There Is No Such Thing As Search Neutrality, Because The Whole Point Of Search Is To Recommend What's Best

from the can-we-kill-this-myth? dept

It seems that various anti-Google organizations have picked up on this bizarre and misguided notion of "search neutrality" as a key stick with which to attack. The idea is, obviously, a play on the concept of "net neutrality." It's been pushed mainly by AT&T and various anti-Google think tankers, but now it appears that Microsoft is getting into the game, suggesting that "search neutrality" is a problem and pointing a finger directly at Google.

This is ridiculous on so many levels that it's difficult to know where to begin. First, "search neutrality" is not a problem because "search neutrality" makes no sense. The whole point of search is to be biased. The whole point of search is to recommend which sites fit your query best. "Search neutrality" isn't search at all. It's a list of unsorted and totally useless links.

Second, Microsoft should know better than to complain about Google's actions and suggest they're in some way anti-competitive. Remember that, even if the actual penalties (penalties? what penalties?) made the ruling meaningless, Microsoft was a convicted monopolist. Having big competitors point fingers at each other screaming about "anti-competitive" behavior is just silly.

Finally, Microsoft's Brad Smith apparently is claiming that "the biggest lack of competition" is in the search space. Really? Well, let's compare, shall we? According to some recent research, Google has 85% of the market in search. That is a lot, granted. But... what about the operating system? Oh, look. The same research firm shows that Microsoft has 91% of the market. What's next? Operating system neutrality?


Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
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    senshikaze (profile), Jun 18th, 2010 @ 5:53am

    Well, Im calling for OS neutrality. I should be able to use whatever OS, I want and be supported fully.

    MS can go die in a fire.

     

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    KN, Jun 18th, 2010 @ 6:02am

    Search

    Your first argument is absolutely correct, but the second and third remark made this post less worthy of my time.

    MSFT having been a "convicted monopolist" (I suppose you mean having been convicted of abusing its monopoly, because being a monopolist is not prohibited either in the EC or in the US) is just irrelevant for competition arguments in other (or even the same) sectors.

    The tune gets old. I for one am under the impression that MSFT is on the right track again. It is now effectively an "incumbent" compared to Google and Apple, but I see it bouncing back with innovating products like Surface and Kinect. I predict pretty things in the years to come from MSFT. (And believe you me, I'm a big Google fan)

     

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    btrussell (profile), Jun 18th, 2010 @ 6:08am

    Re: Search

    "I predict pretty things in the years to come from MSFT."

    That is why I use Linux. My OS doesn't need to be "pretty," it just needs to work.

     

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    senshikaze (profile), Jun 18th, 2010 @ 6:20am

    Re: Re: Search

    amen to that.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 18th, 2010 @ 6:20am

    I wonder how 'bing' would have done if they had a completely blank page with a title (in text, not an image) and a search box. Same for results pages, plain text header, and results. No pictures, no ads, no paid-top-results. Just a simple fast plain search engine. Meanwhile google is running pacman games and backgrounds and massive scripted front page and changing search results to a tiny center collumn and....

    How quickly would the 'better' search results get ignored for a better user experience?

     

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    Bob, Jun 18th, 2010 @ 6:22am

    I'm actually for enforcing anti-trust laws in the US again. We should be moving in that direction.

    I might be willing to give up some Search Discrimination to gain True Net Neutrality and OS Neutrality. Require Linux support and all cpu salesfloors must have multiple OS's on display and for sale.

     

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    IAAL, Jun 18th, 2010 @ 6:40am

    think about net neutrality: we want to be able to use the net to transmit all data with equal quality of service. we don't want the owners of the tubes to exploit their ownership in an anticompetitive fashion.

    "blank" neutrality applies to any network industry, including search and OS. in search, we might not want certain sites scrubbed from the results, or discreet paid top five results, or a closed API, or the ability to only Google from Android and Chrome. in OS, we might not want exclusion of certain programs, API changes to void compatibility, or anything else Microsoft has done to upset the EU.

    the author seemingly fails to grasp the concept of neutrality in these situations. yes, google so far has been tamer than microsoft in their exercise of market power, but it's an aside. the opportunity for abuse is rife in both fields.

     

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    Dark Helmet (profile), Jun 18th, 2010 @ 6:42am

    Re: Re: Search

    "That is why I use Linux. My OS doesn't need to be "pretty," it just needs to work."

    I actually took it a step further in the past year and went out of my way to make sure that I have several operating systems in my home (notebook is Win7, desktop is Linux, phone is Android, and I'm going to buy an Apple netbook to dick around with so I can see their OS). Not that everyone has the ability to do this, of course, but as long as I'm going to have multiple machines, I'm not going to pigeon hole myself into an OS....

     

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    Mike, Jun 18th, 2010 @ 6:53am

    A neutral search is what you describe, the best result first. But when a commercial entity gets to pay and bump up their not-best result to the head of the line, that makes the search less than neutral.

