back to article Google gins search formula to favor its own services

A noted Google-watcher has assembled a convincing argument that the site's search results highly favor Google-owned services, despite repeated company claims that they are algorithmically generated and never manipulated. Harvard professor Ben Edelman and colleague Benjamin Lockwood found that Google's algorithm links to Gmail, …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. ratfox


    It actually seems perfectly natural to me...

    And indeed, it is the way I would like it to work. If I look up an address in the Google search box, it is most likely because I actually want to look it up on Gmaps, but I am too lazy to get to the Gmaps page.

    1. Graham Marsden

      @it is the way I would like it to work

      Unless, of course, you're running a company that is in competition with any of Google's services.

      If you want to look up something on MapQuest instead, but are given a Google Map at the top of your page, which are you going to use?

      Naturally the immediate response is "why should Google not promote their own products over others" but the obvious reply is "Fine, if they *admit* that they're doing it, instead of claiming that it's all fair and above board and there's no preferential tinkering going on behind the scenes!"

      1. Tigra 07

        RE: Graham

        "Unless, of course, you're running a company that is in competition with any of Google's services."

        You mean like Apple or Microsoft?

        Both of whom do favour their own services more than others aswell.

        They all favour their own services as Microsoft does with Internet Explorer and Hotmail and Apple does with Safari.

        1. sabroni Silver badge

          like microsoft...

          ...who were fined by the EU for behaving in an anti-competitive manner and forced to add a browser choice screen.

          So are you're agreeing that what google are doing is wrong? Or do you think Microsoft should've been allowed to promote IE over other browsers?

        2. Graham Marsden

          @Tigra 07

          I find it ironic that you call "fail" on my post when you *failed* to read the end of my post where I said:

          'the obvious reply is "Fine, if they *admit* that they're doing it, instead of claiming that it's all fair and above board and there's no preferential tinkering going on behind the scenes!"'

      2. vic 4

        Not wanting to defend them but

        If I search map <place i live> the first link is a google map for the place I live. If i search for mapquest map <place i live> I get a whole bunch of other links way before the link to google maps.

        I don't see why google should have to provide a link to each provider of maps unless that was what I searched for, In my case I want to get a map of a specific place, would you want to maintain how to create a map link for each provider to produce a map for a particular place? Fair enough if they come across relevant link in web page somewhere, but why should they bother

      3. Chris Hunt


        "If you want to look something up on MapQuest instead", why not *search* for Mapquest? You'll get a slew of links to them and no Google Maps to be seen.

        If you go onto Google and enter a search for "Maps", it's surely not all that unreasonable for them to assume that you're looking for Google Maps? MapQuest is hit number 4 if that's what you were actually looking for - not too much of a hardship to move your mouse an extra inch down the screen is it?

      4. paulc


        If you want something on mapquest, then you should be putting mapquest into your search string... Google aren't telepathic when it comes to determining what site you want the result from...

        if you add mapquest to your search string, then the mapquest item is the first returned result... along with loads of others on mapquest...

        Basic Set Theory, which should be explained to all numbskulls when they can't find what they want in a search engine...

        search gloucester in Google, get about 19,100,000 results with the google maps for gloucester shown first in the header result

        search gloucester mapquest in google without quotes gives about 32,900 results with a mapquest link for gloucester massachussets first

        search gloucester mapquest uk in google gives me about 45,200 results with a mapquest uk link first

        1. Graham Marsden


          "Basic Set Theory, which should be explained to all numbskulls when they can't find what they want in a search engine..."

          How about Basic Fair Competition? Why do you think Microsoft got into trouble for pushing IE at the public and now has to provide links to other browsers as well?

          Why should Google not be obliged to give equal prominence to other map providers?

          Why not just have a link at the top of the page to "Maps of Gloucester" which takes you to a page where there are links to GoogleMaps, Mapquest et al available giving the user a *choice* of which one they pick instead of having GoogleMaps pushed down their throats?

