Tag Archives: Search

How Google autocomplete works in Search

Autocomplete is a feature within Google Search designed to make it faster to complete searches that you’re beginning to type. In this post—the second in a series that goes behind-the-scenes about Google Search—we’ll explore when, where and how autocomplete works.

Using autocomplete

Autocomplete is available most anywhere you find a Google search box, including the Google home page, the Google app for iOS and Android, the quick search box from within Android and the “Omnibox” address bar within Chrome. Just begin typing, and you’ll see predictions appear:

Autocomplete_1.png

In the example above, you can see that typing the letters “san f” brings up predictions such as “san francisco weather” or “san fernando mission,” making it easy to finish entering your search on these topics without typing all the letters.

Sometimes, we’ll also help you complete individual words and phrases, as you type:

Autocomplete_1_detail.png

Autocomplete is especially useful for those using mobile devices, making it easy to complete a search on a small screen where typing can be hard. For both mobile and desktop users, it’s a huge time saver all around. How much? Well:

  • On average, it reduces typing by about 25 percent
  • Cumulatively, we estimate it saves over 200 years of typing time per day. Yes, per day!

Predictions, not suggestions

You’ll notice we call these autocomplete “predictions” rather than “suggestions,” and there’s a good reason for that. Autocomplete is designed to help people complete a search they were intending to do, not to suggest new types of searches to be performed. These are our best predictions of the query you were likely to continue entering.

How do we determine these predictions? We look at the real searches that happen on Google and show common and trending ones relevant to the characters that are entered and also related to your location and previous searches.

The predictions change in response to new characters being entered into the search box. For example, going from “san f” to “san fe” causes the San Francisco-related predictions shown above to disappear, with those relating to San Fernando then appearing at the top of the list:

Autocomplete_2.png

That makes sense. It becomes clear from the additional letter that someone isn’t doing a search that would relate to San Francisco, so the predictions change to something more relevant.

Why some predictions are removed

The predictions we show are common and trending ones related to what someone begins to type. However, Google removes predictions that are against our autocomplete policies, which bar:


  • Sexually explicit predictions that are not related to medical, scientific, or sex education topics
  • Hateful predictions against groups and individuals on the basis of race, religion or several other demographics
  • Violent predictions
  • Dangerous and harmful activity in predictions

In addition to these policies, we may remove predictions that we determine to be spam, that are closely associated with piracy, or in response to valid legal requests.

A guiding principle here is that autocomplete should not shock users with unexpected or unwanted predictions.

This principle and our autocomplete policies are also why popular searches as measured in our Google Trends tool might not appear as predictions within autocomplete. Google Trends is designed as a way for anyone to deliberately research the popularity of search topics over time. Autocomplete removal policies are not used for Google Trends.

Why inappropriate predictions happen

We have systems in place designed to automatically catch inappropriate predictions and not show them. However, we process billions of searches per day, which in turn means we show many billions of predictions each day. Our systems aren’t perfect, and inappropriate predictions can get through. When we’re alerted to these, we strive to quickly remove them.

It’s worth noting that while some predictions may seem odd, shocking or cause a “Who would search for that!” reaction, looking at the actual search results they generate sometimes provides needed context. As we explained earlier this year, the search results themselves may make it clearer in some cases that predictions don’t necessarily reflect awful opinions that some may hold but instead may come from those seeking specific content that’s not problematic. It’s also important to note that predictions aren’t search results and don’t limit what you can search for.

Regardless, even if the context behind a prediction is good, even if a prediction is infrequent,  it’s still an issue if the prediction is inappropriate. It’s our job to reduce these as much as possible.

Our latest efforts against inappropriate predictions

To better deal with inappropriate predictions, we launched a feedback tool last year and have been using the data since to make improvements to our systems. In the coming weeks, expanded criteria applying to hate and violence will be in force for policy removals.

Our existing policy protecting groups and individuals against hateful predictions only covers cases involving race, ethnic origin, religion, disability, gender, age, nationality, veteran status, sexual orientation or gender identity. Our expanded policy for search will cover any case where predictions are reasonably perceived as hateful or prejudiced toward individuals and groups, without particular demographics.

