After months of requests from its users, Google has finally added a way to turn off its SearchWiki tool. But, while you can “check out” of using SearchWiki, your customized search results don’t leave. More on that in a moment.
Users can turn SearchWiki off (and on) by clicking on the “Preferences” link next to the Google search box. Down near the bottom of the preferences page, you’ll see a check box that disables SearchWiki.
But all this checkbox does is remove the ability to use SearchWiki; if you’ve voted pages up or down, or left comments in the SearchWiki system, those will still be in effect while you’re logged in. Here’s a screenshot from my Google account:
The two sites I previously voted up remain at the top of the search results with the green up arrow, but the SearchWiki buttons are gone from all the other pages below. A Google spokesperson tells us that this is by design:
“The SearchWiki preferences setting to ‘Hide the ability to share, promote, remove, or add your own results’ does not delete user SearchWiki customizations. We expect that users who do not use the SearchWiki feature may wish to hide the controls, so we provide them with this option. However, if users have already made the effort to promote and comment on pages, we expect those users would like to maintain the benefit of their customizations by default.”
Fair enough. So, if you want to disable SearchWiki and remove all of your previous customizations, you’ll need to turn SearchWiki on, then use the link at the bottom of a search results page that says “See all my SearchWiki notes.”
From there, you can undo what you’ve done before and then go back to the Preferences page to turn SearchWiki off.
Almost immediately after SearchWiki launched last year, the cries began from some users who wanted a way to turn it off and avoid the visual clutter it added to the search results page. At first, Google said they had no intention of offering an opt-out mechanism. Here’s a November 2008 quote from SearchWiki product manager Cedric DuPont:
“While users don’t have the option of turning off SearchWiki, they do have the option not to use the feature. By turning off the feature entirely, people will never get used to the new offering or see how it might be useful to them. We encourage people to try it out.”
Public pressure continued, and a couple weeks after that, Google’s Marissa Mayer finally said Google will add a method to disable SearchWiki.
(tip Google Operating System)