          Google claims to be a "search engine" not "an engine for pushing Google's own services". If it is the latter, at least they should be honest about it.

  2. daftveggie


    "Bing showed remarkable restraint in shilling its own services"

    erm, I think Bing is just incapable of returning useful results. You can type the name of a site without the www in the front and it won't return it as a result.

    1. TeeCee Gold badge

      Re: bing

      Yup, made me laugh. The fact that bing made no mention of Hotmail in searches for "mail" when it's (allegedly) actually the most popular service proves two things:

      a) bing is not gamed and b) it's shit.

      1. ratfox
        Paris Hilton

        Not linking to hotmail

        That is perfectly understandable.

        If I was them, I would be embarrassed about owning Hotmail, and trying to hide it.

        PH, because she has nothing to hide!

  3. The BigYin
    Thumb Down

    Google promotes Goole?


    MS says that F/OSS systems cost more than MS ones?


    Yahoo ranks Yahoo higher?

    Oh woes!

    Business analyst discovers water is wet?


    Is it really any surprise that Google promote their own wares? I mean, is it? All companies do this, it should come as no surprise to anyone. Maybe Google will claim that their sites are in some way "better" and so deserve higher ranks. "Better" meaning "easing for our algorithms to deal with".

    That shouldn't be a stunner either. Their engineers know the algorithms, so it's a simple matter of massaging the site to match the algorithm. It amounts to the same thing, but does allow Google to state that their algorithms (not sites) are not biased.

    Now if you will excuse me, I must investigate ursine religious demographics and arboreal papal defecation.

    1. DZ-Jay

      Re: Google promotes Google?

      >> Maybe Google will claim that their sites are in some way "better" and so deserve higher ranks. "Better" meaning "easing for our algorithms to deal with".

      That would be fine. However, if you read the response from Google, they claim they do nothing. So which is it? Are they purposely promoting themselves over others because they feel entitled, or are they offering absolutely unbiased and neutral "organic" results?

      Empirical data seems to suggest the latter, but Google denies. This is a problem with transparency with regards to their algorithms.


      1. vic 4

        Not necessarily better but easier for them to generate

        When you search for a share price or a map, google is determine the physical thing you are looking for and as their services are well known to then it is trivial to create a link to the info.

        On the other hand how can they practically create a link for every online service that say gives share prices without dumping them at a root page where you have to navigate from or link them to a page they came across in their web crawling which is likely to be potential less accurate as a first search result link.

        Maybe goole could define some api for third parties to implement/register it order to be linked to reliably by google and other search engines?

      2. The Fuzzy Wotnot

        Really?! Well blow me!

        Google says they are not up to anything and people believe them? How stupid are some people?!

        Large corp promotes it's own stuff and denies doing so! Well that's a shocker!

        If you're stupid enough to believe anything Google/Facebook/Twitter ( well any website actually! ) says at face value, you need your bumps checking!

      3. The BigYin


        No, that's not what they said at all.

        "Google never artificially [favours] our own services in our organic web search results, and we perform extensive user testing to ensure that search results are ranked in a way that provides users with the most useful answer."

        That's what they said.

        So, there is not artificial favouring. What about natural favouring? What if the sites are coded in just such a way that the algorithms love them?

        "most useful answers"? As determined by whom? What if Google considers it's own services most useful?

        I am not saying that is what they are doing, but the PR speak is not without the ambiguities.

        Of course, one can't ignore that this appears to be a report from the FUD-masters MS.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Black Helicopters

        They can say they do nothing and yet still game the system...

        Some say that Google now owns 1/3rd of the internet.

        So what happens if they have a set of web servers inside Google that do nothing but serve up links to Google's own sites so that it games the search analytics in to promoting them as the top link. This way when you review the search analytics code, you find nothing. Unless you know that these servers existed, you'd never know how or why Google is on the top of their search engine results.

        Posted Anon for obvious reasons...

      5. Tom 13

        And problems with transparency these days

        tend to lead to problems with anti-trust issues later.