With the greater protections for individuals and groups, there may be exceptions where compelling public interest allows for a prediction to be retained. With groups, predictions might also be retained if there’s clear “attribution of source” indicated. For example, predictions for song lyrics or book titles that might be sensitive may appear, but only when combined with words like “lyrics” or “book” or other cues that indicate a specific work is being sought.

As for violence, our policy will expand to cover removal of predictions which seem to advocate, glorify or trivialize violence and atrocities, or which disparage victims.

How to report inappropriate predictions

Our expanded policies will roll out in the coming weeks. We hope that the new policies, along with other efforts with our systems, will improve autocomplete overall. But with billions of predictions happening each day, we know that we won’t catch everything that’s inappropriate.

Should you spot something, you can report using the “Report inappropriate predictions” link we launched last year, which appears below the search box on desktop:

Search Autocomplete painted.png

For those on mobile or using the Google app for Android, long press on a prediction to get a reporting option. Those using the Google app on iOS can swipe to the left to get the reporting option.

By the way, if we take action on a reported prediction that violates our policies, we don’t just remove that particular prediction. We expand to ensure we’re also dealing with closely related predictions. Doing this work means sometimes an inappropriate prediction might not immediately disappear, but spending a little extra time means we can provide a broader solution.

Making predictions richer and more useful

As said above, our predictions show in search boxes that range from desktop to mobile to within our Google app. The appearance, order and some of the predictions themselves can vary along with this.

When you’re using Google on desktop, you’ll typically see up to 10 predictions. On a mobile device, you’ll typically see up to five, as there’s less screen space.

On mobile or Chrome on desktop, we may show you information like dates, the local weather, sports information and more below a prediction:

Autocomplete_3.png

In the Google app, you may also notice that some of the predictions have little logos or images next to them. That’s a sign that we have special Knowledge Graph information about that topic, structured information that’s often especially useful to mobile searchers:

Autocomplete_4.png

Predictions also will vary because the list may include any related past searches you’ve done. We show these to help you quickly get back to a previous search you may have conducted:

Autocomplete_5.png

You can tell if a past search is appearing because on desktop, you’ll see the word “Remove” appear next to a prediction. Click on that word if you want to delete the past search.

On mobile, you’ll see a clock icon on the left and an X button on the right. Click on the X to delete a past search. In the Google App, you’ll also see a clock icon. To remove a prediction, long press on it in Android or swipe left on iOS to reveal a delete option.

You can also delete all your past searches in bulk, or by particular dates or those matching particular terms using My Activity in your Google Account.

More about autocomplete

We hope this post has helped you understand more about autocomplete, including how we’re working to reduce inappropriate predictions and to increase the usefulness of the feature. For more, you can also see our help page about autocomplete.

You can also check out the recent Wired video interview below, where our our vice president of search Ben Gomes and the product manager of autocomplete Chris Haire answer questions about autocomplete that came from…autocomplete!

The High Five: put your hands together for this week’s search trends

Every Friday, we look back at five trending topics in Search from that week, and then give ourselves a High Five for making it to the weekend. Today we’re putting our hands together for National High Five Day—so first, a few notable “high five” trends. Then on to our regularly scheduled programming.

High Fives all around
Turns out, searches for “high five” transcend all realms of culture: sports (“Why do NBA players high five after free throws?”) entertainment (“how to high five a Sim”), and pets (“How to teach a dog to high five”). As for virtual high fives, “Scrubs,” “Seinfeld” and Liz Lemon are high five famous—they’re the top trending “high five gifs.”

A First Lady, first a mother
When former First Lady Barbara Bush passed away on Tuesday at the age of 92, people remembered her role as matriarch, searching for “Barbara Bush children,” “Barbara Bush family,” and “Barbara Bush grandchildren.” She was the second woman to be the mother and wife of a president; and searches for the first woman to hold that title, Abigail Adams (wife of John and mother of John Quincy) went up by 1,150 percent this week.

What’s Swedish for robot?
Need an extra set of hands? A team of researchers built a robot to help with one of the most challenging tasks of the modern era—assembling Ikea furniture. In an ordinary week, people might search for Ikea lamp, but for now they’re more interested in “Ikea robot.” Though Swedish meatballs are always a favorite, this week’s trending Ikea furniture items were Ikea closets, plants and sofas.

