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Stuck In Google's Doghouse

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the picking-the-winners dept.

Google 165

hansoloaf writes "The NY Times is running an article about a business, Sourcetool.com that seem to be in a sort of a doghouse with Google. Initially Sourcetool uses AdWords to help build up its business. The business centers around providing links for business that sell industrial products. The owner, Dan Savage, explains in detail how Google over time used its AdWords bidding system to limit or reduce Sourcetool's ranking and revenue because the site's landing page is not 'googly' enough. Savage wrote a letter to the Justice Department as they are reportedly looking into Google and Yahoo's proposed deal." The article is nuanced in its observations about the complexity and ambiguity of anti-trust law. Even if Sourcetool and similar businesses aren't "Googly" — which is a Google proxy for "what the customer wants to see in search results" — should Google be able to pick winners and losers among industries and business models?

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165 comments

slices of you (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24991987)

i'd really like another slice of you

Why not just improve the site? (5, Insightful)

Naughty Bob (1004174) | more than 5 years ago | (#24991993)

The Dan Savage [avclub.com]? Love your work.

But surely google must serve its customers in the way it deems best. Otherwise, who is running the business?

Solution? Make your website less like a link-farm. Perhaps add some value, like trustable reviews, or customer recommendations (otherwise, the site is not really any different to a Google search on the term "Industrial Products").

"Googly" -- which is a Google proxy for "what the customer wants to see in search results"

Which is, of course, why Google is the No.1 search engine. They make serving their customers their business, the crazy loons.

Re:Why not just improve the site? (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24992045)

That's fine, so long as you remember that Google's customers are those that actually pay it with real money for advertising, not us dweebs that just use it as a search engine.

Re:Why not just improve the site? (2, Insightful)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 5 years ago | (#24992337)

That's true, we're the product. But google has to cultivate it's product, not drive it away. If they have nothing to sell to their customers, then they won't make very much money, will they.

That's a false dichotomy. (4, Insightful)

RustinHWright (1304191) | more than 5 years ago | (#24993565)

If they have nothing to sell to their customers, then they won't make very much money, will they.

But that's not how things work when you're a monopoly. Or even a company with only eighty percent of the market. Your product doesn't have to be ideal, just good enough to keep competitors from spending the billions of dollars and years of coding to even try to catch up. Google is now so big that their energy usage alone affects the budgets of entire counties. Looks to me like you're assuming that somehow if they don't do the best possible job, competition will somehow magically take care of it. That it's a choice between "nothing to sell" as you put it, and putting out a flawless product. Well, first of all, there's a huge range between "nothing" and "best". Secondly, when the barriers to entry [tutor2u.net] are measured in billions of dollars and tens of thousands of programmer years of work, it's not realistic to expect that somebody will somehow just step in and supercede Google if they do something wrong.

Now, maybe you're thinking as you read this about Yahoo, MSN, and so on. Well, have you ever used their search engines in the past five years? I run web sites so I have to. They suck. I'm not even going to bother to explain why Microsoft would f*ck up a programming job; anybody posting here should get that already. But if you look at the others, they're somewhere between bush league and simply not built as general purpose search engines. Ask Jeeves and Yahoo are built for ignorant, clueless lumps who want everything explained to them in small words. Search on anything there and you'll reliably end up at sites with a fifth grade vocabulary and lots of "for dummies" style handholding.

What's my point? That their engines aren't even built to do what Google's does. To say that they still compete head to head with Google is like saying that Cliff Notes is competing with Encyclopedia Britannica. This means that in some ways, Google is already a monopoly and I'm willing to bet that the programmers in those companies who study how each other's code works would agree with me. They offer, superficially, the same product, but not to the same markets and not for quite the same uses.

Make no mistake; I use Google,too. Their results are fantastic. But just as I avoid posting links to Wikipedia, I go out of my way to find things in other ways than Google. As the article points out, power corrupts, monopoly power especially. And whether the folks in Google still believe after their cooperation with the Chinese government and their retention of personal data and so on that they are free from "evil" to use their own term, they will become a problem, a censoring, privacy infringing, overcharging danger to, quite literally, the entire human race if they keep going the way that they're going now.

Re:Why not just improve the site? (5, Insightful)

adisakp (705706) | more than 5 years ago | (#24992115)

His website relied on being a link-farm.

From The Summary: The business centers around providing links for business that sell industrial products.

The summary is wrong it should say "AdSense Links".

Basically, he was skimming from Google. He was paying google less for search terms than Google was paying him for click throughs. If you typed "ball bearings" on Google you might get one of his adwords (that he paid 5-6 cents for), then clicked on one of his "ball bearing" you'd be clicking on a Google AdSense ad (that he was paid 10cents per click through). He was making a huge amount of money by making people click twice through what Google would prefer to be a single click from their system. Plus his entire business model relied on skimming cash from Google.

