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.

Filed Under: al franken, antitrust, herb kohl, mike lee, politics, richard blumenthal, search, senate
Companies: google


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  1. icon
    Samuel Abram (profile), 21 Sep 2011 @ 5:03pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Bing doesn't count, because the Senators acknowledged it. Besides, is having just Google and Bing that much better than having just Google?

    Also, I named Ask.com, so that doesn't count either.

    Anyway, I decided to look at the rest, and I AM satisfied.

    To be sure, I wanted to do an experiment: I would search the phrase "Copyright is not an ethical proposition, it's a utilitarian one", and any link to the place whence the quote originated get my seal of approval. Google meets this standard and gets an A. So I looked on the list, and:

    -Yahoo had a link to this very quote of Doctorow's and an anti-DRM treatise quoting the same quote, but not the original quote in its original context. I'd give it a B.

    -Ask.com had the whole speech as its first link. Bravo to Ask.com! It even beat Google in this regard! A+

    -Ixquick had a link to the Cory Doctorow TXT ebook at his website, which was #5 from the top. I'll give it a A-.

    -Duck Duck Go had the same results as Yahoo...hmmm...B- for possible cheating

    -Dogpile was as bad as lycos was 13 or so years ago, which really makes it a...dogpile. I only got one result, and it was the US Copyright office. A solid "F".

    -Altavista was up there with Google in its search results. A all the way!

    -Cuil didn't produce any results! A solid 'I' for Incomplete. It's worse than an F.

    -Yaggle didn't seem like a search engine, even when I searched for it with one of the aforementioned search engines.

    -Excite gave me the same results as dogpile. An F- for copying a F-student's homework.

    -Go was basically a yahoo search, so it doesn't count here.

    -Hotbot also got nothing. Same "I" as cuil.

    -Gigablast got me nothing as well. Also an 'I'.

    As a bonus.

    -Lycos had the relevant results as #1 and #2. It has really come a long way if this is usually the case now. A solid A+!

    So that's:

    Google: A
    Yahoo: B
    Ask: A+
    Ixquick: A-
    Duck Duck Go: B-
    Dogpile: F
    Altavista: A
    Cuil: I
    Excite: F-
    Hotbot: I
    Gigablast: I
    Lycos: A+

    So out of those, the best ones to me were Ask, Lycos, Isquick, and Altavista. Some others, like Duck Duck Go and Yahoo were close. Others failed miserably, like Excite and Dogpile. And Cuil, Hotbot and Gigablast didn't even try.

    So yes, I am satisfied. At the very least I got to know other other search engines. Some better, most worse. And I've found this is both a case for and against what Mike is arguing: For in that there are a lot of options besides Google, (some even better than Google). Against in that how the hell are we supposed to know about Google's competitors, some of which have made better results than Google, if Google is so huge? I realize you may say word of mouth, but I didn't know about some of the other companies until you told me! Then again, this could also be a case in favor of Mike's Argument because word of mouth established Facebook and Google to begin with...

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