     

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    Hulser (profile), Jun 18th, 2010 @ 6:56am

    Market dominance does not a monopoly make

    I don't see market dominance by itself to be the key factor in the definition of a monopoly. It's using your market dominance to remove consumer choice that makes a monopoly, not your market dominace itself. For example, having 91% of the OS market: OK. Telling OEMs that you have to install and pay for Windows on every computer you sell regardless of whether it has Windows on it: not OK.

    As for Google, I have no idea how the search engine can be seen to be monopolistic. Google isn't twisting people's arms to use their search engine. They're not using dirty tricks against their competitors. The consumer has the choice to use other search engines. It just so happens that Google is a damn good search engine, so that's what most people use. Google is free to use whatever algorithms they want. If AT&T doesn't like it, then they're free to develop their own search engine.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 18th, 2010 @ 7:01am

    "Operating system neutrality?" - actually, microsoft has been order and has made changes to their operating system to limit their monopoly in certain areas. the lack of a viable alternative that the general public wants or is willing to use is much of the issue here.

    google? search neutrality isnt about their monopoly position, rather the idea that their search should be entirely independant of the influence of other parts of their company. if you want to get your pages indexed faster, use google tools, put google ads on your site, etc. some people suggest that fast way to better rankings is often to buy keyword ads on google, etc.

     

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    STJ, Jun 18th, 2010 @ 7:03am

    Um, can someone tell me how Microsoft keeps their search engine "neutral?" I'm guessing there is some preference involved somewhere...

     

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    Designerfx (profile), Jun 18th, 2010 @ 7:07am

    Re: Search

    surface and kinect are innovative? the 80s, not the 90's, but the 80's would like to speak with you. They aren't even creative, let alone innovative. They're just a natural progression for technology, and none of them originated with MS.

    I suppose next you're going to tell me that bing is innovative?

     

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    BBT, Jun 18th, 2010 @ 7:08am

    Re:

    If I don't like the results that a search engine is giving me, it's very easy for me to switch to a different one. The day Google starts putting in paid search results is the day people stop using Google.

     

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    Hulser (profile), Jun 18th, 2010 @ 7:09am

    Re:

    their search should be entirely independant of the influence of other parts of their company

    Why? What is the justification for this idea? Google is free to define their algorithms any way they want. If they want to remove every page that has the word "bing" in it from their results and not tell anyone, then that's completely up to them. If you don't like the results that Google gives you, you're free to go somewhere else for your search.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 18th, 2010 @ 7:10am

    Re:

    "Some people suggest" you never provide any evidence for any claim you make, TAM.

    Oh look, you did it again.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 18th, 2010 @ 7:11am

    Um... Yahoo and Bing. Last I checked they were major players in search. Well, not relative to Google, but they suck, so there ya go. But some people still use them.

    And yes, OS neutrality would be a very, very good thing. It that were to ever happen, MS would shivel and die. Or actually develop products that are good on their own merit, not because people have no choice but to use them because the apps/games they want only work on Windows.

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 18th, 2010 @ 7:11am

    Re: Re: Re: Search

    Something a lot of people can't or not willing to do really. Each operating system has it's own strengths and weaknesses. Getting gritty computer work done there really is no substitute to Linux, but I need my windows machine to actually enjoy entertainment, Apple from what I'm told and have seen is just awesome for editing video, audio, pictures, etc.

     

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    PaulT (profile), Jun 18th, 2010 @ 7:12am

    Re:

    Indeed, and that's one of the reasons I started using Google as my default search provider. They always clearly separate sponsored links without getting in the way. Other search engines had a habit of combining the two, or forcing you to scroll past the paid-for results before you get to the stuff that's truly relevant.

     

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    Bengie, Jun 18th, 2010 @ 7:14am

    Adds

    "A neutral search is what you describe, the best result first. But when a commercial entity gets to pay and bump up their not-best result to the head of the line, that makes the search less than neutral."

    That's why Google has adds based on your search criteria. But yes, if this does happen, it should be exposed and stopped.

     

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    knome, Jun 18th, 2010 @ 7:14am

    > Convicted Monopolist

    "Convicted monopolist" is a stupid meme that needs to die. Abusing a monopoly. Good to go. There is, however, nothing illegal or wrong with simply having attained a monopoly position. This phrase is on par with spelling their name Micro$oft.

    > google? search neutrality isnt about their monopoly position, rather the idea that their search should be entirely independant of the influence of other parts of their company. if you want to get your pages indexed faster, use google tools, put google ads on your site, etc. some people suggest that fast way to better rankings is often to buy keyword ads on google, etc.

