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Google Lauded for Accessible Search 102

With the recent release of a modified version of their search engine, Google is receiving praise from many different groups. The new Google Accessible Search was released as a Google labs project which prioritize pages based on their likelihood of being accessible to visually impaired users after the original search results are returned. From the article: "The best-known guidelines for building an accessible site are the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) from W3C. But these are not the basis of Google's new service. Raman said: 'We don't test against WCAG. We think in the spirit of those guidelines, but we don't test against them verbatim.' Instead he endeavored to identify 'what works for the end-user,' describing a process of 'experimentation, training and machine learning.'"
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Google Lauded for Accessible Search

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  • by Marcos Eliziario ( 969923 ) on Sunday July 23, 2006 @01:14PM (#15766259) Homepage Journal
    A Microsoft source revealed that MSN will have "Accessible Search Personal Experience Edition(TM)" available next winter. ASPEE will require customers to buy "Microsoft Genuine Advantage Neural Control Implant(TM)". According to Microsoft the use of a neural implant will be advantageous to customers, because they will be automatically "shut-down" if caught using a non-genuine version os "Windows for Brains", what would help them to be law-abiding citizens.
    • Re:In related news (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Utopia ( 149375 ) on Sunday July 23, 2006 @01:36PM (#15766318)
      Here is a stupid fact:
      Search for 'Search' on the goog lab's accessible search page.
      MSN.com is listed as the first.

      Does that make MSN.com the most accessible compliant search page?
      I know/read that MSN.com has the highest complaince for CSS and HTML compared to the other portal pages.
      But accessible I think not.
      • Google for "search" with the non-accessable search page:

        http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=search [google.com]

        You get MSN anyway.
        • What is more interesting but not surprising at all is that is you search on msn.com or search.msn.com for "search" or "search engine" google or most any of Microsoft's competitors are not even there.
      • Also, myspace.com still shows up on the first page of results for certain queries. Seeing as how javascript is required to adequately browse the site, I doubt that would fall under the "accessible" category.
    • Actually, its "Windows Accessible Search Live Beta".
      • "Windows Acessible Search Live.Net Beta XP Pro Edition"

        [The spelling was intentional, MSFT can invent their own spellings, they're MSFT afterall].

        • Right, that was it. Look for the newer, "more secure" version coming "soon".

          "Windows Acessible Search Live.Net Beta XP Pro Edition SP 2"

          [The spelling was intentional, MSFT can invent their own spellings, they're MSFT afterall].
          They are the Shakespeares of yesterday's technology and today's exploits aren't they?
  • by Yvan256 ( 722131 ) on Sunday July 23, 2006 @01:23PM (#15766277) Homepage Journal
    The more accessibility is known, the less we'll have websites made in Flash (or Flash navigation menus, Flash content, etc).

    Flash webmasters: If you can't handle the real Web, you might as well put PDFs online instead of a real website. The Web is not TV, the Web is not a bitmap graphic, the Web is not a newspaper. You can't assume anything about the reader (text, speech, screen size (if any), download speed, etc). Or at least stop calling your Flash files "websites". Thanks.

    • by bigtrike ( 904535 ) on Sunday July 23, 2006 @01:30PM (#15766304)
      The Web is not TV, the Web is not a bitmap graphic, the Web is not a newspaper.

      It's not like a truck, it's a series of tubes.
    • by Bogtha ( 906264 ) on Sunday July 23, 2006 @01:45PM (#15766343)

      The more accessibility is known, the less we'll have websites made in Flash (or Flash navigation menus, Flash content, etc).

      Sadly, this isn't the case. Using Flash doesn't make something less accessible, even older versions without support for screenreaders. It's when people use Flash without a fallback that accessibility problems arise. And of course, the latest versions of Flash have support for alternative user-agents built in.

      The stupid web developers that annoy people with improper use of Flash can continue to annoy people and still create perfectly accessible websites. Accessibility != usability.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 23, 2006 @01:51PM (#15766355)
        Even modern Flash's support for accessibility is crap. Alternative content is fine, but people thinking that Flash has 'support for alternative user-agents built in' is madly misleading.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 23, 2006 @01:52PM (#15766356)
        If your flash site has a fallback then you can just host the fallback, you don't need the flash site anymore.
        • I completely agree, but the problem is that the web developers — or their bosses — perceive the Flash version as being superior. Most of them don't even consider the possibility that somebody would have Flash installed but prefer the alternative content.

          • Most of them don't even consider the possibility that somebody would have Flash installed but prefer the alternative content.

