back to article Google drops nuke on 'objective' search engine utopia

Google's utopian vision of a uniquely democratic and completely objective web search engine is dead. It died about three years ago. While no one was looking, Google killed it. Google now freely admits that its search algorithms are driven by its own "opinion." Earlier this month, when the company rejigged its algorithms in …


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  1. thecakeis(not)alie

    The first amendment

    I think the single most important freedom of expression is that which allows individuals to make choices about what information they wish to receive and what information they don't.

    Like drouping doubleclick, admob, etc. on the floor right at the router. But that’s just my opinion…

  2. blackworx


    If you were able to go back in time to, say 1998, and ask Sergei/Larry the same question (i.e. whether its search results constitute its opinions) I wonder what the answer would have been.

  3. BristolBachelor Gold badge

    Google's opinion

    is that I want all these search results, even if they don't contain my search terms.

    Sorry Google, but your search sucks.

  4. Da Weezil


    Does anyone give Google search results any credibility now? I have long since given up on Google as an authoritative or accurate search engine.

    Google and the twatfacespace genre are turning the net into an x-factor style hall of mirrors.... Distorted realities with rigged results

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Why does every Google article

      ...bring out the mouth breathing Google trolls?

      "[ZOMG Google downranks SPAM in its search results - ANTITRUST - BAN THE GOOGLEZ!!!!!!1111]"

      "[What... Bing and Yahoo and every other Search engine on the face of the Planet tweaks their rank algorithms to try and put the highest quality results up top? Well, they're not Google so that's OK]"

      All this trolling is just a bunch of people who hate Google for whatever reason (typically concerns about privacy, or copyright infringement, or they Google kicked their dog, etc) and want them to go out of business.

      The logical result of an anti-Trust ruling against Google that prevents them from tweaking their code to "improve" their search results would be crippling Google search and/or putting them out of business.

      I assume if you succeed you'll hold Bing to the same standards once they become the market leader right?

  5. petur


    So, why are you still using Google Search?

    If you use Google, that means that their search engine delivers on your expectations or the alternatives are worse. It's Google's engine, they can do with it what you want. You, as a user, have the choice where to do your search. Now grow up.

    1. Alex 14


      Maybe he isn't using Google for searches. Or maybe he is using it because the alternatives are worse. Still, if the alternatives are worse, it doesn't automatically make Google's search results any good, just the least bad. People are entitled to point out that the least bad option is bad...

      Myself? I think Google's results are alright.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    This strikes me as being quite a slippery slope for Google.

    If their search results reflects their opinion, then shouldn't they be held accountable (or even liable) for whatever is returned by the engine? i.e. Pr0n, warez, etc

    Try typing the name of the latest game in google these days and the first links to turn up will all be from rapidshare type sites, even before the official legit developer or publisher site.

    PS: Go

    1. Steven Knox

      opinions versus recommendations versus interests

      The search results represent their opinion as to what is _relevant_ to the terms you asked for.

      This does not make them in any way a recommendation or endorsement of any sites.

      This, too, is where the antitrust arguments (those related to the usage of the term "opinion", anyway) fall flat -- they're conflating opinions with interests, specifically the opinions generated by a search engine with the business interests of its creators.

      There is no certainty that those three terms coincide. For example, many people of our culture are of the opinion that we should not be using fossil fuels. Yet their interests lie in areas that lead them to use said fuels directly and indirectly on a regular basis. And some of them, still holding to that core opinion, actually recommend that we continue to use fossil fuels for the time being, because of other considerations.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Now that there is no significant competition with Google (I've tried searching with other engines and, as much as I hate to report, Google's gets the results I want in the first or second pages) they can now drop the pretence of do no evil.

    Actual time to search is perfectly acceptable on all engines, I don't mind the time taken to get the results too much. What I mind is getting the results I want on the first or second pages ... and at this, no one can touch Google.