        If Google want their services at the top of the list, fine. Put it in the sponsored links list. They can even add an extra link if they want to preserve their revenue stream. But the search rankings need to be purely the result of unbiased algorithms.

    2. Doug Glass


      The web kiddies don't like your comments either.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Anti-competitive by default

    I suspect it's probably true that the algorithms really do pick the results with google services at the top these days without any assistance but that isn't really the point.

    Even if they they are given the extreme benefit of the doubt that they aren't building their services in the knowledge of what needs to be done to get a top placement by reverse engineering of their own search algorithm they'll still come out on top because they're controlling both sides of the equation.

    Their search engine has been designed in such a way that searching "maps" brings up what the Google Search guys consider to be the most relevant results for people wanting maps. Someone in their services division will have the responsibility of making sure that Google Maps is as relevant as it can be for people wanting maps. So really, the only way that Google Maps shouldn't come out on top here is if there isn't a clear company message about what a 'good' map site looks like and no-one in an influential role over both parts of the business as anything else would be incompetence in one of the divisions.

    If they can't help having a conflict of interests by definition, do antitrust cases get more clear cut than this?

    1. Doug Glass

      So ...

      ... file the suit.

  5. Tommy Pock

    Also, during lunch hour

    Ben Edelman and colleague Benjamin

    Lockwood were searching the overhead menu while standing in line in Burger Dong(tm), and were astonished to find that the country's most popular burger, Mick Ronald's quarter-size Big Mick, was not listed AT ALL.

  6. raving angry loony


    Just because something is "algorithmically generated" doesn't mean it can't favour a particular offering. It could be due to 2 things: the algorithm favours that company, or the company has an in-depth knowledge of the algorithm and can thus do a better job of SEO than anyone else.

    I'd be more shocked if Google DIDN'T favour Google services with the Google search engine.

  7. Robin


    Haven't we been over this before? If I search for a generic term like 'map' then I expect to see Google's map products promoted. They'd be idiots NOT to do that and I'd be an idiot to expect them not to do that. If I searched for a specific, competing map product and Google Maps gets a leg-up to the top then that's a different matter.

    But even if they're not doing this, let's think for a minute. If Google's services weren't at the top, where would they be? Second? Fifth? On page 10? If Google's developers can't write Google's sites so that the Google search engine picks them up efficiently, then something's wrong.

    So either they're deliberately promoting their own products and nobody really cares, or their own products are naturally appearing at or near* the top and nobody cares. These guys sniffing the barrel of the smoking gun apparently do care, so I'll leave it to them to find out.

    * In my quick test, "email" actually sent Hotmail to the top with GMail winning the silver medal in second place. Maybe it's because my 'hl' parameter defaults to Spain? The other searches in this article perform as described.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      I was thinking that too. Seems to be flame bait to me. Every search engine does this, but few have as many fanboys as Google.

  8. Chris 171

    Surprising Results


    If you hold the keys to all the doors, what else can be expected?

  9. ArmanX

    I recently did my own little study on this...

    Having read a similar story elsewhere, I researched this myself. I noted that if you search for something specific, like "map" in Google, Bing, and Yahoo. Guess what? The first search result in each one is their own maps. A search for almost anything else is rewarded with each site giving their own version first place. Something I'd like to point out, though, is that while searching for, say, "CSCO", results in a graph of said stock, only Google gives direct links to other sites. Bing and Yahoo leave other sites to the links in the actual search below.

    Is Google really doing so little evil today that something like this is big news?

    1. Elmer Phud

      Try searching for . . .

      . . . Bears and Popes.

      Same sort of result

  10. Anonymous Coward

    Re: that guy

    "Naturally the immediate response is "why should Google not promote their own products over others"

    Well, why shouldn't Microsoft only allow you to install IE, and then have IE block everything *but* Bing? Or heck, Why shouldn't Comcast block out all competing sites? I mean, it is their network right?

    Better yet, why should your government allow you to know about anything happening in say the middle east. After all you are an American right?

    No? Well screw you then! Should've been born in the land of the free.

