Watch your p’s and q’s

By | March 23, 2009

Go to google and search for “foo bar”

You get some variety of this:
Notice the q= part. It is describing the term you searched for.

Now go to and do the exact same thing.

Notice the p= part.  It’s p not q.

Why is Yahoo using “p” when Google is using “q”?  What is the point?  Why do they have to be different?

So now, as a web developer, I need write a bunch of ridiculous script to figure out who uses what and normalize it.  Isn’t there a universal search engine police that can make a law?

It amazes me how something as simple as a letter can change how much work tens of thousands of people have do.

4 thoughts on “Watch your p’s and q’s

  1. Craig V

    So strange. Isn’t q the standard? After all, it’s the q in “search query”! What is p supposed to represent? Parameters? Of course, in the end it probably doesn’t make much difference since nobody uses Yahoo search any more. 😉

  2. Dan

    Yahoo works if you chance the p to a q. I guess that is nice that it works either way. Anyway, maybe if you just stick with q all the time it will be ok.

  3. Glen Lipka Post author

    The referrer is the URL of the page before you get to my site. It makes no difference if p or q works if you type it in, it’s what is default. As a web developer, I have to write script to parse both. Totally annoying, and just because their default is not standard.

    Craig, it is true hardly anyone uses Yahoo, but it still represents 2-5% of traffic. Kind of a large slice to ignore.

  4. Josh L

    lulz. I was writing a search engine referrer-checking script and came across this post after noticing the same thing. Maybe Yahoo did this as sort of a joke on the “mind your p’s and q’s” saying.


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