There's No Such Thing As 'Natural' Search Results; Search Results Are Inherently Biased

from the what-a-joke dept

The Senate hearings to tar and feather Google are still ongoing, but the first round grilling of Eric Schmidt didn't present many surprises. Basically, a lot of Senators who don't really understand technology are upset... because Google is big. Senator Franken even admitted that his concern was over the "bigness." Senator Blumenthal, bizarrely, talked about how Google was a wonderful story of American corporate success... before asking how best to dismantle that. For example, he even suggested that Google remove Google Maps results from searches on addresses. That's ridiculous. For folks like myself who like getting the Google Maps result at the top, that would make my life worse. But the most ridiculous comment may have been from Senator Lee, who complained about Google's own results messing up "natural search results." But as Rob Pegoraro points out, this seems to assume that there is such a thing as "natural" search. Everything that Google puts on a page is a choice, and if those choices harm consumers, we'll go elsewhere.

The other annoying thing was everyone kept pointing to "search" as if that's the entire market. Senator Kohl even suggested that when it came to news, the only places to find news are Google or Bing. He flat out claimed that if Bing went out of business, the only way to find news would be Google. Huh?!? As we've noted in the past, we actually get a smaller and smaller percentage of our traffic coming from Google these days. Instead, more and more is coming from social networks and other systems. StumbleUpon, Reddit, Twitter and Facebook have all taken significant referral share from Google -- and reports from other sites suggest the same thing.

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Sep 2011 @ 8:56am

    Re: To expand on my tweet...

    That said, if Google really did threaten Yelp and TripAdvisor with removal from its general search listings when each asked to be left out of Google Places listings, it's got some serious explaining to do.

    Why would they have to explain?

    Google is building a service based on data in their existing data-stores. Isn't this whole inquiry about Google treating some data as "special" when compared to other data. Why shouldn't Yelp and TripAdvisor expect to show up in Google Places if they show up in Google searches?

    I'm very anti-monopoly and I think that the DOJ and Congress play an important role in protecting consumers. That said, I don't see any reason that the government should be telling a company (which isn't a monopoly) how to run their business. The internet is the greatest equalizer ever developed, so great, in fact, that I would venture to say "the greatest enemy to monopolies is the internet."

    As long as we are talking about the digital realm I don't believe it is possible to have a monopoly. Now if you want to talk about infrastructure or physical aspects of the internet then we might have ourselves a conversation.

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