    Collecting additional information on usage from their other toolsets to improve the core algorithm is not some evil plan. If an add to a page gets lots of clicks, it stands that the content is relevant and useful. Raising the organic placement when this happens helps the consumer find relevant information, and the business by channeling otherwise paid traffic through a free channel.

    Watching Base usage to discover useful products / content and raising the relevance of that data for organic search makes sense.

    Using google analytics to watch what pages on the internet are most active is a huge boon to knowing what people want.

    This isn't a conspiracy. It's finding novel sources of information for supplying opinionation to a massive artificial intelligence process. It has to learn what to like from somewhere. Sure pagerank is great, but there are tons of local maxima and disparate groups of interconnected pages with similar information and popularity. Which do you show? How do you know which is good and which is popular because other shitty content linked to it? They have to find sources for these things.

    Microsoft is complaining to cause headaches for Google, not because they have found an actual problem.

     

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  22.  
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    PaulT (profile), Jun 18th, 2010 @ 7:14am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Search

    "I need my windows machine to actually enjoy entertainment"

    Erm, unless you're just referring to games: no. No, you don't.

     

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    Dark Helmet (profile), Jun 18th, 2010 @ 7:19am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Search

    "Erm, unless you're just referring to games: no. No, you don't."

    He probably is. I know that's one of the primary reasons I keep my Win7 machine around. Beyond that, I like to stay on the up and up w/OS (I work in the IT industry, after all). But I think even more than that is a general curiousity when it comes to technology. I'm weird like that. I love learning about the latest tech and even established systems and protocols, both because I enjoy and am often awed by the technology but also because I routinely weave technical information into my writing, a la Michael Crichton....

     

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    :Lobo Santo (profile), Jun 18th, 2010 @ 7:24am

    Re: Re: Re: Search

    Meh, Mac is just on over-priced GUI for a Unix kernel (+ walled garden).

     

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    ac, Jun 18th, 2010 @ 7:25am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Search

    not to be an Ubuntu shill, but the new LTS release is really slick. Nowadays, the only thing I need windows for is gaming and testing css in IE. Linux distros in general have come a long way in user friendliness in the last few years.

     

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    PaulT (profile), Jun 18th, 2010 @ 7:26am

    Re:

    "There is, however, nothing illegal or wrong with simply having attained a monopoly position."

    Microsoft were convicted in a court of law of anti-trust violation, meaning that they were convicted of abusing their monopoly. Whether you agree with the shortened term "convicted monopolist" to describe this, it doesn't change the fact they were convicted.

    However, I do agree with the rest of your points.

    "Microsoft is complaining to cause headaches for Google, not because they have found an actual problem."

    Indeed. it's like the way they attacked Linux. They found they couldn't simply buy a competitor out or sue them out of existence. Rather than actually compete on level terms, they instead tried to spread FUD against open source, financed legal challenges like the SCO cases and threatened to remove the massive discounts they give to manufacturers like Dell if they supplied Linux or OS-free machines. That's why you never see an advertising push for Linux machines and why you're forced to buy a Windows licence you'll never use if you shop big box retail.

    It's the same thing here. Bing has not been a particularly big success so instead of improving it to compete, they want to get the courts to make Google less valuable.

     

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    Free Capitalist (profile), Jun 18th, 2010 @ 7:44am

    Search Neutrality vs. Red Herring

    I'm going to disagree on semantics. Search neutrality is a worthy ideal (not an obligation), which in no way conflicts with or excludes search relevance heuristics.

    Search neutrality is a concept of content inclusiveness and accessibility, where all sources of content have an equal chance at meeting the search relevance criteria. The "problem" this concept addresses being that a search engine could exclude for any reason content that they do not "like".

    That being said, search neutrality does not align well with the for-profit search model, as advertisers need to be seen or they are not getting advertisement value. Google fanatics will deny this, but every profit driven search engine's relevance heuristics are stacked (and remotely manipulated with support of the search provider aligned SEOs) to favor paid links.

    Google is paid per click on their advertisers' links. This is how they became the powerful corporation they are today. I do not think anyone has the right to tell Google how to run its business, I'm just saying they are not in it for the love.

    Mike, however is correctly pointing out the absurd, in that the ideal of search neutrality is now being used as a red herring by competitor search engines in order to gain some footing (and perhaps direct government assistance).

    In the linked article (lol Hillicon Valley almost says it all.. freaking mercantilism!) the article first evokes the ideal:
    Search neutrality is the notion that search engines should not favor certain content, including their own.

    That's all good. But then he goes on to quote the MS exec and reveal the red herring:
    'Where is the biggest lack of competition?' he asked. 'Search!'"

    True, a dominant search engine is in the perfect position to limit content access in any way it pleases. However it's clear to me that, considering the forum, these people are really after government assistance in the market.

    The last thing we need in the area of content neutrality is a government guided mandate.

