Load time, server hiccup, or conspiracy?

So I had a stray thought about a story – yes, I still occasionally at least think about writing fiction – and thought it sounded similar to a plot point from a book I read umpteen years ago called Anarchaos. Since I was on the computer already, I opened a new browser tab, searched for “anarchaos” and…

No results.

What the hell?

I didn’t imagine this book. I used to own it in paperback. And (probably unrelated) “Anarchaos” was supposedly Jeremy Hammond’s hacker handle. I should have been able to see something.

Then I noticed that “Safe Serach” was turned on. (Startpage saves user settings as a browser cookie; maybe the cookie expired.) I toggled that off, and:

That’s better. But I was still wondering why that happened, because the only way I can normally see a “no results” page from a web search is to make up words, and even then the search engine will try to autocorrect or translate whatever nonsense I typed, like this:

And turning Safe Search back on didn’t hide the results again, so no, no one mistook Anarchaos for “explicit” content.

My first thought was that maybe Google (which Startpage piggybacks on) was suppressing search results for Jeremy Hammond or anarchy in general… except I have an interest in anarchist theory and tech news, and I’ve never seen this before. So no.

Or maybe Google needed a moment to cache the data… but I’ve never gotten a “no results” page from that, either. Anarchaos may be relatively obscure, but Donald Westlake isn’t, and neither is Jeremy Hammond; the likelihood that neither of them has been searched for recently is somewhere between slim and zero, and it’s only “slim” if you define “recently” as a few minutes or less. And if part of the search-results database needed a moment to load, then the results page on my end would probably have just taken that extra moment to display, anyway.

Having tentatively ruled both of those out as impossible, I’m left to guess that maybe a server hiccuped and lost my query or something, and then the response to a null search query would of course be nothing. No manipulative or hostile intent, little to no chance of recurring inconvenience, no big deal.

…but I kind of hate that, as a user of today’s internet, I felt the need to consider the alternatives. And I also hate that I didn’t screenshot the initial “no results” page; that’s a reflex I may have to work on.

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