Exposing inconsistent web search results with bobble

Xinyu Xing, Wei Meng, Dan Doozan, Nick Feamster, Wenke Lee, Alex C. Snoeren

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

14 Scopus citations


Given their critical role as gateways to Web content, the search results a Web search engine provides to its users have an out-sized impact on the way each user views the Web. Previous studies have shown that popular Web search engines like Google employ sophisticated personalization engines that can occasionally provide dramatically inconsistent views of the Web to different users. Unfortunately, even if users are aware of this potential, it is not straightforward for them to determine the extent to which a particular set of search results differs from those returned to other users, nor the factors that contribute to this personalization. We present the design and implementation of Bobble, a Web browser extension that contemporaneously executes a user's Google search query from a variety of different world-wide vantage points under a range of different conditions, alerting the user to the extent of inconsistency present in the set of search results returned to them by Google. Using more than 75,000 real search queries issued by over 170 users during a nine-month period, we explore the frequency and nature of inconsistencies that arise in Google search queries. In contrast to previously published results, we find that 98% of all Google search results display some inconsistency, with a user's geographic location being the dominant factor influencing the nature of the inconsistency.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationPassive and Active Measurement - 15th International Conference, PAM 2014, Proceedings
PublisherSpringer Verlag
Number of pages10
ISBN (Print)9783319049175
StatePublished - 2014
Event15th International Conference on Passive and Active Measurement, PAM 2014 - Los Angeles, CA, United States
Duration: Mar 10 2014Mar 11 2014

Publication series

NameLecture Notes in Computer Science (including subseries Lecture Notes in Artificial Intelligence and Lecture Notes in Bioinformatics)
Volume8362 LNCS
ISSN (Print)0302-9743
ISSN (Electronic)1611-3349


Other15th International Conference on Passive and Active Measurement, PAM 2014
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityLos Angeles, CA

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Theoretical Computer Science
  • General Computer Science


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