Tuesday, February 07, 2006

What hath Google wrought?

The Google search engine was originally created to bring all the information on a subject out on the Internet to a user via simple queries and to do it quickly. Google accomplishes the first part with web-bots zipping about the Internet querying what is there. It accomplishes the second part by supporting huge data-centers where they cache those web pages full of information.

I remember a certain thrill and joy when I would query Google with the name of a Japanese anime series I am a fan of and I would find my fan site at the number one spot, defeating the big Japanese company that brought it to the United States. Even now when you query Google, my web page still ranks at the number three spot. Pretty cool huh?

Well Google’s business model is to sell advertising space on their search pages and they do that quite well. In fact the Google balloon was pretty spectacular with shares selling for over $400 each while some optimists were predicting over $600 a share; with the stocks merely $400+ a share, the founders of Google obscenely rich on paper.

Now Google is making miss-steps that could cost it’s market position. First it was allowing its search engine to being easily interrogated by the PRC’s secret police to see what that state’s citizens were searching for, like that radical concept called freedom. Then Google refused a DoJ subpoena for some records to help the DoJ figure out how much of the Google search activity was related to child porn. Remember those stratospheric stock prices I mentioned last paragraph? Last week Google missed its earnings estimate and overnight lost $16billion in value as people sold it off and the downward trend is continuing since Google closed today at $367.92 or a further loss of 4.46% of its total value.

Google is involved in a flap with BMW’s German page. I refer to Matt Cutts and his blog. What is at the center of this controversy is what Google is deeming spam. Using Java and extra web-pages it appears companies like BMW is deploying sites geared to rank high in Google searches because of being loaded with key words and when someone clicks on the link they are redirected to BMW’s business sites. I really do not see that much of a problem with this, BMW is trying to make money on the Internet, so they are adapting to being online. In the 1990s, people would put in the meta-tags all kinds of words to boost chances search engines finding their web-pages and with the fear of Echelon stripping away everyone’s online privacy; some web page designers would encode in the meta-tags the alleged key-words Echelon was looking for in an attempt to overload Echelon and break it, thus striking a blow for freedom.

Lets get back to Matt Cutt, in the post titled Ramping up on International Webspam that started this furor. He justifies the deletion of BMW’s German web site because BMW used this tactic to generate more hits on their site. They call this spam. Okay lets say they do enforce these rules on spam. As long as they are consistent in applying these rules, everything could be good. There is even a process for restoring a web-site to Google’s search engine and BMW is adhering to that process by removing the Java code. All ist gut ja? Well no, because Matt decides to act in a cavalier manner at the end of this post and restores a site two days ahead of the announced schedule. This begs the question, how closely monitored is the process? Is Matt and his co-workers actually applying the standards uniformly or are they acting like cowboys with a mission to clean up the wild Internet of spam by applying frontier justice, in this case de-listing from the Google search engines an offending web-site. Am I making a huge case from one instance? Maybe, but there is no transparency at Google on the process unless someone like Matt decides to talk about it.

How could this adversely impact Google? If they are seen acting in a high-handed manner dictating to companies how their web-pages have to be put together in order to be listed in Google’s search engines and demanding these companies pay Google for the privilege to advertise their web sites. It would not take too much abuse to see these companies throwing their advertising money to other search engines like Alta Vista, Yahoo! or Dogpile. Then we could see the Google house of cards collapse as the stock becomes worthless and within a few years when someone says google, they will think of the mathematical term and never a failed search engine.

End note: I was tempted to do a play on words with the title. Instead of 'Google wrought' I wanted to make it 'Googleraut.' I am not sure if Google is truly building their Tower of Babel to be thrown down from, but their recent actions makes me think that.

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