A game of pinpoint search engine prediction by Kevan Davis and Ben Wray.


Shortfall is a search engine game where players attempt to find a given URL through a search engine, so that their search returns it in the top ten but not at number one.

It's about trying to capture the essence of a Web page without nailing it precisely, and of seeing what else turns up. It's about the appreciation of the holistic Internet, the contemplation of its overlap and ridiculing your friends.


For this hobby, you will need:-

Game Structure

A player names a specific URL, of a site which the players are all pretty much equally familiar or unfamiliar with. They can also choose whether people have to find that precise URL, or just any subpage of that URL. (If you're playing for subpages, indented #2 results don't count.)

Everyone then has a single attempt to find that exact URL through a search engine, with a query of their choice. The aim is to get the URL in the top ten results, but not the first result.

(Searches are made "simultaneously" - you aren't allowed to see what the other players did before you make your query. If you're playing online through a MUSH or a messenger, just make your query before reading the other people's responses.)

If nobody hit the target page, everyone has another go. Keep going until someone gets it, or until it starts looking impossible (either because the URL is always top, or because it's not in the search engine at all).

Someone else then nominates a URL for the next round.

Repeat until bored.


The game is aesthetic and entertaining enough to play for its own sake, but if you really want to keep score, players can be awarded a point for every successful hit, and a bonus point if that hit was the second result.

Either play to a time limit, or the first to X pre-agreed points.

Example Round

Ben chooses the URL of, both players being familiar with it, and opts for a precise URL hit.

Kevan tries the search term "nomic links" and gets at #4.

Ben tries the search term "game self-amendment", but does not feature in the first ten results.

Kevan gets a point, Ben doesn't.

Further Reading

 Typing two words into a Google search, such that only one result is returned.

Search Engine Games
 Eight search engine games from a long, long time ago, including an Alta Vistan precursor of Googlewhacking.