Adam Willems on Google's iconic 'I'm Feeling Lucky' button

The ‘I’m Feeling Lucky’ button used to fascinate me. What did it do? What was it for? I never bothered to look it up and until I read Adam Willems’s article, I still didn’t really know:

Since its genesis, Google’s homepage has featured a trinity: Beneath the multicolored logo lies a search form, a search button, and, finally, a button that reads “I’m Feeling Lucky.” The quirky feature transports the user to the top result for a given search term, bypassing the typical index of results. Using the button after typing “Real Life” into Google search, for instance, brings up the music video for Burna Boy and Stormzy’s song of the same name. Those in the throes of an existential crisis, meanwhile, might search “Is there a god?” and land on a conversion page hosted by a large Christian organization. Leaving the search bar blank used to yield a random webpage; now, hovering over the button produces a slot machine-like roll of “I’m” statements (“I’m Feeling Curious,” “I’m Feeling Hungry,” etc.). Clicking through then furnishes a Google-branded Web page at random.

The range of possibilities promised by “I’m Feeling Lucky” harkens to a largely bygone era of internet culture defined by an aleatory, frivolous, and leisurely ethos. At the time of the button’s birth, “going online” was limited to specific domestic and professional terminals. It was a discrete activity that one opted into or didn’t — you’re online or you’re not — and, for many, a hobby.Navigating a smaller and more “human” cyberspace was manageable. It came with a sense of freedom: To “log on” was to choose one’s own adventure, not to be shepherded by shadowy algorithms or bled of one’s personal data. “I’m Feeling Lucky” epitomized this spirit. Rolling the dice, those early users could feel as though fate was on their side. 

It’s very much like Google’s search engine appendix, particularly the part where it was estimated to cost Google “more than $100 million in revenue per year because it skipped over ad-filled search pages” (although this was back in 2007). Now it’s just there, benign, a relic that you could click if you wanted but no worries if not, up to you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.