Work it, Walmart
Walmart’s store aisles are turning into runways with the new employee dress code. They can now wear jeans and–brace yourselves–anysolid color top. As for bottoms, people want to know, “Are leggings included in Walmart’s new dress code?” We never (Arkan)saw this coming, but Arkansas topped the list of regions searching for “Walmart dress code” in the U.S. For people wondering about other dress code etiquette, a trending question was “what to wear to jury duty.”

Kendrick makes history
This week people asked “Why is Kendrick Lamar important?” Listen to this: he made music history by being the first non-classical or jazz musician to win the Pulitzer Prize for Music Composition (high five, Kendrick!). And people felt the pull to search for “Kendrick Lamar prize”—interest was 900 percent higher than “Kendrick Lamar song.”

Source: Search


The High Five: prom gets cheesy, pollen makes you sneezy

Whether you’re on the hunt for a flower crown or a corsage, here’s what that ol’ internet has been up to this week …


People are searching for Coachella—specifically, “what is Coachella”? It’s a music festival in the middle of the desert in California where bandanas are worn, parasols are twirled and selfies are taken (other Coachella items trending on Search are dust masks and earplugs… not as cute.) If you’re looking to see “who is performing?” you’ll be pleased to learn that two of the top-searched artists at Coachella are Beyonce and Cardi B (but Cardi was searched 3,200 percent more than Bey this week).


For those who have to wait a few years to bask in the sweet sun of the Coachella Valley, the fluorescent light of a high school gym will have to suffice. That’s because it’s prom season, and the kids are wondering “is prom worth it?” and searching for creative promposals (prom + proposal) like “Fornite promposal” and “The Office promposal.” It’s not prom without a corsage and boutonniere (but who can spell that?). Amidst the prom-mania, “How to spell boutonniere” was a trending question this week.  


If you thought your prom was cheesy, it’s got nothing on the next trend. On Thursday, sandwich enthusiasts celebrated National Grilled Cheese Day, and they took to Google to learn new ways to make the delicious treat—searches for grilled cheese were up 300 percent. Trending types of grilled cheese were “Taco grilled cheese,” “Keto grilled cheese” and “garlic bread grilled cheese.”


Spring comes, snow melts, and people search for pollen. Is that the saying? Whatever. The next trend is pollen. Probably because there’s a lot of it in the air. People were more interested in “pollen allergy” than “food allergy” this week, and a top trending question was “how does pollen cause allergies?” 🤷


Illinois Senator Tammy Duckworth welcomed her second child into the world this week, making her the first U.S. Senator to give birth while in office. The announcement of her new baby had some people searching ”How old is Tammy Duckworth?” and brought up questions about maternity leave—“how long is maternity leave?” and “when to take maternity leave?” were trending questions this week.


Source: Search


Search makes it easier to plan movie night

Going to the movies this weekend? We’re now making it easier for you to make plans while you’re on the go. 

When deciding what movie to watch, you usually consider the movie itself along with the showtimes and theater options. With our latest update rolling out today, you can quickly compare movies by the factors you care most about—ratings, showtimes, theater location and more—all from the same view. And just as before, you can easily buy your tickets in advance; just click on a showtime to purchase a ticket.

MovieTimes_Shortened.gif

If you have a favorite theater, you can check out what’s playing by location, and narrow your search with filters:

MovieTimes.png

To try this out, search for “showtimes,” “movies” or movie times in your city such as “Mountain View showtimes.” This feature is available on Google Search in mobile browsers and in the Google app for Android, in the U.S. and India in Hindi and English. It will come to the Google app for iOS soon.


So what movie is it going to be?

Source: Search


Making it easier to find and share GIFs with Google

When we started Google Images, we focused on making it easy to find photos and images from across the web. But as the web evolved and mobile devices changed the way people search, the way people use Google Images has changed too. Most people now use Google Images to find more information about a topic, and to help them communicate and express themselves—case in point, we see millions of searches for GIFs every day. We’ve continued to evolve Google Images to meet both of these needs, and today we’re bringing GIFs more closely into the fold by acquiring Tenor, a GIF platform for Android, iOS and desktop.

With their deep library of content, Tenor surfaces the right GIFs in the moment so you can find the one that matches your mood. Tenor will help us do this more effectively in Google Images as well as other products that use GIFs, like Gboard.

