Friday, 30 March 2012

Bring back Google Wonder Wheel!

In mid-2009, Google introduced a very clever tool, called Google Wonder Wheel.

You would enter a short search item, click search in the normal way, then click on the "show more options" link at the top of the search results page. Then on the left-hand options pane, click "Google Wonder Wheel".
The results show more or less as a one tiered mind-map springing from your central search item. If you hover your mouse over any of the sub-items, that item will expand out into its own series of sub-items.

The user gets a mind-mapped representation of how the ideas link together. See the example below where the user has started with "Green energy lamp" then has moved focus to "solar energy lamps" and now has a new range of concepts to view (, n.d.a):

(, n.d.a)

From a research point of view, the Wonder Wheel was a fast way of concept mapping a topic, and it was hoped that over time, the complexity and depth of search-related ideas would increase, shortcutting research times and increasing accuracy.

This was a fantastic tool, but surprisingly in June 2011, users noticed that the Wonder Wheel option was no longer available on the Google site.

Wonder Wheel's disappearance was a total surprise to users; from one day to the next, with no explanation or notification, it vanished. Sites who followed Google Wonder Wheel were finally told after many enquiries that the tool was removed in the ”initial stage” of Google website redesign happening at the time, but did not say if or when it might be reinstalled. Gary Price (15 Aug 2011) mentioned on his site that a Google employee had posted just a few days after the disappearance that the Wonder Wheel was a maintenance ”headache”.One of the Google group blog posts following the loss of the Wonder Wheel posted "The AdWords Contextual Targeting Tool can stand in as a temporary replacement" (Eisemann, 22 July 2011). I have since heard that Google's Wonder Wheel meant that users needed not pay for Google AdWords, as they could self-determine their key terms with a simple Google Wonder Wheel search.

There are a couple of alternatives, but not in Wonder Wheel's relational graphical format (eg in lists, and sort of timeline - which almost deserves a moan about the loss of Google Timeline, but I will save that!).

Wonder Wheel users world-wide have bewailed the loss of this wonderful little tool, but the Googleplex has remained uncharacteristically silent in the nine months since this natty little tool was taken down.

If AdWord protectionism was the reason for Wonder Wheel's demise, it seems like a very filthy-lucre style of business for Google, and quite out of place with their "Focus on the user and all else will follow" values.

I still miss it. Please, Google, bring back Wonder Wheel!

  • Eisemann, Henry (22 July 2011). Where did Google Wonder Wheel Disappear too? Retrieved 27 February 2012 at!topic/websearch/EdKEdEy9iq0
  • (n.d.a). Google Wonder Wheel – Step by Step. Retrieved 24 February 2012 from (n.d.b). Google wonder wheel video. Retrieved 24 February 2012 from
  • Price, Gary (15 Aug 2011). The Real Reason Google Wonder Wheel Died: It Was A Pain To Maintain. Retrieved 24 February 2012 from 


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