    Let the users sort out who they think is the best search provider for finding content. An overly oppressive search heuristic will eventually reveal itself, and open up an opportunity for someone else to "do search better" and start running away with the market.

     

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  28.  
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    Sean T Henry (profile), Jun 18th, 2010 @ 7:44am

    Re:

    No OS netrality would mean that all OSs can run the software from any OS and each OS will suck just as much as the next.

     

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    Dark Helmet (profile), Jun 18th, 2010 @ 8:01am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Search

    "Meh"

    ...how did you know my nickname? ;)

    Seriously, though, that's what most of my friends call me. Quite a life I lead....

     

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    crade (profile), Jun 18th, 2010 @ 8:05am

    Are our memories so short that we do not remember why Google is dominating the search engine market?

    It isn't like the market wasn't full of competition when google came in, and it isn't like they overcame it by cheating.

     

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    Chris in Utah (profile), Jun 18th, 2010 @ 8:20am

    Re: Search Neutrality vs. Red Herring

    "The last thing we need in the area of content neutrality is a government guided mandate. "

    I wish you were being sarcastic but your not. Are you even aware that people have the power to give a thumbs up or thumbs down?

    Probably not, because by the looks of things your still looking up for answers.

     

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    senshikaze (profile), Jun 18th, 2010 @ 8:26am

    Re: Re:

    based on the MS EULA, you can request a refund from your computer manufacturer if you never plan on actually using the MS OS, which I don't. I do not know, though, if Dell honors the eula, though. I know they are supposed to.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 18th, 2010 @ 8:30am

    Re: Re: Search

    I don't know...one of the (many) reasons to use Linux is because of the pretty, pretty eyecandy.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 18th, 2010 @ 8:35am

    Re:

    Yahoo = Bing

    A WebmasterWorld thread points to a recent presentation video by Yahoo and Microsoft of the transition timelines for Bing to begin powering Yahoo on both the organic and paid side of search.

    Did you know that Bing is already or will very soon begin testing powering Yahoo's search results? Yes, in Yahoo Search, you should technically see the same organic results that you would see in Bing - possibly any day now. Of course, this is being tested and you and I may not see it, while your neighbor may see it. This should be in testing mode right now.

    When will Yahoo switch completely over to Bing? Either in August or September of this year. That obviously assumes that the tests go well. But we are looking for an August or September 2010 transition on the organic side of Yahoo to Microsoft search.



    http://www.seroundtable.com/archives/022397.html

     

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    Free Capitalist (profile), Jun 18th, 2010 @ 8:37am

    Re: Re: Search Neutrality vs. Red Herring

    Are you even aware that people have the power to give a thumbs up or thumbs down?

    If you are referring to the activity of people in the (not so free) market, yes I am fully aware that people have full control of their decisions. I felt my post made that clear.

    If you are referring to people having control over government activity, I would have to say, no, I am not aware of that. The prevailing mechanisms of our government are in alignment with commercial interests, and the government's role is to clear the way for the dominant economic powers to continue to dominate. If you have any doubt that the government's activities are aligned this way, I would refer you to that past 160 years of legislation.

    Horse and buggy vs. the nascent auto industry. BP and the Coast Guard vs. The American Public

    Mercantilism never died.

     

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    PaulT (profile), Jun 18th, 2010 @ 8:43am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Yeah, but how many people actually read the EULA, let alone can be bothered to go through the process to get back what's probably less than $20-30? Not many, I bet. In the meantime, they manage to stop manufacturers from advertising their competitors' products.

     

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    senshikaze (profile), Jun 18th, 2010 @ 8:53am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    i do, personally. I have also read the GPL and Apache Licenses. I refuse to give up my raights because I am too lazy to read a few paragraphs of dense legalese.

    I do agree. Thankfully, dell and hp are slowly allowing more Linux and FreeDos PC's. and you can always shop at System76.

     

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    senshikaze (profile), Jun 18th, 2010 @ 8:55am

    Re: Re: Re: Search

    shhh! the other people can't know! we don't anyone to feel bad about being too lazy to research! must let them continue on ignorance. it's obviously what they want.

     

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    lux (profile), Jun 18th, 2010 @ 8:55am

    Hasn't any one heard of SEO? Search engine optimization is the art of NOT being neutral. Given there's an entire field devoted only to this task, I'm sure search neutrality, in its essence, is a goal worth striving for.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 18th, 2010 @ 9:01am

    another idiot article

    whats up today

    THE search is to post out all the possible matches of my criteria , if your doing something else ill ignore it or find a better alternative

     

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    nasch (profile), Jun 18th, 2010 @ 9:08am

    Re:

    The point is, neutrality is only a problem when the consumer has little or no choice in the matter. Imagine if you had a choice of 10 different ISPs. I would not be worried about net neutrality, because if one of those ISPs turns out to be not neutral, I can just switch to a different one.