Tenor will continue to operate as a separate brand, and we're looking forward to investing in their technology and relationships with content and API partners. So whether you’re using the Tenor keyboard or one of our other products, you can expect to see much more of this in your future:

Tenor

GIF on!

Source: Search


Making it easier to find and share GIFs with Google

When we started Google Images, we focused on making it easy to find photos and images from across the web. But as the web evolved and mobile devices changed the way people search, the way people use Google Images has changed too. Most people now use Google Images to find more information about a topic, and to help them communicate and express themselves—case in point, we see millions of searches for GIFs every day. We’ve continued to evolve Google Images to meet both of these needs, and today we’re bringing GIFs more closely into the fold by acquiring Tenor, a GIF platform for Android, iOS and desktop.

With their deep library of content, Tenor surfaces the right GIFs in the moment so you can find the one that matches your mood. Tenor will help us do this more effectively in Google Images as well as other products that use GIFs, like Gboard.

Tenor will continue to operate as a separate brand, and we're looking forward to investing in their technology and relationships with content and API partners. So whether you’re using the Tenor keyboard or one of our other products, you can expect to see much more of this in your future:

Tenor

GIF on!

Source: Search


The High Five: Springing for search trends

Springtime means new beginnings, and that seems to be the case for Ringo Starr and Cynthia Nixon who made their foray into knighthood and state politics this week. But they’re not the only ones who captured people’s attention in Search this week. Here’s a look at the top trends, thanks to data from Google News Lab.


Finding answers in Austin

The question on many people’s minds—“who was the Austin bomber?”—was answered early Wednesday morning when law enforcement identified Mark Conditt as the man behind the string of exploding  packages. San Antonio, Waco-Temple-Bryan, Victoria and San Angelo were among the top metros looking for more information on the Austin bomber.


It’s finally spring...kinda

“Is today the first day of spring?” was the top trending question across the east coast this week as residents braced for a not-so-warm welcome to the new season. Storm Toby brought a wintery mix of snow, sleet and gusty winds on Wednesday and had people in DC, Maryland, New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts searching for information on flight cancellations. Spring officially sprung on Tuesday, in case you didn’t know!


Starry Knight

“Don’t pass me by”—Sir Richard “Ringo Starr” Starkey is the latest member of the Beatles to be knighted. Prince William performed the ceremony on Tuesday, 21 years after the other surviving Beatle, Paul McCartney, was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II. Despite search interest in “Ringo Starr” spiking 400+ percent higher than “Paul McCartney,” John Lennon was the most searched band member of the week. It’s a battle of the Beatles!


Politics in the City

Miranda Hobbes fans unite: Cynthia Nixon is running for Governor of New York. Best known for her role in the hit HBO series “Sex in the City,” Nixon is taking her talents off screen and into the ballot box. She’ll challenge current New York Governor Andrew Cuomo for the seat—and is already off to the races, with search interest in “Cynthia Nixon” spiking over 1,300 percent of “Andrew Cuomo” on Monday. Guess Carrie Bradshaw isn’t the only leading lady in town!


The boy with the phoenix tattoo

Elephants, flowers, lions and butterflies were among the most searched tattoo designs this week, but it’s Ben Affleck’s colorful ink that has everyone talking. The actor was caught showing off his back tattoo while on a beach in Hawaii. Fans and tattoo artists alike have their opinions about the massive phoenix rising from the ashes, so much so that search interest “Ben Affleck tattoo” was more than 1,200 percent higher than interest in “Ben Affleck movie.” But the top trending question remains, “is Ben Affleck’s tattoo real?” Dun, dun, dun.

The Google News Initiative: Building a stronger future for news

People come to Google looking for information they can trust, and that information often comes from the reporting of journalists and news organizations around the world. And while the demand for quality journalism is as high as it’s ever been, the business of journalism is under pressure, as publications around the world face challenges from an industry-wide transition to digital.

That matters deeply to Google. After all, our mission to build a more informed world is inherently tied to the reporting of journalists and news organizations. Our shared mission also reflects shared business interests. Platforms like Search and YouTube depend on a healthy ecosystem of publishers producing great digital content. That’s why it’s so important to us that we help you drive sustainable revenue and businesses. Last year, we paid $12.6 billion to partners and we drove 10 billion clicks a month to publishers’ websites for free. 

