Google’s Autocomplete function has a long history of courting controversy – but a recent update is set to cure some of its more problematic features. Announced on April 20, 2018, the update will exclude a broader range of predictions from Autocomplete, making it less likely to land Google in trouble.

Also known as Google Suggest, Autocomplete was first rolled out in 2008 (an experimental version was trialled in 2004). It’s been tweaked several times over the years, but its primary purpose remains the same – to predict search queries. Google generates Autocompletions by looking at a broad range of data, including users’ unique characteristics. For example, it takes your location, language and previous searches into consideration.

 

The Trouble with Autocomplete

Funny Autocomplete Results

Image source: Buzzfeed

Despite saving hundreds of hours of typing, Autocomplete also had a tendency of exposing users to inappropriate content. Even though some Autocompletions are funny, there are plenty of unsavoury suggestions out there. From explicit websites to downright racist suggestions, earlier versions of Autocomplete took unsuspecting users to all kinds of interesting corners of the internet.

By cracking down on potentially harmful or offensive predictions, the latest Autocomplete update should make Google a much safer space. Stumbling on an Autocomplete that makes you want to hastily cover your computer screen will become a thing of the past.

 

What Predictions are Banned?

In a recent post on the official Google Blog, Google detailed plans to sanction a broad range of predictions, including:

  • Predictions of a sexually explicit nature that don’t refer to any medical, scientific or educational subject
  • Hateful predictions directed against any group or individual based on race, religion and several other demographics
  • Violent predictions
  • Predictions that involve dangerous or potentially harmful ideas and activities
  • Spam
  • Anything closely associated with piracy.

Of course, some unsuitable predictions will probably slip through the cracks. To combat this, users will also have the option of reporting inappropriate predictions. While Autocomplete might not be as funny as it once was, at least you won’t have to worry about encountering anything too weird in your search engine adventures.

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