    That's true of your other examples now. If you don't like google, switch to something else, there's nothing stopping you. Don't like Windows? Use a different OS (there's not a lot of competition there, but at least some of it is free).

    The best solution to neutrality is generally (if not always) ensuring strong competition in the market, not directly mandating neutrality. Encouraging competition is less likely to have unintended consequences, more likely to actually solve the problem because it may be less vulnerable to regulatory capture, and could solve any number of other problems in the same market all at once.

     

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    A Googler, Jun 18th, 2010 @ 9:11am

    Re: Search Neutrality vs. Red Herring

    Google fanatics will deny this, but every profit driven search engine's relevance heuristics are stacked (and remotely manipulated with support of the search provider aligned SEOs) to favor paid links.

    Google engineers (like this one) will deny this too, because it's complete and utter horseshit. If you have evidence to the contrary, let's hear it.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 18th, 2010 @ 9:12am

    Re:

    As any good SEO designer will tell you, the art of Search Engine Optimization is nearly identical to making a good "readable" website for visitors.

    Most good search engines (especially Google) rank pages by:
    1) Number of viewers
    2) Website history
    3) Inbound links from well-ranked pages
    4) "Quality" of website (judged by the algorithms)
    5) Relevancy to search terms (like repetition of key words)

    In that order. Meaning that no matter how you design your site, or how you try to play to the algorithms, you still can't beat the highly viewed webpages.

    That's about as neutral as you can get, when reader trends are valued above website content and quality.

     

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    Vic B (profile), Jun 18th, 2010 @ 9:14am

    Re:

    No Mike, a neutral search is not the "best" result first, it is only results in no particular order. By applying "best" you establish a value system which, I believe, is what this article points to.

     

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    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Jun 18th, 2010 @ 9:14am

    Re: Re: Search

    No, no. Innovative, not inventive. Anyone who reads Techdirt should know the difference. Microsoft didn't create anything new, they just put it together differently than anyone before. If it's better or not is yet to be determined.

    It's the same as Apple, they haven't invented anything in decades, they're just better at putting other things together.

     

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    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Jun 18th, 2010 @ 9:21am

    Re:

    Not quick at all. From what I'm hearing, most people like the Bing interface, their search results just suck, so they use Google. While Bing can't even properly find Microsoft websites, I'm not going to use it. I'll admit that it looks pretty and it loads a lot faster then I would have thought.

    Microsoft is not one to push "search neutrality". They've been known to hide anti-Microsoft search results and giving their sites higher priority over anything else (and yet, they still do it poorly).

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 18th, 2010 @ 9:23am

    Re: another idiot article

    THE tiger is less than optimal for painting the peanut-butter fencepost in my underpants.

     

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    Free Capitalist (profile), Jun 18th, 2010 @ 9:44am

    Re: Re: Search Neutrality vs. Red Herring

    If you have evidence to the contrary, let's hear it.


    Sure. I direct you to a Google search for Indiana tire legislation

    Obviously, Google and Yahoo cannot neglect well-known government resources (and other resources such as Wikipedia), like the EPA so they are given priority. But if you scan down the page you will find the rest of page one filled by commercial sites. It is not until page 2 that the user will find the most relevant link from the Indiana state government.

    By the way a quick review of the commercial sites on page one reveal that none of them actually contain all three words "Indiana tire legislation".

    It is in the algorithm, and in the SEO.

    The problem with being an engineer is so many get used to living in a silo.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  49.  
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    Comboman (profile), Jun 18th, 2010 @ 9:46am

    Transparency not Neutrality

    "Search Neutrality" is obviously a poor choice of words. I think what people really want is Search Transparency. Yes, I want search results which are "biased" toward relevancy (rather than just returning random results that match the search terms), but I would also like some assurance that the "relevancy" of the results isn't being influenced by things like how much an advertiser pays.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  50.  
    identicon
    Richard Corsale, Jun 18th, 2010 @ 10:06am

    Re:

    How would it give up market share? Redirect users to Bing, saying "were sorry, we have exceeded our government alloted quota today, thank you, and we know you have a choice in search.. oh wait ")

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  51.  
    identicon
    Richard, Jun 18th, 2010 @ 10:10am

    Re: Search

    "(And believe you me, I'm a big Google fan)"

    Oh, they have you on retainer as well? You should probably disclose that.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  52.  
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    Free Capitalist (profile), Jun 18th, 2010 @ 10:21am

    Re: Re:

    3) Inbound links from well-ranked pages
    4) "Quality" of website (judged by the algorithms)


    Put it this way: they may rate these as "3" and "4" in the relevance algorithm, but the weighting is not adequately distributed to prevent SEO exploitation using these criteria.

    For people who remember Google's search performance before they licensed Goto.com's technology (pay-per-click keyword advertising), there is no doubt that advertisers are getting priority.

    "Don't be insolvent."

