Google does great things and makes good decisions most often. However a recent move on their part has ended very lamely. As part of what their 10th anniversary celebration they provided a search of the 2001 index (the oldest index they could find to search now). This was extremely cool.
Now if you go to find it so you can try it out you will be disappointed. Search for it on Google you will find a link to Google Search 2001 which gives you a page that says: “The page – www.google.com/search2001.html – does not exist.” Is it amazingly lame that Google took the search down, has it has the first result on searches, and has no explanation on that page of what it was about.
It would be cool for them to leave it up (it was interesting). And I would think they could make a great deal of money showing ads (I can’t remember if they did show ads). But not leaving a page at that address (which was linked to over 95,000 times) explaining what the page did and that it is now offline is very lame. Breaking 95,000 links is bad enough for some pointy haired boss that believes the internet is made up of tubes but for a well run internet company to do that is pitiful.
This move shows Google in a similar light as Gap when managers shut down the Gap’s web site for days (in 2005). Google failed when exiting the video business (DRM issues), then realized their mistake and recovered. The fix for this would take all of 1 hour. Someone just has to put up a page discussing what the page was for and that the search has been discontinued.
But really they should explore if it is better to just make it live – maybe it doesn’t but I would certainly want to look into that option. If not, I would put up some interesting results from the experiment (though if the choice is just a 1 hour solution or nothing then just put up a page in 1 hour) and link to commentary about the search and interesting things people found. This would be an interesting task for an intern, or someone else, and could provide an interesting and popular page. but most importantly at least not breaking 95,000 links (plus all those who go to the page from search results pages) is the minimum Google should do.
Related: web pages should live forever – Search Share Data Checking the ACSI – Ways for Google to Improve – Google Knows it is a 2.0 World (maybe not given the example above) – Usability Failures – Google Customer Service
The whole search from 2001 was very intelligently integrated with the web archive to link to web pages as they were in 2001. I figured I could provide a link to the page Google killed off. But nope, Google blocked the web archive from archiving that page: “We’re sorry, access to http://www.google.com/search2001.html has been blocked by the site owner via robots.txt.”
If Google has some heartburn about the archive explanation page being on the google.com domain then it never should have been released on that domain, just setup Google2001.com or something and then they. And if they still do now, then setup that new site and forward traffic from the currently dead url to the new site.
2001 links from the web archive: Curious Cat Management Connections – Whitehouse.gov before the redesign – Whitehouse.gov after the redesign (that I was involved with) – Peter Scholtes – W. Edwards Deming Institute
update: Google no longer gives you “The page – www.google.com/search2001.html – does not exist.” error. But their solution might be even worse, they just display the regular Google search page. So 95,000- links say search the 2001 index here, you follow the link, see a Google search page, try it and get – not what you were promised – but a broken promise that might be confuse some not expecting pointy haired boss behavior from Google.