I’m Feeling Useless

I was intrigued to see that Google has changed the country identification for Palestine from “Palestine territories” to just “Palestine.” A subtle but serious hint that the company recognizes Palestine’s right to independent statehood.

I was sort of mystified, however, by John Gruber’s observation that the “I’m Feeling Lucky” button in the BBC’s screenshots instead show the text “stroke of luck.” It would be one thing to learn that the phrase is localized to various regional English dialects around the world, but in my brief tests I have yet to find a single other English Google site where the button text is altered. I also find it very strange that the button text in the screenshot is lowercased. It’s literally “stroke of luck” and not “Stroke of Luck” as one would expect, to fit in with both conventional UI design and with the rest of Google’s UI.

Looking closer, I see the standard “Google Search” button shows up as “Google search a”, and the “About Google” link at the bottom says (I think): “Never you like to know about Google.”

I am inclined to think that the source of the screenshot is the Palestinian Google home page translated automatically to some dialect of English by an automatic translation service (perhaps Google, itself). I don’t think Google has adopted “Stroke of Luck” as part of its revamping of the Palestine Google home page.

Looking into this got me interested in trying out the “I’m Feeling Lucky” button for the first time in many years. I returned to my native English www.google.com where, the text still reads “I’m Feeling Lucky,” but funnily enough you can’t actually use the button to meaningfully achieve what it used to: jumping to the one presumably most-relevant result for your search. Why? Because the moment you type any text in the search field, a prerequisite for using the “I’m Feeling Lucky” button, the entire UI of Google’s famously simple home page shifts dynamically to a completion-list-oriented UI. The lucky button is long gone. Look carefully, and you’ll see there are now “I’m Feeling Lucky” links next to each completion-list result, but these are only visible if you arrow-select, or hover your mouse over the item in the list.

So what is the point of the “I’m Feeling Lucky” button on Google’s home page? You can only click it before you’ve bothered to type anything. On the Palestinian Google home page, clicking the button takes you to Google’s doodles page. But on the American Google home page, merely hovering a mouse cursor over it will change its text to something even more whimsical: “I’m Feeling Wonderful,” “I’m Feeling Stellar,” or “I’m Feeling Puzzled,” for example. Thereafter, hovering over the button Click one of these and you’ll be shuttled off to some vaguely appropriate internet destination.

The “I’m Feeling Lucky” button hasn’t, to my knowledge, been changed to “stroke of luck” in any regional version of Google’s home page. It has, however, been changed into a useless button whose behavior has no relevance to the original “most-relevant result” behavior. It’s just a piece of useless junk on Google’s otherwise still admirably minimalist home page.

Update: Matthew Panzarino commented on Twitter that the dynamic removal of the button is caused by the Google Instant feature, which users can turn off to restore traditional functionality. To Google’s credit, the preference can even be selected without logging in to a user account. However, given that the traditional behavior of the button now works only in a non-standard, user-customized configuration, I think it would best be ejected from the home page.