    More power to Google, I don't want anyone telling them how to run their business. I'm just saying, again, they are not in it for the love. Good for them.

     

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  53.  
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    cj (profile), Jun 18th, 2010 @ 10:30am

    Oh how funny!

    I have seen about five new computers in the last almost two years. All of them running the Windows OS. All of them ran Internet Explorer, and all of them also had the Microsoft's search engine as default.

    Be careful Microsoft because you just might be digging your own hole to crawl in!

     

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  54.  
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    Coach George (profile), Jun 18th, 2010 @ 10:33am

    There Is No Such Thing As Search Neutrality, Because The Whole Point Of Search Is To Recommend What's Best

    "This is ridiculous on so many levels that it's difficult to know where to begin. First, "search neutrality" is not a problem because "search neutrality" makes no sense. The whole point of search is to be biased. The whole point of search is to recommend which sites fit your query best. "Search neutrality" isn't search at all. It's a list of unsorted and totally useless links."
    This would be a Utopia. As it stands, the list is sorted by who pays more for the top position. You get "What's Best" for the search provider.

     

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  55.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 18th, 2010 @ 10:58am

    Re: Re: Re: Search Neutrality vs. Red Herring

    Pft, and you think this is evidence of commercial bias?

    Maybe it's because the search you requested is fairly obscure for the large majority of searchers. You may be looking for the government legislation, but others are probably searching for compliance of companies to the standards.

    For the most part, commercial results ARE the most relevant, especially when your search involves products.

    I can guarantee you, though, that if Tire Legislation was actually something people cared about (like if a controversial bill was going through), you wouldn't be able to find a Tire company website within the first 10 pages.

     

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  56.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 18th, 2010 @ 11:05am

    Re: Re: Re:

    There isn't a SEO company around that can instantly game Google. Blackhats can give you minor, and temporary gains, but will almost always get your site blacklisted by the algorithms.

    Whitehat SEO's can do little more than improve your ranking by a little, and only in comparison to other websites of similar standing. They focus mainly on gaming people, rather than algorithms.

    There have been a number of competitions to try and get the #1 result listing for extremely obscure search terms. Who are the winners? People who use pre-existing reader bases to generate views. Link farmers and and keyword spammers only get immediate results, but ultimately falter once the algorithms have more to go on then initial site evaluations.

     

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  57.  
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    Free Capitalist (profile), Jun 18th, 2010 @ 11:17am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Search Neutrality vs. Red Herring

    Maybe it's because the search you requested is fairly obscure for the large majority of searchers.

    Yes, and this obscurity makes the term perfect to illustrate the nature of the algorithm. This search was most likely not cached anywhere.

    What makes you think Google hits should only look good for commonly used search terms?

    For the most part, commercial results ARE the most relevant, especially when your search involves products.

    Clearly commercial results are the most relevant based on Google's (and Yahoo's, and Bing's) algorithm. The only thing you left out was the fact that none of the page one commercial hits actually contained the entire search string I sent to Google.

    I agree though, "legislation" is definitely a product. ;)

     

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  58.  
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    crade (profile), Jun 18th, 2010 @ 11:22am

    Re: another idiot article

    Go ahead and find a better alternative. No one is stopping you. Personally I will stick with google until something else helps me get my work done more efficiently.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  59.  
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    crade (profile), Jun 18th, 2010 @ 11:33am

    Re: There Is No Such Thing As Search Neutrality, Because The Whole Point Of Search Is To Recommend What's Best

    I don't see the problem.
    If you like their service, use it; if you don't like their service, don't. Make a better one, whatever. No one is twisting your arm. They aren't the government, it's just a search engine with plenty of crappy competition if you want to use something else.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  60.  
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    Free Capitalist (profile), Jun 18th, 2010 @ 11:41am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Whitehat SEO's can do little more than improve your ranking by a little, and only in comparison to other websites of similar standing. They focus mainly on gaming people, rather than algorithms.

    We have reached an accord. By "exploitation" I meant something more akin to "strip mining" rather than "cheating".

    But, yes, Google ordained (or at least tolerated for the present) exploitation of the algorithm is clearly at play in the results.

    Reciprocal links to Google "quality" sites are no more useful in gaining true relevance than a rogue link farm. It's like an NFL approved metabolic versus an unapproved metabolic: one will get you in trouble, one will not.

    The rogue link farms are more likely used to serve those sites too cheap to pay for Google ad words.

     

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  61.  
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    Modplan (profile), Jun 18th, 2010 @ 12:31pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Search Neutrality vs. Red Herring

    Your entire premise is based on a Google search showing some results you assume shouldn't be above others. Not the strongest of examples.

     

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  62.  
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    Free Capitalist (profile), Jun 18th, 2010 @ 1:13pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Search Neutrality vs. Red Herring

    Your entire premise is based on a Google search showing some results you assume shouldn't be above others.


