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The Google conundrum is mind-boggling. No other organization in history has ever done so much to advance the discovery and dissemination of information. No other organization in history has ever done so much to promote the trivial over the credible.
Robert W. Butche
Google’s founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin had a better idea: Replace Yahoo’s gatekeeper constrained content collection and selection strategy with something unheard of: universal, automated content discovery.
Today, Google’s preeminent position in the Internet search business rests largely on the information discovery, distributed processing, indexing capacity and sorting algorithms put in place by its founders. Some of that infrastructure remains today, but little remains of the founder’s good intentions, or Internet innocence.
Today’s Google is an international monolith with a singular purpose: earnings.
Page and Brin’s Google came to see its prime directive as behaving as a responsible corporate citizen: “Don’t be evil”. Today, fifteen years later, Google appears to be guided by a very different prime directive: “The man who has the gold makes the rules.”
Google, the giant multinational corporate behemoth, has the right to optimize the profitability of its business. But at what price to the free flow of credible, responsible and probative information? And at what damage to the ongoing production and value of intellectual property?
And who shall be the judge?
With only a minor skirmish Google pushed Yahoo aside and claimed the Internet its own dominion. The world cheered. Google became a trusted source for millions of users world-wide. The Google that bested Yahoo deserved public trust for its vision and its respect for its users around the globe.
That Google, the one Page and Brin built, the Google the world loved and trusted, no longer exists.
Page and Brin lived the great American dream: Have a better idea — become a millionaire.
Google’s founders are to be congratulated for their immensely important contributions to the Internet.
The Google that survives today is, compared to what Page and Brin poured life into during the waning years of the 20th century, largely Google in name only.
Today’s Google is an advertising-driven money machine. Good for Google. Good for Larry and Sergey. Good for the investors and stockholders. Good for the advertisers.
Great for the revenue riders who earn handsome profits engaging in search engine optimization — a polite term for mischief, confusion and misdirection some argue is required by Google’s global dominance and standards-free approach to results selection and placement.
But, probably not good for you, your family, your job or your future.
Billions of people use Google every day. Ask any of them what they think and they’ll tell you that Google does exactly what they want. The question that goes unanswered is how would anyone know what Google is, or isn’t doing with site information? Ranking strategies? User information? Personal information?
Clearly there is far more to Google’s story than meets the eye.
When Google exploded onto the Internet in the waning months of the 20th century there was only one readily assessable Internet search engine — Yahoo — also born of Stanford students, David Filo and Jerry Yang, then Ph.D. candidates in Electrical Engineering.
Yahoo was Filo and Yang’s way of storing and indexing their own favorite Internet sites. That was 1994, when the CPU of choice was the Intel 386. PCs of that era were costly — about ten times the cost of today’s PC while affording little more than 1% of the computing power found today’s average cellphone.
Google’s fatal flaw is the assumption that information is a commodity – undifferentiated and indistinguishable.
When Jerry and David’s list of favorite sties became unwieldy, the list was arranged in categories and sub categories and so on. To be on Filo and Yang’s list you had to ask them to add your links or lists. When the list of links became so big that it consumed nearly all of their time, David and Jerry brought in other students to help out. In a matter of months, what had been a small project began to look more like a business.
They named it Yahoo — the first Internet search engine — based largely on Filo and Yang’s hand assembled list. If you wanted to be listed on Yahoo, you had to apply. Sites that didn’t measure up, were deemed offensive, or pornographic were rejected.
Both companies prospered on a better idea. Yahoo’s value of information concept was far ahead of its time — and well beyond what was technically feasible in the era of Pentium era single-thread processors and Windows 98 technology.
“If you let engineers run the world, you’re not going to be accountable.”
Google’s discover everything on the Internet operating model was technically and economically feasible. The discover everything model provided what Yahoo had not — a far reaching and always up-to-date content map reflective of what was available on the Internet - everywhere.
What Page and Brin brought to the Internet search business was a superior engineering model that matched the needs of Internet users in the late 1990s. But what was an elegant and visionary 1998 engineering model contained a flaw that might well have not have mattered had Google’s original operating model, based largely on content keyword, remained intact.
Google’s fatal flaw is its apparent assumption that all information is equal. Yahoo’s fatal flaw was its assumption that only the most worthy content deserved to be indexed. Today, nearly twenty years after Filo and Yang started their list of favorite websites, it is clear that both quality and visibility are essential to global Internet content evaluation.
Google’s search methodology has changed considerably over the years. Today, online content matching the search terms, whether the original source, copyright infringed, stolen, or wrongfully replicated for AdSense income, appears to be equally ranked with the original. Nearly every legitimate website, media content provider, content publisher or news gathering organization has at one time or another had its content pirated and used for unlawful or criminal purposes.
Without Google, such sites would have no traffic nor motivation nor income stream from Google.
Some content, or entire websites engage in what are known as SEO manipulations and/or rank higher due to advertising and/or paid placement agreements.
As a result, political manifestos, emotional rants, over the top blog content, legitimate news, intellectual materials, and salesmanship are of equal value before adjusting for what most benefits Google. In the real world information is the opposite of a commodity — some is accurate, some is truthful, most is neither.
“The real point for me is that Google is dishonest in not disclosing that the game is fixed.”
SEO manipulation by publishers, advertizing tie-ins, paid placement and subject-driven advertizing distort search result placement. In the doing, what’s valuable, credible, intellectual or newsworthy is pushed aside by what’s trendy, commercial, manipulated, or purchased — i.e. Google’s global assault on what’s credible, intellectual or newsworthy.
For some, including Newsroom Magazine contributor Harley Blank, the issue that matters most is failure to disclose the degree to which results placement is influenced by matters beyond the content itself.
Only this week, Glenn Britt, CEO at Time Warner Cable, was quoted by the Washington Post for revealing TW may capture network TV over the airwaves it could stream via the Internet like upstart Aereo is now doing in the New York Metro market.
Google’s easily manipulated and revenue-driven search results are as out of date as the channel bundle marketing promoted by cable television providers. Only this week, Glenn Britt, CEO at Time Warner Cable, was quoted by the Washington Post for revealing TW may capture network TV over the airwaves it could stream via the Internet like upstart Aereo is now doing in the New York Metro market.
Merely the mention of Aereo’s over-the-air to streaming content service by Time Warner reflects a clear understanding that no organization is immune to the forces of on-line technologies and opportunities. Time Warner has competitors, Google has something close to a global monopoly and nearly $50 billion in advertising and placement revenues.
It’s time to bring back Yahoo’s categorical content valuation model. The technology required to value information exists today. Google already applies it to help you avoid unwanted sexual content, and to include paid content and advertising in search listings. Both value-driven filters are automatic and beyond the control of ordinary Google search facility users.
What most of us need today is a value-based Internet search tool — one that would filter out that which we do not wish to see and filter in that what we do wish to see. We would benefit, for example, were there selector buttons on the search engine that would let us change our criteria, or to establish categories of our own making.
For example, one might choose from a list of criteria such as these:
No claim is made that the above table of search content value criteria is either complete or appropriate to everyone’s wants, needs and expectations. But it does illustrate how a single purpose, profit-driven indexing and listing system constrains, distorts and arguably censors the veracity, credibility and probity of online information.
Publisher, Newsroom Magazine
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