The email that started the AOL search data firestorm

It all started when Abdur Chowdhury (AOL Chief Architect for Research) posted the following message to the Corpora mailing list:

(Update: three people were fired for their roles in the AOL data debacle, see here and here.)

AOL is embarking on a new direction for its business – making its
content and products freely available to all consumers. To support
those goals, AOL is also embracing the vision of an open research
community, which is creating opportunities for researchers in academia
and industry alike.

We are introducing AOL Research to everyone, with the goal of
facilitating closer collaboration between AOL and anyone with a desire
to work on interesting problems. To get started, we invite you to
visit us at, where you will find:

– 20,000 hand labeled, classified queries
– 3.5 million web question/answer queries (who, what, where, when, etc.)
– Query streams for 500,000 users over 3 months (20 million queries)
– Query arrival rates for queuing analysis
– 2 million queries against US Government domains

Also, please feel free to provide feedback on the site, datasets you’d
like to see in the future, and any other comments about our vision.


Abdur Chowdhury

It was simply an introduction of AOL’s research lab to the academic community. Soon, the blogoshere took notice and the rest is history:-)

The AOL research site is offline now but mirrored copies of the database are all over the net. You can also search it online at

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