Google Linux search suggestions

Google Inc. continues to make incremental improvements to web search, and in this vein, Instant search was added in 2010. For better or worse, the accompanying search suggestions cannot be disabled. This drop down list is intended to save time, but it also gives some clues about what other people are searching for.

There’s something distinctly unscientific about the approach that I used to mine Google’s search suggestion data. I did use a fresh installation from within a VM, but Google may have begun to learn from what I’d searched for, influencing subsequent suggestions. I’ve also omitted some of the more mundane or irrelevant results.

What do the suggestions actually suggest? I’m not sure. The Google devs are their usual tight lipped selves about what the algorithm is. The only thing that is certain is that this is what Google’s algorithm thinks that people are likely to type in next.

The most obvious thing to search for is “Linux” (no quotes), and this produced suggestions of “mint”, “commands”, “find” and “distro”.

The first one surprised me a bit, as Mint is far from the most popular Linux distribution. Going a bit further and actually typing “mint”, produced “debian”, “vs Ubuntu”, “download”, “forums”, “9“ and “10“, all in line with what one would expect. Note that I was able to tickle more than four suggestions of out the search box by adding an extra space after the search terms in order to produce some alternatives. Where appropriate, adding an “s”, as a plural marker, also produced some extra results.

Find also puzzled me. It’s a fairly commonly used utility, but I was surprised that it was one of the four suggestions. I suspect that Google search adds in a random factor or takes into account current trends when serving up the suggestions. Sure enough, nine of the first ten results for this combination related to the command rather than the activity of finding out about Linux.

Following the distro branch also produced mostly expected results such as “comparison”, “chooser”, “list” and “comparison 2010“. I’ll bear the “chooser” keyword in mind in future for when optimising for SEO.

Typing Ubuntu produced no real surprises. Ever in search of controversy, I tried adding the term “problem” with a couple of small variations. This dug up “with nvidia”, “booting”, “suspend”, “with wireless”, “installing”, “with flash” and “flash Ubuntu problems”. Typing “ubuntu drivers” produced “for wireless”, “for wireless card”, “for dell” and “for hp”.

Getting a bit more specific, I tried “linux chrome”. The suggestions were “flash”, “java”, “pdf”, “plugins folder”. Once again, the results emphasised the importance of flash support to most users.

How about some Linux people? Searching for Mark Shuttleworth produced “blog”, “twitter”, “unity” and “girlfriend”. I have two suggestions for the last result. Firstly, in the past, Shutteworth has made a some interesting, but vague, comments about having lifestyle aspirations that challenge traditional, family-orientated life-goals for men. Secondly, he’s fairly young, he's successful and he’s traveled into space. No doubt, many a lonely she-geek must have wondered if he’s available. As expected, a search for my own name produced nothing of the sort.

Richard Stallman’s place in the history of open source software is assured, but he attracts supporters and critics in equal measure. Google suggests that people who are interested in him may consider tightening their search parameters by adding “is an idiot”, “xkcd”, “swords” or “quotes”. People want to see quotes from the great man, although some think he’s an idiot. I’ll leave it as an exercise to the reader to find the xkcd and “swords” connection.

Linus Torvalds? Yawn, yawn. “quotes”, “blog”, “C++” and “biography” are the suggestions. On the one hand, masses of people don’t search for evidence that he’s an idiot, but then, no one wants to know if he has a girlfriend. Them’s the breaks, Linus...


UK based freelance writer Michael Reed writes about technology, retro computing, geek culture and gender politics.


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Catalin's picture

On DistroWatch is tell us:
"The figures in the third column of each table represent the average number of hits per day for the specified period. The tables are updated daily at around 90 minutes past midnight GMT."
So , I do not think Puppy it's on the same level with CentOS or Fedora, but I use it on my stick.

google search

ridho's picture

now, instant search is good. google is like a God..amazaing..

Instant on OFF

zykoda's picture

Use the above as home page! That gets rid of it for the moment.

I guess...whatever.

GregNuno's picture

I guess...whatever.

Disabling Instant Search

John Hardin's picture

Just FYI, Google's Instant Search does not happen if you install NoScript and don't allow javascript from

Granted, you probably want Google's javascript most of the time, but if you don't like Instant Search then you can have some control over when it occurs...

even better

u64's picture

AdBlock to stop Google and Youtube auto-suggest

(btw, offtopic) for a bit added speed :P

For more fine-tune settings and more privacy,
OptimizeGoogle Addon

Very nice blog post, I

Anonymous1's picture

Very nice blog post, I googled and found it. So glad I did.


jackal 's picture

Süper Bir paylaşım çok teşekkürler

"Mint is far from the most popular Linux distribution"?????

metalx2000's picture

Linux Mint has been in the number 2 spot on distro watch for a long time.
I would say that number 2 is not "far from the most popular"

This doesn't mean that it's the 2 most used, or that it's the second best distro. But, is a bit more popular than you make it sound.
Everything you ever need to know about Free Software.

About 'find'

Anonymous's picture

I know why people are searching for 'find' on Google. It is one of the worst man pages I have ever seen. And that's saying a lot. Grateful as I am to the GNU folks, I must say they should -find- somebody to write their man pages for them. They are all almost unintelligible. If you already know what the command or program does you can almost figure out what the man text means; otherwise, you have to Google it and look for examples...

That's why.

Dude, have a look at the info

Anonymous's picture

Dude, have a look at the info manual, not man manual, of findutils.


fest3er8's picture

Historically, most of the man pages were designed to be more like technical references than to be user guides. Possibly the only company that ever really got manuals right was DEC. The VAX user guides really did guide on through tasks, and the reference manuals really did show everything a command could do. If someone couldn't figure out how to program or use VAX/VMS, a remedial reading comprehension seminar was in order.

That said, there are more than a few man pages that are pert near worthless, and there are more than a few that simply communicate the information poorly, if at all.

Find is also a verb

Lambchopper's picture

As in a Google search similar to the following:

Linux find syslog file

Or in a proper grammatical sense; "Google, how do I find the syslog file on Linux?"

I would suspect this would increase the relevance of that word in the search results.

Find is also a verb

Lambchopper's picture

As in a Google search similar to the following:

Linux find syslog file

Or in a proper grammatical sense; "Google, how do I find the syslog file on Linux?"

I would suspect this would increase the relevance of that word in the search results.

bush betts

Ravi Sankar Guntur's picture

Search for bush, and it suggets betta, typing stallman suggests torvalds. Thats funny.