  11. heyrick Silver badge


    I think the big issue here is with Google not just saying "yeah, and?". After all, it is their search engine, they ought to be free to promote their own products. Before anybody down votes me for saying this, consider Amazon promoting it's Kindle, perhaps a little too often for my liking, but not only makes no mention of other ebook readers, but is necessarily incompatible with them. There are many more examples, such as you wouldn't expect Asda to promote Tesco products and services, if anything it would be a "look how much cheaper WE are". I can understand that if you're offering a paid service that is being undermined by one of Google's offerings you might be a little unhappy, but that is life, evolve and adapt, don't wave the legal stick. An example of failure to adapt could be the British car industry. The Germans, Japs, French... built better cars. Hell, what nationality is Gene Hunt's baby?

    But the thing that is going to hurt Google is their not just coming straight out with the truth - something of a pattern in recent times...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Yeah, but...

      When Amazon advertise the kindle at me, I can see that it's an advert, it's right there in a separate box saying "buy me!", when Google promote their services it's not obviously an advert.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Dead Vulture

    I liked this story better when it was called

    "Google accused of hard-coding own links in search"

    Reported by The Register on 11/15/2010.

    C'mon Reg.

  13. Anonymous Coward


    Well I'm sure I'm not the first to experiment, but sure enough, a search on Google for "mail" does indeed return Gmail as the first result.

    BUT... try doing a search for "free e-mail". I get two paid ads at the top, one for GMX and one for Microsoft's mail (akla Hotmail). Then the search results return, in order:

    - Hotmail

    - GMX


    - Yahoo

    and several other links... In fact NO GOOGLE/GMAIL AT ALL on the first page of links, including no "paid" ads to Google mail!!! So on the basis of my completely unscientific analysis, I conclude that if the Google algorithms are fixed, they're fixed in a pretty lousy way. But then that wouldn't make much of a story would it....???

    1. Tom 13

      Your own test proves they are screwing with the algorithms.

      First off, living in the US, if I type in the word "mail" the first result I expect to see is for the US Post Office, not GMail, because it is a constitutionally sanctioned government monopoly. Not sure what the post is called in Old Blighty, but I expect their result SHOULD be different and whatever service it is ought to be at the top.

      If I were to type in email, I would expect GMail to be somewhere in the first 10 results. I would similarly expected Hotmail/Live, and Yahoo to be in the top 10. I expect all three services would also be in the top 10 if I were to type in "free email." Why? Because I have free accounts with all three of them.

  14. Steven Knox


    "A noted Google-watcher has assembled a convincing argument that the site's search results highly favor Google-owned services, despite repeated company claims that they are algorithmically generated and never manipulated."

    "Algorithmic" and "unbiased" are not mutually exclusive. They are not even based on the same measurement. "Algorithmic" simply means an internally consistent (generally automated) process is involved. It says absolutely nothing of the validity or impartiality of that process. So far as I can tell, there is no discussion here, because the two sides are talking about completely different things.

    The argument about click-through rates is poorly thought out as well, as that is certainly not the only (possibly not even the first) metric by which potential results should be judged. Furthermore, the click-through rates quoted by the researchers do not reflect the search engines' click-through rates, but those supplied by third parties. Based on the information in the report, the researchers simply assumed that the click-through data was appropriate and relevant to the search engines' algorithms. However, without further evidence, an equally valid conclusion is that the third-party data does not accurately reflect the search engines' internal data -- and given that the third-party data is by definition specific subsets of search engine data, the potential for bias in them is strong.

    In short, search engines are black boxes, the companies that run them intentionally keep them that way, and as long as they remain that way, research like this only reflects guesses that may or may not reflect reality. The guesses may seem intelligent and logical, but without the core search engine data, they are inherently unverifiable.

    1. ttuk
      Thumb Up

      "Algorithmic" and "unbiased" are not mutually exclusive


      The algorithm can include logic that says something along the lines of..

      if domain of site contains "Google" then: increase ranking by 10

      and its still an algorithm..