            Such as myself. I usually surf using Safari with the plug-ins disabled. There's nothing more annoying than arriving at an empty white/black page that does absolutely nothing... because it's a "Flash intro" with the "skip button" inside the flash.

            News Flash: websites don't need an "intro" or "splash" page... The "main page" should be the "entry page" (like Slashdot, for example).

          • the company i work for design websites.

            most customers dont even consider a site without flash a web site. and they laugh when you bring up accessibiity.
            they contaminated the developpers too
            • In my experience, clients don't act anything even close to what you describe unless the sales people in your organisation have been persuading them that they need to spend extra money on "essential" Flash. Once you get a bit of experience doing sales yourself, you quickly find that the people just asking about specific technology are in a minority, let alone demanding specific technology.

              • those customers are mostly tv show producers (that's one of our primary sector) with some experience from previous shows. so yes they do ask for flash, or they ask for things that can't be done (not with any kind of ease) without flash.

                we also do interactive TV, and the box for that (provided by scientific atlanta) doesn't accept anything BUT flash and xml
        • Ya know I was thinking the same thing about TV... why even broadcast it when there are like books and magazines that serve the same purpose? Let's not stop there though... get rid of video games too, I mean can't we all just play boardgames again...or paper/pencil and dice games???? and forget cars and bikes and other forms of transportation... we can all just walk. Also, who needs all this fancy technology and education... the species will continue without it...

          Down with progress and innovation... long liv
    • The Web is not TV
      The web is whatever I feel like putting on it. Or hadn't you heard?
    • So Google Video and YouTube should stop using Flash to serve videos? I'll send them a memo. I'm sure they'll jump right on that, just for you.
      • by jrockway ( 229604 ) * <jon-nospam@jrock.us> on Sunday July 23, 2006 @11:57PM (#15767836) Homepage Journal
        > So Google Video and YouTube should stop using Flash to serve videos?

        Yes, they should. Why should we be tied to one proprietary platform (flash) when there are plenty of lower-bandwidth, higher-quality, lower-priced solutions? Flash is kind of convenient, but not if it doesn't run on your platform or OS (Flash's license doesn't meet the DFSG guidelines, so I can't use it). I can't use YouTube at all as a result. At least Google lets me download the files in industry-standard formats that play easily on my system. (I would prefer that they use Ogg/Theora, but I'm willing to meet them half-way. Let me use my own video player, and I'm happy.)

        As for flash in general, it's mostly a waste. Again, I'm willing to meet halfway if they used SVG + ECMAscript instead. Then I could actually watch it on my computer. (And a screenreader could easily get at whatever text was in the SVG -- it's just plain text after all -- so SVG+scripts is much more accessible than flash.)
    • You may be surprised to learn Flash has some built-in accessibility features.
      http://livedocs.macromedia.com/flash/mx2004/main_7 _2/00001182.html [macromedia.com]

      I know it's popular to hate on flash, a bit like it was popular to hate on javascript a few years back, and let's face it, there's enough bad uses of the technology it's easy for people that don't understand it to throw a blanket statement and say "All flash is bad, kthx."

      Hopefully, as better built flash-using sites become more prevalent, and as people learn more ab
    • Flash has all the APIs and tools needed to make its movies entirely 100% accessible. You can't blame Macromedia/Adobe because webmasters don't *use* them.

      Guess what? Windows has all the accessibility tools easily available, too, but how many Windows programs can't even cope with changing the default font size? It's not Microsoft's fault; they did their work.
    • Wow what a rant, that got up to 5 ( Insightful ). Way to go slashdot.

      HTML/CSS/JavaScript like any technology is getting old. It wasn't designed to really be for applications. Now we have Ajax hacks and a slew of other crap to try and make it like a normal desktop app...things that flash and java applets ( yes I know applets are not that great ) just do.

      Flash can be just as accesible if not more then a web page...it is all in the tools that make it accesible. Imagine if I wrote a flash app specifically for b
      • by metamatic ( 202216 ) on Sunday July 23, 2006 @04:50PM (#15766769) Homepage Journal
        HTML/CSS/JavaScript like any technology is getting old. It wasn't designed to really be for applications.

        C is also getting old, and wasn't designed to be used for applications, or for any kind of graphical UI. So what?

        • It's all about speed.

          HTML/CSS are incredibly clumsy to work with, but that can be solved with things like Dojo. But there are some things you really can't speed up -- JavaScript is interpreted pretty much everywhere, and HTML/CSS must be interpreted, because the JavaScript could be modifying the HTML source at any time.