    1. Code Monkey

      Sad but true

      Google search is going the way of all the old search engines it trounced in its early days. Their hubris generally expressed itself as portalitis, where the race to add features meant that search was generally neglected. Google's hubris manifests as Chrome OS and an appalling lack of respect for its users (and especially its ad customers).

      I honestly can't see who would take the crown from here. A web search startup would struggle to get funding ("who are your competitors" "Google" "ah, right - bye then") so maybe we're looking for a rejuvenated Infoseek or something. Hell, even MS are on the ropes enough to get the odd sympathy search from me.

    2. MrCheese

      Missing the point

      You're leaping past it in fact. You may get relevant results for your search in the first couple of pages and in a timely fashion but the point here is that they may not form the complete picture, merely Google's interpretation of what you want, possibly omitting opinions it disagrees with or products or services it competes with.

      So in actual fact, you're results may not be as accurate as first thought

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        All I know is...

        ...that if I throw a search term at most search engines, some minutes later I still haven't found what I wanted.

        Then I give up, put the same search term in google and within a few minuites, I'm at a web site that satisfies what I'm looking for.

        That's how I rate the accuracy from my own point of view.

  8. Ben M

    Opinion v Assumption

    Google would've been safer if they'd called them "assumptions". That is, they "assume" certain things about websites and their relative importance.

    Of course, it's ridiculous to assume that the search results are going to be totally / strictly / technically objective. Some oompa loompa still has to create the algorithm... until our AI overlords arrive, that is.

    But by calling them "opinions", I think Google is going to have trouble in the EU.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Everyone (including the author) missing the point?

      If the algorithms are applied to all sites (no whitelists, no blacklists - and I am not talking about the Google Maps/Finance blobs up top which is a separate issue) could Google not be considered to be objective and subjective at the same time?

      The question, as I understand it, should probably be "does Google discriminate against specific sites businesses" - not if Google tweaks its code to try and get users what they're looking for quickly.

      Am I wrong?

  9. Doug Glass

    So? What's Your Point?

    They lied. What part of "Do no evil" is that?

  10. Tom 13

    Old news to some of us in the US.

    But most of you Brits wouldn't have noticed it. Google's bias shows up more when searching for certain news items. The leftist articles show up the right-wing articles don't. You guys tend not to notice because you dismiss the right-wing articles as nazi propaganda and other such drivel and back Google's position by claiming such items aren't really news and don't belong in the rankings.

    1. ratfox

      Yes but...

      Do you get better results with other search engines? Or is it simply that right-wing articles are never linked to?

  11. Anonymous Coward

    google needs time off.

    I think google should put in a random redirector that takes users to bing/yahoo/etc. for a week.. Put up a page that says: in order to save on electricity costs, we're not answering search queries for 7 days. Good luck.

    What percent of their audience do you think they'd keep after a week of foisting everyone off on Bing/Yahoo/etc.??? I think they'd get most if not all of them back. And I think everyone else's servers would be strained/dead before the end of the week (or perhaps first hour). Except perhaps for akamia and other CDN's who would probably buy google the state of California for the extra business. (they could probably get CA cheap).

  12. ElReg!comments!Pierre

    Both obvious and normal

    Why so shocked? Of course the "ranking" of the results spewed out by a search engine is a matter of opinion. That's obvious. The way the algorithm work will necessarily create a bias, even if involuntarily. The only way to have a truly random list of results would be to randomize them after the search is done, before the list is displayed. That would be a waste of resource if you ask me.

    And given that the hoard of lazy morons who constitute the bulk of Internet users tend to rank search engines by the ability to display the precise page they are looking for at the top spot, even though their query was a masterpiece of vagueness and defective spelling, the search providers have little choice but to second-guess the lusers and skew the results towards what the luser wants not what he actually asked for (these are rarely the same). Of course Google can't officially say "Our users are morons", that would be a foot-meets-bullet case, so they say "we are trying to be accurate" instead.

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