      The real issue here is that ranking search results is an incredibly grey area and its not clear what the "correct" or optimum result is.

      It's not a problem like sorting, or finding the shortest path where the optimum solution is well defined.

  15. ben edwards

    If you expected otherwise...

    Pimping their own products? Who would have seen THAT coming? I'm surprised Microsoft doesn't do it on the same scale as Yahoo! or Google.

  16. Anonymous Coward

    Are we forgetting something?

    It's a search engine, not an OS, not a piece of physical hardware which would take considerable time to either remove or configure. The competition is a but a click away.

    What's more, Google is not receiving any money to list a website as part of their general results. It's an indexing service - it's free. I don't recall people suing BT because their phone number doesn't appear on page 1 of the phone book. The algorithm is for users to find what they're looking for faster, not for companies to game in order to pick off the least savvy consumers who simply click on the first result.

    The day Google force manufacturers to make their search engine the only search engine on my computers, make me sign some kind of upfront EULA to use their search and prevent my browser from accessing other search engines - then I'll support a competition enquiry. But this is up there with suing McDonalds for getting fat.

    I've started using Blekko for half my search results as Google's gone a bit crap recently. I don't think governments or newspaper tycoons quite get the nature of the web. In a matter of weeks people can switch from using one service to another turning from a popular community to a barren wasteland - destroying both profits and shareholders dreams in the process.

    What's the use of prosecuting a popular website today if it could be gone by tomorrow before the investigation even gets off the ground?

    1. Mark 65


      "What's more, Google is not receiving any money to list a website as part of their general results. It's an indexing service - it's free."

      Err, no. You see they sell ads, and adwords etc in a supposedly fair auction then got and stick their own services at the top of the search. Whilst I would expect to see Googles own services listed somewhere on the search page (maybe to one side?) I don't expect them to cheat/juice the results when they are also charging people for the ability to get higher up the rankings. They are a monopoly in search and by doing this they are abusing that monopoly and even had a VP admit it publicly. Your rant about them not forcing you to do anything is utterly besides the point.

      Are you from the other side of the pond? I only ask because the failure of the Government over there to deal with monopolists and the outright fear and hatred of "regulation" usually yields such "why don't the EU keep their noses out" type posts on such matters. There are those that "get it" but an awful lot that don't. I'm not a great fan of regulation but I appreciate it when it's used to level the playing field between monopolists and their fucked-over, deceived, and abused customers.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @Mark 65

        re: my comment, "general results" - I thought the article was discussing their search algorithms? Not their advertising model - which is a different matter altogether.

        "I don't expect them to cheat/juice the results when they are also charging people for the ability to get higher up the rankings."

        Really? They charge websites to be indexed?

        Who's ranting? Obviously you were so enraged at my comment you were unable to slow down and actually read it correctly.

        1. sabroni Silver badge


          they charge websites to appear at the top of the search results. It's the display bit you pay for not the indexing.

          And you don't really think Google's ad business would be as profitable without piggybacking on their search results, do you?

    2. Doug Glass

      And ...

      ... there's no antitrust violations either.

  17. Allan George Dyer Silver badge

    What a delightfully interpretable phrase:

    "search results are ranked in a way that provides users with the most useful answer"

    here "most useful" means:

    i) to the user, we have scientific analysis to demonstrate relative usefulness.

    ii) to the user, we have confidence in our products, we know are services are the best, so they go at the top.

    iii) to us, whatever benefits the company.

    Take your pick.

    1. Allan George Dyer Silver badge

      I know the difference between "are" and "our"

      but I'm sometimes too lazy to proof-read.

  18. JaitcH

    'three times more often than other search engines'

    So maybe the other three got their algorithms wrong?

    In any event, Google makes no charges for this search function, so I have no problems with any bias - real or imagined.

    If it was a paid service things would be different.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well this is also an algorithm...

    "if query == maps ; then insert google maps somewhere at the top ; fi"

    So yeah... they can with a straight face say that it's algorithmicaly generated.

