
      They have it in the form of Google Suggest [google.com]. Still in beta, of course. Yahoo has this feature too, IIRC.
    • Re:AJAX (Score:4, Funny)

      by WoLpH (699064) on Friday November 23, 2007 @10:58AM (#21453845)
      Wouldn't that invalidate the "lucky" part of "I'm feeling lucky"? How is it "feeling lucky" if you know where you're going?
  • Pretty silly. How do the losses translate to $110 million ?
    So they're counting the entire bandwidth of the people clicking that button would naturally click all the ads ?

    The article quotes Marissa as loosing revenue to tune of less than 1% ??
    0.001, 0.0001 ?? what ?

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by zav42 (584609)
      The calculation is probably pretty simple: 1% of people click that button results in 1% of 10 billion US$ revenue. This assumes only that almost all the 10 billion revenue is made with search ads (which is not true), but otherwise is a fair assumption. -Bernd
      • by ivan256 (17499)
        It also assumes that those 1% of people would use Google if the button weren't there.

        The button is branding. Would this same analyst consider any advertising Google might choose to do as a "revenue loss"?

        The assumption is exactly as absurd as the assumption that every downloaded song is a lost CD sale, for exactly the same reasons.
    • Easy. It's really a 1500 MW Google Heavy-Duty Supercolliding Superbutton.
  • see... (Score:4, Funny)

    by Floritard (1058660) on Friday November 23, 2007 @09:52AM (#21453363)

    'We are 16,000 people working on undermining your privacy.'
    And here I thought they were just datamining your privacy.

    And my capcha was confide, spooky...
  • Out of all the people that use that button, they probably already knew the first search result anyway, and wouldn't have even bothered to look at the ad on the first page. If anything, it saves Google on bandwidth (not that I think they have a problem with bandwidth). I use the button when I search for things like "windows xp sp2 it professionals" because I know exactly where it goes without me having to go to an extra page (where I would have skipped right over the ads and clicked on the first link).
  • It's branding. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by slim (1652) <john@nOspam.hartnup.net> on Friday November 23, 2007 @09:56AM (#21453383) Homepage
    The phrase "I'm feeling lucky" is part of the Google brand, as has been since their search engine was incepted.

    Notice the phrase is also prominent (and useful!) in Picasa.

    The point is, losing it would be a big change to the brand, like making Coke cans with no red on them.
  • Who actually uses that button? I can say that most of my searches, I don't end up going to the first result. If I were to use that button, odds are that I would get to the page, determine it's not what I want... click back, then click the regular search button. The odds just don't play out.

    It's that little snippet of text in the search result that shows you the context of your search term- that's what really helps my searching. Now that I think about, I wish I could set that blurb to be longer...

    And please.
    • by Kenoli (934612)
      If I were to use that button, odds are that I would get to the page, determine it's not what I want... click back, then click the regular search button.

      You are not lucky.
    • by 1u3hr (530656)
      Who actually uses that button? I can say that most of my searches, I don't end up going to the first result.

      But sometimes you know what the top result is, you just can't remember the URL exactly. So it's more like a searching through your bookmarks; if you already have Google as your start page it takes no longer. Eg: I want to go to the home page of Adobe, Microsoft, Wikipedia, Slashdot, the "lucky" button takes me there with just one word. For slightly less mnemonic sites too: "new york times". Obviou

    • by Jose (15075)
      Who actually uses that button?

      I use it when I need to grab PuTTY, I just type in:

      putty download <tab> <tab> <enter>
      check the URL (I remember that it looks omething like chiark.green--something-something.uk), and I am good to go.
  • Her name's spelled Marissa, not Marisa.
  • The "I'm feeling lucky" button is there to remind us that the Google execs are really the ones feeling lucky with those fat wallets.

    So lucky they can even afford to loose those big 110...
  • by Krneki (1192201) on Friday November 23, 2007 @10:07AM (#21453459)
    How can you forget the french military victories in "I'm Feeling Lucky" ?
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Bombria (1100369)
      They kicked some Saxon a$$ in 1066, then the Scots in 1072. Credit where credit is due...
  • by WombatDeath (681651) on Friday November 23, 2007 @10:11AM (#21453493)
    It's not really a huge gamble that the first result will be relevant. "I feel a vague sense of mild positivity" is probably more appropriate.

    In order to generate a real, winner-takes-all atmosphere of living on the edge, an element of risk should be introduced. For instance, a 60% chance of going to the first search result, a 30% chance of going to tubgirl, a 9% chance of having your identity stolen and a 1% chance of having bomb-making instructions downloaded to your machine and a tip-off email sent to the relevant authorities.
  • Googlewhack Spam (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Dynamoo (527749) * on Friday November 23, 2007 @10:17AM (#21453531) Homepage
    One good reason to remove the "I'm feeling lucky" feature would be Googlewhack Spam [symantec.com]. Spammers create a page with a unique phrase on it, and then send out spam with the special "I'm feeling lucky" URL, e.g. the URL http://www.google.com/search?num=100&hl=en&c2coff=1&safe=off&q=coelacanth+sharpener&btnG=Search&btnI= [google.com] actually takes you to Dave Gorman [davegorman.com]. Spammers send out emails with the Google URL in which actually redirects to the spammer site - this helps to foil spam filters and also causes problems for spam reporting tools which misidentify the spammer as Google.


    It can be pretty easy to foil, as this post [shoemoney.com] on Shoemoney demonstrates.

    And yes, you too can have fun in /. with Google queries for goatse.cx, tubgirl and 2girls1cup.