          But it's also incredibly difficult to extend HTML/CSS, since even the most recent standard versions will probably never be supported by Internet Exploder. This means that very few new thing
      • HTML/CSS/JavaScript like any technology is getting old. It wasn't designed to really be for applications.

        So what? there are like 65534 or more number of sockets out there in the internet. Port 80 has already been taken by HTML/www protocol, which as you state is not designed for "applications".

        It really pisses me off that people keeps trying to create such things as a spreadsheet or any other application IN THE BROWSER. It is a WEB BROWSER nothing else, its job is to understand HTML and other niceties to di
    • The Web is not TV, the Web is not a bitmap graphic

      Firstly a lot of people want the web to be more like TV - they want audience behaviour that is predictable (and therefore easier to direct).

      Secondly, designers get to design horrible Flash sites because their clients like them. The people who have to use the site may not like it - but the people who pay for it do.

  • TV Raman (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    The article doesn't say this, but TV Raman is himself blind and author of emacspeak [sourceforge.net].
    • I don't know which article you read, but the one linked in the summary opens with the words "A blind developer at Google" and later on mentions that "Accessible Search is focusing on blind users, largely because Raman is one of them".
  • by xmas2003 ( 739875 ) * on Sunday July 23, 2006 @01:25PM (#15766287) Homepage
    Original discussion [slashdot.org] for background on this followup.
  • by tepples ( 727027 ) <tepples.gmail@com> on Sunday July 23, 2006 @01:33PM (#15766311) Homepage Journal

    Wouldn't Google Accounts and Gmail have a lower HandiRank because the sign-up page requires responding to a visual CAPTCHA? In fact, Gmail requires two: one for the confirmation of a mobile phone service commitment (most phones don't support text to speech for SMS) and one for the Google account.

  • Porn? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 23, 2006 @01:41PM (#15766335)
    • Re:Porn? (Score:4, Funny)

      by SleepyHappyDoc ( 813919 ) on Sunday July 23, 2006 @02:25PM (#15766443)
      Seventh hit on that page: "Porn makes you blind."

      Nuff said ;)
    • Strangely, nowthatsfuckedup.com (linked from the second link on that search, at least at the moment) is now directed to the polk county sherrif's office. A bit strange...

      At any rate, anyone want to grab some karma by posting instructions for making the accessible search the default search in firefox?
      • This may be far-fetched, but if there's enough support for it, I wouldn't mind it being the default method of search on Google.

        ::waits for gasps to subside::

        Or, perhaps make it optional (say on Personalized Homepage). I like the way Accessible Search works (plus it makes my sites show higher up :) ).
      • You need to write a search plugin for it. Look at the Google one (/usr/share/firefox/searchplugins/google.src) and edit it. If you want a quick search version, right click the search box and create a quick search from it.
    • I've never found a search for "porn" to return much that's actually porn. So I searched for "sex" on accessible search, and guess what? Apparently playboy.com is accessible...

      Currently installing Gentoo on my Powerbook, so I'm stuck in text mode. My browser is links2, which does have graphics support via a framebuffer, but is definitely minimalist and makes stuff look generally out of place...

      But playboy.com looks good. I went and read it for the articles. No, seriously, I wanted to see what they had t
  • W3C (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ManoSinistra ( 983539 ) on Sunday July 23, 2006 @01:58PM (#15766366) Homepage
    It is my understanding that part of the "Accessible" algorithm that ranks pages is how well the website follows W3C compliant code (HTML, XHTML, and so forth). If that is so, that's great. It may force people to not only consider good keywords and descriptions as far as SEO goes, but to also make their code more standards-compliant.
    • In that case Google.com will be ranked last. google.com W3C compliance [w3.org].
      • Re:W3C (Score:3, Interesting)

        by richdun ( 672214 )
        Wow, I never ran Google.com through the validator. That's pretty small stuff they're tripping on too - no DTD, no quotes around most attributes, etc. I love that in the Maps API (and other places) they recommend strongly that you use XHTML Strict 1.0 (which I do anyway), but they don't even put a DTD in their main page.
        • They leave all those little things out to minimize the page size. You would too if your page was getting hit as many times per day/hour/minute/second as theirs is.
          • Good point...
          • If they were using semantic and valid XHTML/CSS, they'd save terabytes of bandwidth a week, believe me. Their current mess of table soup is very wasteful.
          • And yet they offer 4.18KB, 2.88KB, 2.64KB and 1.38KB images with every page.
            That's 3 unecessary transactions, which is worse than just the sum of its parts.
    • Is it really great? I'm pretty sure that people that need accessible websites would prefer website designers to spend their time on actually making the site more accessible, rather than making the code 'W3C compliant' for a better ranking.
    • Hi there,
      I was interested in this as well, as I currently work on making my screencasts as accessible as possible. However, according to my quick test, this "accessible google search" does not favor sites/pages that are Section 508 or W3C compliant.