  20. Gordon Pryra

    mail”, “email”, “maps”, or “video

    No offence to the guy running the "test", but what would you expect to come back when you search for any of these 4 terms?




    If you did NOT find the Google offerings at the top you would be surprised.

    Maybe Microsoft should make a decent alternative and then see how things change.

    (well they may not change, but still Googles apps are far far better so who cares if the results are biased)

    1. Chris Hunt

      Try it

      Search for "email" on Google, the first hit is a link to hotmail. Ditto if you search for "e-mail".

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Shareholder value

    ... will trump honesty every time.

  22. Sir Adam-All

    I don't get it...

    Why shouldn't Google favour its own services ?

    if you don't want to see it, don't use Google.

    I don't see what the issue is. when you shop in Tesco, they don't show adverts for Asda do they.

    CHOICE is the name of the game.

    I love Google. They give me free email, free storage, free maps, free searches etc etc

  23. Stuart 22

    Reg hacks gone teetotal?

    Could I respectfully ask that Reg hacks restrict the term 'gins' to activities around suns & yard-arms?

    I am still recovering from the disappointment of no free (beta) spirit descending from a cloud for the price of ignoring an unwanted ad.

  24. hahnchen

    Bit of a feedback loop

    People goto Google searching for Google services. So even though Google Finance may not be the standard, the most popular or best - Google users go for it.

    And because it looks like people want it more, Google rank it higher. Loop complete.

  25. Chris Hunt


    Like the last time this professor tried to make this story run, it's complete tosh.

    Any set of search results are a subjective assessment of the relative merits of various sites compared to their best guess of what you're searching for. If it doesn't match your personal list, that's hardly a surprise.

    If you don't like the results you get from Google, go elsewhere. It's not like you're paying for their service.

  26. Doug Glass

    So? What's Your Point?

    Ford says theirs is best and amazingly enough if you visit a Ford showroom all you see is Ford automobiles. What a travesty, soon all vendors will showcase only their products and want you to buy only from them. Just damn! Evil Google to be sure. There ought to be a law!! Oh sorry, didn't mean to offend the web kiddies.

    1. Tom 13

      Ford don't claim to sell me the objectively best

      car available. Google do.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hotmail has a bad page title

    There are several results that have mail in the title, then eventually there is Hotmail, with its lovely title of "SignIn"

    If you look at the cached results of the Yahoo and Gmail, it looks like Gmail has better SEO content.

  28. OziWan
    Thumb Down

    I know bashing success is popular in the UK but ...

    If you search for 'videos' it seems logical that YouTube results will dominate (because it is the most popular video streaming site on the net).

    The same can be said for maps and to a lesser extent for gmail.

    These results could quite easily be appearing not because Google is doing aything untoward but simply because they are the market leader in a number of areas.

    In short google returns what we mostly want to see. It is mob rule not google rule.

    (Though this is not always the case, google for Operating System and the first 'named' one you see is OS/2 ;) - was a great OS but hardly the market leader).

    1. Tom 13

      It's not success bashing, and it isn't limited to the UK.

      It's the false advertising I'm objecting to. The claim is that the results are objectively neutral and untouched by bias contaminating human hands. If that's true, even a biased outside attempt to discredit them should fail utterly.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Google has either slyly flipped a switch or this article is bollocks!?

    Well, from my quick test Google is returning exactly what I'd expect as the top result for email, maps, videos etc. At least in terms of what everyone here in the office uses, with Hotmail & Google Maps coming up top, although YouTube was 5th in the list for videos.

    I would have though, with no fowl play at all, Google will still know how best to get a site or services highly ranked on their own search engine!

    Perhaps Google need to artificially de-rank their services to keep people happy, though from my quick test they have either quickly flipped a 'fairplay' switch or this article was a load of bollocks to start with!

  30. dr john

    have you bothered to try testing this claim...