    • There are "open redirectors" on many major sites, including Google, AOL, eBay, and Microsoft Live. (Yahoo plugged their hole by giving their open redirector its own, easily blockable, domain.) We mentioned this on Slashdot a few days ago, [slashdot.org] and someone immediately followed up by using the Google exploit to get through Slashdot's filters.

      These open redirectors are regularly exploited by phishing scams. People report them to PhishTank [phishtank.com], and over at SiteTruth [sitetruth.com], we tie them back to the domain responsible and fix

  • heh? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by someone1234 (830754) on Friday November 23, 2007 @10:19AM (#21453543)
    I never click on any ads, so Google should forbid me to use its search engine?
  • Maybe it's because I'm a control freak or because I'm a pessimist or something else, but I've never used the Lucky Button. I'd love to see a psychological profile of the people who use the Lucky Button regularly.

    Someone, quick, call Jakob Nielsen! We need an exhaustive study!
  • usa-what? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by sulfur_lad (964486)
    Ahhh Jakob, lol. Web usability evangelist is more like it. "I'm feeling lucky" (as some have mentioned) is sometimes actually a pretty nice shortcut, it's also a fun way to spend an evening. I never would have discovered there was a band called "Johnny Uterus and the Philopean Tubes" without it.
  • How long (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hcdejong (561314) <`ln.tensmx' `ta' `sebboh'> on Friday November 23, 2007 @10:25AM (#21453583)
    until moneygrubbing investors pressure Google into ditching the button?

    The 'maximize profit at the expense of everything including customer experience' really gets to me sometimes.
  • by tie_guy_matt (176397) on Friday November 23, 2007 @10:28AM (#21453605)
    Hold on a minute. So is he saying that they put the "I'm feeling lucky" feature in just so we don't notice that google is really "16,000 people working on undermining your privacy?" So they make us think they are "just two kind of grad students hanging out and having a beer and having a grand old time" so we don't notice that the true purpose of google is to undermine our privacy?

    Time to put on the tin foil hat -- I am on to you now google! You just made my list!
    • ...so we don't notice that the true purpose of google is to undermine our privacy?

      Wait until you see Phase Two [theonion.com].

    • by mqduck (232646)

      Hold on a minute. So is he saying that they put the "I'm feeling lucky" feature in just so we don't notice that google is really "16,000 people working on undermining your privacy?" So they make us think they are "just two kind of grad students hanging out and having a beer and having a grand old time" so we don't notice that the true purpose of google is to undermine our privacy?

      Time to put on the tin foil hat -- I am on to you now google! You just made my list!

      In case you're not just joking and it really didn't occur to you: What would happen if Google removed the I'm Feeling Lucky button? That's right: "Hey, look, guys! Google truly has become a heartless corporation, losing their old 'quirky' charm."

      In other words, the point isn't paranoid at all.

  • solution! (Score:3, Funny)

    by yakumo.unr (833476) on Friday November 23, 2007 @10:31AM (#21453637) Homepage
    Next they'll replace it with "I'm feeling gullible" and make sure it only ever links through to a page that already contains Google ads ;o)
  • Privacy? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Dirtside (91468) on Friday November 23, 2007 @10:49AM (#21453773) Journal

    'Oh we're just two kind of grad students hanging out and having a beer and having a grand old time,' not you know, 'We are 16,000 people working on undermining your privacy.'"

    Undermining my privacy? The only information Google is able to get abut me is what I do online -- and not much of that. I wipe cookies once in a while, and that's the only reliable way they have to track me on other sites. Take off the tinfoil hat, Nielsen.

    Of course, to throw them off the scent, I randomly view Oprah's website, NASCAR videos, and horse porn once in a while.
  • I use this feature all the time without ever hitting the button. When you type a search query in the Firefox location bar it does a very similar thing. I'm not sure if this is counted in this statistic, but I don't have a chance to click any ads when I use it. Which is all the time, because it's way easier to remember the site name or what it was about than remember the exact domain.
  • Quite frequently, I see that my Google searches start with a sponsored link as the first link.

    What does Google earn when a sponsored link is used? If the "I'm Feeling Lucky" button drives some searches to the sponsored links, does this make up for the revenue lost by not showing a search results page with individual ads? Maybe the "I'm Feeling Lucky" button encourages advertisers to buy sponsored links, making up for the lost ad revenue from the search results page.

    Just some thoughts...
  • Tough Job (Score:5, Funny)

    by PinkyDead (862370) on Friday November 23, 2007 @11:22AM (#21454009) Journal

    Marisa Mayer, Google's vice president responsible for everything on the search page
    "1 input box, check. 2 buttons, check. 6 links check and 1 image, check. Right, I'm off home."
    • Apparently so, since so many other web page designers don't know when to stop adding elements.
  • I know what you're thinking. Did he get a pagerank of six or only five? Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement, I've kinda lost track myself. But being as this is Google, the most powerful search engine in the world, and would find a needle in a haystack, you've got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya punk?

    (With apologies, and lost karma.)

  • I use "I'm feeling lucky" frequently. It prevents me from going to typo sites.

    I mostly use the address bar to type in URLs. But if the URL is too long (where I might mis-type) or I'm not certain of the spelling, I use Google with the "I'm feeling lucky" button. It gets me the right URL every time.

    Simple example:

    I type "discovercrd.com" - I get a typo site.
    I type "discover" into Google and hit "I'm feeling lucky" - I get the home page for discovercard.com.

  • How many users use Google *because* of the I'm Feeling Lucky button? How many users would Google lose if it removed the button?

    My view is that this button differentiates Google from much of the competition and attracts a good number of users who otherwise would use another engine.

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