Business is all about coming up with an idea, making sure there’s a market for it, and gaining as much interest in it as possible. When Dallas-based applications developer Locai Inc. released their checkin-based app of the same name, ‘Locai’, to the iPhone consumer base; it was generally received quite well. So well in fact that their initial success led them to the obvious conclusion that they should expand their user base further by opening up their App to the Google Android market as well. A simple plan, they thought (beyond the obvious hard word needed to port the coding to a new platform that is). And simple might it have been were it not for yet another Google ‘quirk’.
Everyone knows that there’s more to Google than meets the eye. There’s all sorts that goes on behind the scenes and unless you’re in a particular group of Google employees, you can really only guess at what makes the cogs go round. Unfortunately, a lot of what we are able to discern about Google search algorithms is done through trial and error testing on existing sites and products. Which is why it might have come as a bit of a surprise to Locai to learn that due to a behind-the-scenes, not-going-to-bother-telling-the-user auto-correct routine, any time an Android user searches the Android App market for Locai, it fails to show up. Little did Locai know that Google deems their company name to be a mis-spelling of the word “local”, and so any search for the term Locai (without quotation marks/other search engine ‘keys’) gets modified behind the scenes to the term Google thinks the user is searching for.
“Since everyone downloads apps by searching for them first this is a huge blow to us,” Taylor Cavanah (Locai’s founder) has said. “We have brands and businesses lined up for a whole series of partnerships, events and promotions over the next several months. Now we’re facing losing a ton of users and investment as people are converted to download the App, but can’t find it.”
There’s been a lot of discussion about whether Locai were right to name their App so ambiguously, but surely that’s not the point? Surely people shouldn’t have to stick to a list of Google pre-approved words when trying to decide on branding? But the thing with Google’s auto-correct, it’s not just companies that are finding themselves with problems.
Google’s auto-correct technology also creates problems for anyone who speaks more than one language. Whilst Google Translate has come on in leaps and bounds and the auto-detect language feature has proven useful for many, a search engine query in a language not native to the host (i.e. looking for an English search term whilst on Google.nl) is also subject to the same assumption technology that has plagued Locai of late. Google will just assume that a word it doesn’t recognise is spelled incorrectly and often readjust the search behind the scenes to the closest match of words it thinks you might be trying to look for.
One has to wonder how much more invasive Google searches are going to get, and how many more companies will be affected by this?
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