    So I put email as the research into google, yahoo and bing

    from google, hotmail was first, gmail second, yahoo mail third

    from yahoo, yahoo was first, windows liveID second, gmail third

    from bing , windows live third, yahoo was fifth and gmail was down in 8th place


    next I tried maps

    from google, google maps was first, streetmaps second, yahoo maps was third

    from yahoo it was googlemaps first, yahoo came third, multimap fourth and streetmaps fifth.

    from bing it was bing maps first, google maps second, streetmaps 5th and yahoo maps 9th


    So finally I tried video

    Google placed google videos first, youtube third, yahoo videos 9th

    Yahoo had yahoo first, google videos second youtube 7th

    Bing returned bing video first, googlevideo second, yahoo videos 6th and youtube 7th


    So what is google doing that yahoo and bing are not doing???

    So why complain? It looks like google is treating everyone fairly, especially with that email search. Generally it returned the ones I'd expect to be the most popular in roughly the right order, imho

    Don't just believe a research result that's reported when you can test it so very easily.

  31. Dogbrain

    Gamed algorithms

    Of course it's true that google's searches are "algorithmically generated". What else could they possibly be? Lots of Chinese in sweatshops answering each search by hand?

    And, of course it's true that the algorithms favor Google sites. The people who design the sites eat sushi with the people who write the search algorithms. Big Duh.

  32. Anonymous Coward

    "If I can Google it and it's written on a Google blog, then it must be true"

    It's not surprising that people comment that they're not surprised by Google's business practices. Using analogies to other businesses selling physical goods in a competitive market where a company can't block access to information simply by stocking their shelves differently? Not a surprise either. Holding businesses with a smaller market share or businesses that don't seek to profit off of people that aren't actually involved with their services to a different standard than Google? Nope.

    "the economic incentives for bias are overpowering: Search engines can use biased results to expand into new sectors, to grant instant free traffic to their own new services, and to block competitors and would-be competitors. The incentive for bias is all the stronger because the lack of obvious benchmarks makes most bias would be difficult to uncover."

    The main problem with search engine bias isn't the bias itself... It's when a massive company controls most of the search market and the online advertising market and use both to their advantage to nearly drive companies out of business. Every business Google has expanded into is a result of this abusive practice. Google looks at another company and says "Hey, they're making a bit of money." The next day they either try to buy out the company (what great a innovator Google is!), use some element of their competitor's service to create their own, or hire college students to use open source software to duplicate a competitors service on a closed source, cloud-based platform.

    "[When] we roll[ed] out Google Finance, we did put the Google link first. It seems only fair right, we do all the work for the search page and all these other things, so we do put it first... That has actually been our policy, since then, because of Finance. So for Google Maps again, it’s the first link."

    Seems fair to Youtube or Blogspot visitors, but what about content creators? It's true that search engines could drive more traffic to these sites, but at some point in time Google breaks the unspoken agreement they have with the people that let them index their sites. All the traffic that once went to innovative and competitive sites are redirected to Google's servers.

    And of course, every time this happens Google justifies it later by claiming their service is "better" and they're doing it for their users. Google can make their services more popular using this type of abuse, but it doesn't change the quality of their services or of their competitors until other businesses start to suffer. Someone said you can still get Map Quest results by typing "mapquest" first, but why should you get the lesser service if you just type "maps"? When Google creates a new service it isn't more popular or (necessarily) better than any of their competitors to begin with, but by using search result manipulation, they can try to take customers from their competitors. In time, the Google service might become more popular and Google can justify linking to sites like Youtube, but if a search for maps defaulted to the original, better service and you had to type "Google maps" to get results from them specifically, you wouldn't have this anti-competition problem. If all of Google's services (including ads, search, and others) were split apart and operated by different companies, you would see much more competition and, as a result, better alternatives to the original sites as well as Google's copies. But things aren't going to get better if Google continues to monopolize more and more online services. I don't want to see Google's alternatives to iTunes, Facebook, gaming websites, or public libraries. Even if the first two mostly lack competition, too, it isn't as bad.

This topic is closed for new posts.

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021