      http://conficio.blogspot.com/2006/07/google-offers -search-for-blind.html [blogspot.com]

      So who gets it right? The US government or Google? Should we test now for Google ranking instead?

      I can't say I'm happy that Google does invent another standard here. I wished they would simp
  • First hit:

    Tool - Official Site [Flash required]
    www.toolband.com/ - 2k - Cached - Similar pages

    You'd think they'd automatically filter "Flash required" sites out? =)
  • WCAG 2.0 is really crappy. Its a standard that hardly achieves any real accessibility. Here is a really good rant on WCAG 2.0 - To hell with WCAG 2.0 [alistapart.com]. Its about the only thing that it seems w3c has got terribly worng.
  • by rklrkl ( 554527 ) on Sunday July 23, 2006 @04:20PM (#15766705) Homepage
    For what's supposed to be an "accessible" search engine page [google.com], Google have made pitiful efforts to even bother validating the XHTML (yes it has DOCTYPE of XHTML 1.0 Transitional). Check out the W3C's validation [w3.org] of it - 8 errors, including some outrageous typos like "bgtcolor" instead of "bgcolor" and no closing slashes (required for XHTML) in their <br> tags. I find it amazing that Google would tout such an search engine on its accessibility merits when it doesn't even validate due to blatant errors that are easily fixable.
    • In the slashes case I can think of one good reason why google wouldn't do it - to make the page smaller (few people serve so many pages that this is actually a valid excuse but I can well believe saving one byte would save Google money on heavily trafficked pages). However that typo is less explicable - that just seems wrong (unless someone is making use of a parser error or something). Google's XHTML mobile page [google.com] doesn't seem to have too many errors in but yeah, there's room for improvement.
      • And Google could shave off kilobytes by not serving images on every page. So what?

        Most of the time, I try to make the code as clean and logical as I can, and if it's generated, I usually generate it with as little whitespace as I can. But the single biggest thing I do to save bandwidth is run the thing through mod_gzip or mod_deflate. Second biggest win is actually throwing most redundant data into separate files.

        After that, a doctype is just a ludcrous thing to leave out. Couldn't Google make more mone
    • Using valid (X)HTML is no guarantee for accessibility. Worse is that they are mising some basic features in their search page that would have made it more accessible. Run it through BACC - the basic accesibility analyzer [peterkrantz.com] to see some errors.
    • Google's code has never been valid, but it has always been accessable
  • If you come to think of it, it must be much easier for Google to understand pages that are visually-impaired-friendly than flashy illogical ones. I recall reading comments about its sentience... one could actually put together a conspiration theory with all this stuff, it seems. But do no evil.
  • The search result pages say "Copyright ©2000 Google Inc." — accessible search six years in the making!

  • Anybody else do a search for pr0n and related terms?
  • Did you notice ? No ads in Google Accessible Search. What a relieve!
  • by Spliffster ( 755587 ) on Monday July 24, 2006 @05:49AM (#15768316) Homepage Journal

    Google, Yahoo and Microsoft were acused by Amnesty international [google.ch] were accused to "beeing evil".

    a couple of days later google releases an accessible search which seems to be rushed out badly (their code doesn't validate to basic HTML standards, let alon WAI and other compatibilities which would really help disabled people).

    just a coincidence ? I think not.

    They have managed to avoid bad press in the tech world.

  • Hi there,

    what do they really mean with 'accessible'? I'm sorry but I can't figure out how

    1. an invalid markup: see here [w3.org]
    2. the discouraged use of:
      • 'br'
      • 'font'
      • other presentational markup
      • deprecated tags, like 'b'
      • javascript
    3. the lack of:
      • 'title' attribute, at all
      • the so called semantic markup
      • separation of structure and presentation

    could enhance the accessibility of a search engine.

    Considering the amount of money google has, I think they should invest some more to make their sites really Web standard

Top Ten Things Overheard At The ANSI C Draft Committee Meetings: (9) Dammit, little-endian systems *are* more consistent!