It’s also why over the years, we’ve worked closely with the news industry to address key challenges. We worked with the industry to launch the open-source Accelerated Mobile Pages Project to improve the mobile web, YouTube Player for Publishers to simplify video distribution and reduce costs, Flexible Sampling to help with discovery of news content on Google, Google News Lab to provide newsrooms with trainings and editorial partnerships, and the Digital News Initiative to drive innovation in the European news industry.

We invested a lot time and energy in these collaborations. But the hard truth is—all of this might not be enough. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish what’s true (and not true) online. Business models for journalism continue to change drastically. The rapid evolution of technology is challenging all institutions, including the news industry—to keep pace. 

We need to do more. That’s why we’re launching the Google News Initiative (GNI), our effort to help journalism thrive in the digital age. The GNI signifies a major milestone in Google’s 15-year commitment to the news industry, and will bring together everything we do in collaboration with the industry—across products, partnerships, and programs—to help build a stronger future for news.

The GNI will build on these efforts and deepen our commitment to a news industry facing dramatic shifts in how journalism is created, consumed, and paid for. It’s focused on three objectives: 

  • Elevate and strengthen quality journalism  
  • Evolve business models to drive sustainable growth
  • Empower news organizations through technological innovation

Elevate and strengthen quality journalism

Over the past few years, we’ve worked with publishers to elevate accurate, quality content and stem the flow of misinformation and disinformation.

On our own platforms, we’re focused on combating misinformation during breaking news situations.  Bad actors often target breaking news on Google platforms, increasing the likelihood that people are exposed to inaccurate content. So we’ve trained our systems to recognize these events and adjust our signals toward more authoritative content. There are comparable challenges on YouTube, and we’re taking a similar approach, highlighting relevant content from verified news sources in a “Top News” shelf.

But we’re also working directly with news organizations to combat misinformation. We’re launching the Disinfo Lab alongside the First Draft to combat mis- and disinformation during elections and breaking news moments. Finally, to help consumers distinguish fact from fiction online,  we’re teaming up with the Poynter Institute, Stanford University, and the Local Media Association to launch MediaWise, a U.S. project designed to improve digital information literacy for young consumers.

gni
Disinfo Lab continues our work with First Draft, which includes last year’s CrossCheck FR. This is a photo from a verification training in the runup to the French elections last year.

Evolve business models to drive sustainable growth

Over the last decade, we’ve worked closely with news organizations to grow their digital advertising revenue. In just the past few years, we’ve applied our advanced machine learning expertise to automatically surface key insights about revenue opportunities (generating recommendations worth over $300 million in additional revenue) and supported the creation of faster, better ad experiences for the mobile web through AMP and native ads.

But consumers are willing to pay for digital news content, creating an opportunity to expand beyond ad revenue. Today we’re delivering on avision outlined last year to enable publishers to diversify their revenue streams. We’re excited to launch Subscribe with Google, a way for people to easily subscribe to various news outlets, helping publishers engage readers across Google and the web. Our goal with Subscribe with Google is to ease the subscription process to get more readers consuming publishers’ journalism, as quickly as possible.   

In October, at our Partner Leadership Summit, we told publishers about how we’re experimenting with ways to grow their subscriptions using Google data, machine learning, and DoubleClick infrastructure. We’re now in the early stages of testing a “Propensity to Subscribe” signal based on machine learning models in DoubleClick to make it easier for publishers to recognize potential subscribers, and to present them the right offer at the right time.

Of course, not every publication has the resources to dedicate a team to collect, analyze and understand their user data. News Consumer Insights, our new dashboard built on top of Google Analytics, will help news organizations of all sizes understand and segment their audiences with a subscriptions strategy in mind. At the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, this project led to a 150 percent increase in pageviews to their Subscribe pages and a month-over-month tripling of new digital subscription purchases.

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We work with news organizations around the world to develop and deploy technology that improves newsroom efficiency, creates enriching storytelling experiences, and protects journalists from cyber attacks around the world.  