    I'm not passing judgment on Google or anyone. I'm not saying results "should" look one way or another. I'm saying that Google's results (like Yahoo's and Bing's) are biased to advertisement. Plain as day.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  63.  
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    Modplan (profile), Jun 18th, 2010 @ 2:55pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Search Neutrality vs. Red Herring

    Highlighting ads by putting "sponsored links" around them does tend to make it plain as day.

    Everything else I've read from you seems like pure speculation.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  64.  
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    jenningsthecat (profile), Jun 18th, 2010 @ 3:52pm

    Search Neutrality

    Most of the time I agree with you Mike, but when you say "search neutrality makes no sense", you couldn't be more wrong.

    Fist of all, making a true 'query' on Google, or any other search engine I've tried, is not possible. While we may kid ourselves that we're asking a question, in reality we're merely searching for words and phrases.

    Second, we search for words and phrases, NOT "sites that fit your query best". Web sites just happen to be the repositories of our search terms and the other text associated with our search terms. (This is not a trivial distinction).

    Third, the "whole point of search" is NOT to be biased. I'm forever bumping up against Google's attempts to 'correct' search terms that require no correction, and sometimes Google even 'auto-corrects' my query and does a search on GOOGLE'S IDEA OF WHAT I AM LOOKING FOR, instead of what I'm actually looking for. I don't think I need to explain why such behaviour is beyond exasperating, as well as totally unworkable.

    Should Google be forced to provide 'search neutrality'? Probably not. Should Google provide search neutrality in order to provide the most useful, flexible, and comprehensive search results? Absolutely, positively yes!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  65.  
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    Nastybutler77 (profile), Jun 18th, 2010 @ 3:59pm

    Re: Search Neutrality

    If you don't like what Google comes up with, stop using it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  66.  
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    DannyB (profile), Jun 19th, 2010 @ 8:15am

    We had search neutrality prior to Google

    Search neutrality was called AltaVista. Lycos. And other web crawlers.

    You type in a word and they would return hundreds of thousands of irrelevant pages without the bias that Google. Yes that bias Google has for finding the most relevant results.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  67.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 19th, 2010 @ 8:51am

    Then why doesn't Microsoft simply modify its own search engine so that it's more neutral. Then, if such neutrality benefits everyone people will flock to Microsoft's search engine and ditch Google. Then I'll claim that Microsoft isn't being neutral enough for not putting websites I like on the top of its search hits and I'll sue.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  68.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 19th, 2010 @ 9:18am

    Re: Re:

    Perhaps in the advanced search people should be allowed to choose what they want prioritized (assuming such an obvious idea isn't patented) with the default being what is most common. People should perhaps be able to choose categories or choose if they want commercial results prioritized or non commercial results. Perhaps also including options like *.com or *.org or *.gov so I can specify, "I only want to search commercial sites" or "I only want to search government sites" or something of that nature.

    Also, what bugs me is that search engines allow me to choose "Past week. Past month. Past year." Why can't I specify, "from April til June. From May to July" or something. Perhaps I want something that I know is two months old and I don't want yesterdays search results cluttering up my search.

    Also, only displaying the top ten results as the default made sense ten years ago when everyone had dial up modems but now it seems archaic. The default should be the top 100 results with options going up to the top 1000. That way I can better utilize a ctrl+F to help find what I want or I can quickly scroll down and identify links that I've already been to (ie: URL color). Perhaps search engines should also have an option that allows you to only search through links that you've been to with a browser plugin to facilitate the process.

     

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  69.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 19th, 2010 @ 9:22am

    Re: Re: Re:

    (wait, sorry, you can already exclusively specify .com or .gov . My mistake).

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  70.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 19th, 2010 @ 9:43am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Perhaps an option to exclude *.com or *.gov so that you can specify, "I want to return all results other than commercial ones." like !.com or something? Does such an option already exist? Or perhaps, "all regions besides the following." or "within the following regions" and allow people to list more than one region.

    The thing is that many of the complaints made by people who use search engines look like they can be solved by adding more advanced tools that allow people to better refine their search. Of course learning how to use all of these advanced features once there are too many of them can become overwhelming for the average user. Perhaps users can create websites with embedded search bars that have preset features so that people can sorta create and share their own personal search engine (powered by Google or whatever of course) that obeys very specific settings defined by the maker of the page/user. Kinda like a user generated search algorithm powered by Google/yahoo/Microsoft/etc...? So people can put their own refined search engine as their homepage and allow others to do the same. Google already kinda does custom search engine settings though.

    Regarding commercial or non commercial, it also looks like Google's advance search already has options like "Not filtered by license" or "Free to use or share" etc... which can help in that respect. I guess the problem is that many people (including myself) aren't even familiar with all of the options and tools that search engines often provide in their advanced features? You can even choose format (ie: PDF only, etc...) but perhaps an option to exclude certain formats and include the rest? Or perhaps an option to include only a list of selected formats instead of just one?