For example, we’re using our natural language processing API to help Hearst Newspapers sort, label and categorize more than 3,000 articles every day. We’ve also workedwith the South China Morning Post to use Google Earth Studio to create immersive VR experiences that show the evolution of Hong Kong throughout history. With AMP Stories, which is now in beta, publishers can combine the speed of AMP with the rich, immersive storytelling of the open web. This is just the beginning. We want to continue working closely with publishers to experiment on new ways they can reach audiences and produce impactful storytelling.

Finally, we’re also launching today Outline, an open-source tool from Jigsaw that lets news organizations provide journalists more secure access to the internet. Outline makes it easy for news organizations to set up their own VPN on a private server—no tech savvy required.

Our commitment

Over the next three years, we’re committing $300 million toward meeting these goals. We’re also deepening our commitment to building products that address the news industry’s most urgent needs. In the past, we’ve done this by working closely alongside the industry in product working groups, resulting in projects like AMP and the DNI. We’ll be expanding that model globally.

The commitments we’re making through the Google News Initiative demonstrate that news and quality journalism is a top priority for Google. We know that success can only be achieved by working together, and we look forward to collaborating with the news industry to build a stronger future for journalism.

Source: Search


The High Five: “A Brief History” of this week’s searches

Sifting through the week’s news can feel like sinking into a black hole. Luckily, we have some standout trends this week, gathered with data from Google News Lab. They start with a tribute to legendary physicist and black hole escape artist Stephen Hawking, who passed away Wednesday at age 76.

“Look up”
Stephen Hawking’s intelligence was a cut above the rest, in life and in Search: interest in “Stephen Hawking IQ” was 170 percent higher than “Stephen Hawking quote” over the past week. But of his many memorable quotes, here’s the most searched: “Look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Be curious. And however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at.”

Turbulent times
“What happened on United Airlines?” was a trending question this week. The company faced scrutiny after a French bulldog—the second most searched dog breed this week—suffocated in an overhead compartment and a pet German Shepherd was accidentally shipped to Japan. For those searching for canine breeds this week, Rhodesian Ridgebacks were top dog.

A cue from teens
Search interest in “walkout” has reached an all-time high in the U.S. this month. On Wednesday, students around the country participated in a walkout to call on elected officials to take action on gun laws—the top cities searching for “walkout” were Charlottesville, VA, Fort Smith, AR, and Madison, WI.

It’s bracket season 
March Madness is in full swing, especially for North Carolina, Duke and Kentucky fans, whose teams have been the most searched in the past week. The top-searched celebrity brackets are from basketball commentator Jay Bilas, former President Barack Obama, and Warren Buffett. And the winner is anyone’s guess: Michigan State, favored by both Bilas and Obama, wasn’t among the top 10 teams being searched this week.

Go green
Saturday marks St. Patrick’s Day and, in true spirit, corned beef and cabbage is the top trending St. Patrick’s Day recipe this week, followed by … jello shots 🤔. If you’re feeling lucky, you might be among those searching for lucky horseshoes, lucky cats and lucky clovers (the top searched “lucky” items in the past week). And although New York has the biggest parade and Boston the biggest reputation, the top states searching for the holiday are Connecticut, Kansas, and Delaware. Illinois, where Chicagoans annually dye their river green, comes in at number four.

Get more useful information with captions on Google Images

People around the world use Google Images to find visual information online. Whether you’re searching for ideas for your next baking project, how to tie shoelaces so they stay put, or tips on the proper form for doing a plank, scanning image results can be much more helpful than scanning text. Today, we’re sharing more about new changes to Google Images to provide even better visual discovery with more context on the image results page.

By adding more context around images, results can become much more useful. Last year we started showing badges (like “recipe” or “product”) on certain results to aid in the discovery process. Since then, we’ve also added the website’s domain URL for each result to show you where the image is coming from.

This week we’re adding captions to image results, showing you the title of the web page where each image is published. This extra piece of information gives you  more context so you can easily find out what the image is about and whether the website would contain more relevant content for your needs. Here’s how it looks:

Text images

In this example, the image results give you visual confirmation that you found the right fruit, but captions make results instantly more useful with additional context. For instance, you can learn that this fruit is called carambola or starfruit, and that it’s popular in China. This also helps you choose the result page to click and explore further.

This update underscores our ongoing goal to make Google Images an ever more useful tool to discover and explore more information from the web. Image captions are starting to roll out globally this week on the Google app (Android and iOS) and on mobile browsers.

Source: Search