     

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  71.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 19th, 2010 @ 9:48am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Perhaps Google can also have a drop down menu where people can select a search profile and Google can include a list of default search profiles that each have different settings and users should be allowed to create their own personal search profiles as well?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  72.  
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    nasch (profile), Jun 19th, 2010 @ 12:49pm

    Re: Search Neutrality

    Fist of all, making a true 'query' on Google, or any other search engine I've tried, is not possible.

    By what definition of "query"?

    Second, we search for words and phrases, NOT "sites that fit your query best".

    Personally, I search for web sites. I'm not interested in finding words and phrases, I already have those. I want to find web sites.

    Should Google provide search neutrality in order to provide the most useful, flexible, and comprehensive search results? Absolutely, positively yes!

    What does search neutrality mean to you?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  73.  
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    Scott Cleland (profile), Jun 19th, 2010 @ 2:10pm

    Google's lack of search neutrality

    Mr. Masnick,
    With all due respect, I had to challenge your head-in-the-sand views on Google's lack of search neutrality. see my post: http://precursorblog.com/content/mr-masnick-ostriching-search-neutraltiy

    Scott Cleland
    Precursor LLC
    Publisher GoogleMonitor.com, and Googleopoly.net

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  74.  
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    nasch (profile), Jun 19th, 2010 @ 2:41pm

    Re: Google's lack of search neutrality

    Page not found.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  75.  
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    Tek'a R (profile), Jun 19th, 2010 @ 11:04pm

    Re: Google's lack of search neutrality

    Ah, an interesting site you have there..

    a choice quote:
    Second, Mr. Masnick's blanket assertion: "The whole point of search is to be biased" completely contradicts Google's public representations.

    * Google's website claims: "We never manipulate rankings to put our partners higher in our search results and no one can buy better PageRank."


    The entire point of a modern search engine Is to be biased. If i simply wanted to scroll through a thousand-page list of websites that included the words "Cooking" "Time" "For" "Boiled" "Egg" to find a cooking site and information on cooking an egg.. well, i wouldnt want to. I want to find the "best" match, which current algorithms say is http://whatscookingamerica.net/Eggs/BoiledEggs.htm

    Notice how i was not sent to a dictionary site that tries to link every imaginable word combination, and i was not sent to the application form for a paid-subscription cooking site because they paid off my search provider. I got a result that was biased (towards being correct) and transparent (the companies involved were not misleading me or hiding a connection)

    You go out of your way to purposefully mix up terms and take tiny quotes out of their context to shape a "compelling" story.

    Aha, they say that being transparent is good, and then someone else says that they don't want certain details of their ranking algorithms made public! Shock! Gasp! Moral Outrage!

    What kind of headlines are next? "When Will Google Reply To Questions About Their Cannibalistic Orgies?" "New Google Technology Takes Over Internet Forever*!"

    *at a closer look, you seem to be claiming this already.

    All of the action-packed bulletpoints you make are questionable, many leading to an interwoven nest of "google action! sites" and the others leading to pdf.. PDFs for goodness sake, full of buzzwords and "Oddly Designed Phrases"

    shameful, Scott. very shameful.
    I wont claim that your head is in the sand, but it might well be somewhere else.. and is sure is dark there.

     

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  76.  
    identicon
    Al Sefati, Jun 22nd, 2010 @ 12:55pm

    Interesting article thanks

    Hi
    I came across this article because I follow Matt Cutts and he twitted about you guys. Anyway, I had never heard of search neutrality it looks like a sucker punch for ATT for Google leading net neutrality except Google's campaign makes sense where as ATT's doesn't! And to see Microsoft, the biggest IT monopolist in the world jumping on the bandwagon for selfish reasons it is just a shame.

    But that also tells you how well Google is doing and how desperate Microsoft and other search engines have gotten so Kudos to Google.

     

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  77.  
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    Free Capitalist (profile), Jun 22nd, 2010 @ 1:32pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Search Neutrality vs. Red Herring

    Highlighting ads by putting "sponsored links" around them does tend to make it plain as day.


    Google, Yahoo, Bing are all the same. None of them make significant money off of the "Sponsored Links" breakout, because nobody clicks them.

     

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  78.  
    identicon
    Scott Cleland, Jun 30th, 2010 @ 11:59am

    More on Search Neutrality

    Mr. Masnick,

    I thought you would like to see my latest piece on why search neutrality is important and why Google is anti-competitively discriminating with its monopoly search business. See: http://precursorblog.com/content/google-were-biggest-kingmaker-earth-googleopoly-update

    Scott Cleland
    Precursor LLC
    Publisher, GoogleMonitor.com and Googleopoly.net

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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