Re:Why not just improve the site? (2, Interesting)

jmpeax (936370) | more than 5 years ago | (#24992287)

RTFA - his site is more than just a collection of ads. It's a huge searchable directory that had some ads on it to generate profit.

I know reading the article isn't popular, but on this occasion it's important. Parent really isn't being insightful.

Re:Why not just improve the site? (5, Insightful)

adisakp (705706) | more than 5 years ago | (#24992387)

The site still looks like a link farm. And every page basically has paid links on it that just repeat the search terms he was paying Google to buy. There's no reason Google should sell him search terms cheaper than they pay him for click throughs on the same search terms.

Re:Why not just improve the site? (1)

richj (85270) | more than 5 years ago | (#24993267)

And the most likely ads the person would click on would be the ad that matches the search term he just googled for.

It's really hard to feel bad for this guy, he's got a bunch of links (a la Yahoo circa 1995 - really innovative!) and then a system that translates the Google search into his adwords revenue. How's that not a link farm?

Re:Why not just improve the site? (3, Insightful)

VoidEngineer (633446) | more than 5 years ago | (#24992135)

Yes, except you've forgotten a critical point... Companies who advertise and pay them money are their customers, not the masses who use their services for free.

Re:Why not just improve the site? (5, Insightful)

Naughty Bob (1004174) | more than 5 years ago | (#24992167)

Yes, except you've forgotten a critical point... Companies who advertise and pay them money are their customers, not the masses who use their services for free.

I didn't forget this- It isn't a critical point though-

How would Google be serving its customers by filling up the search results with link farms? In my eyes, that only devalues the product.

This site, as a poster above points out, is simply skimming cash from Google.

Re:Why not just improve the site? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24992275)

It may be "skimming cash" from Google, but it is most certainly not a link farm. It's a niche search engine that lists (for free) a large number of business directories, and displays some paid AdSense results along with the search.

Besides, lots of people use AdSense and AdWords together to make money. The problem is that for this guy it's his only source of revenue.

Re:Why not just improve the site? (1)

mysidia (191772) | more than 5 years ago | (#24992559)

Clearly he needs to have paid listings and incentives for businesses that are listed to cross-link back to his site.

Then he will get more traffic.

Re:Why not just improve the site? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24992221)

They are the customers, but nevertheless it may be a good business decision to get rid of bad customers.
If some customers are given cheap ads to irrelevant pages, the free users (Google's product) will start clicking on the links less, and thus reduce the value of Google's services their other customers.

Since this is Slashdot, every post needs a bad analogy. This case is similar to a restaurant throwing out a paying customer (or charging them *a lot*) if they are loud, annoying and disturbing many other eaters.

Re:Why not just improve the site? (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 5 years ago | (#24992251)

Which is, of course, why Google is the No.1 search engine. They make serving their customers their business, the crazy loons.

Google doesn't do any better than the competition does in terms of what makes it into the results. I switched over to msn for search, and the results really aren't worse than Google's are.

Google does a pretty poor job of filtering out link farms and search engine results from the top couple of pages. Pages which consist only of lists of other pages shouldn't appear in a proper search engine's results. Definitely not on the first couple of pages.

Re:Why not just improve the site? (1)

hclewk (1248568) | more than 5 years ago | (#24992469)

Got an example?

Re:Why not just improve the site? (2, Insightful)

Luthair (847766) | more than 5 years ago | (#24992781)

I don't know about you, but if I use Google to search for a product, virtually all the results are "shopping" sites which simply link to other stores selling the item. Its getting to the point where it isn't possible to find reviews for many types of products, with the exception of CNet / Epinions, which in many cases don't even have a review, just a description!

Re:Why not just improve the site? (3, Interesting)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 5 years ago | (#24992333)

Bingo...

The website is a link farm. and it's a whiney butt complaining that their semi shady business is pissing off google.

Honestly, I think any link-farm site needs to be delisted.

"googley" stands for a honest and real website and not a site page that is designed to list links to other places purely to build google page ranks for other sites.

Re:Why not just improve the site? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24992391)

I would suppose that all are equal in their ability to express an opinion even when it has great effects upon others. For Google to rank a business as "No.1" is no different from me saying that I hate Sears products. Either opinion may boost or ruin a business but that is what freedom and equality are all about.

Not the same at all. (2, Insightful)

RustinHWright (1304191) | more than 5 years ago | (#24993667)

For Google to rank a business as "No.1" is no different from me saying that I hate Sears products.

Not true at all. When you decide, you do so mostly or entirely on your own behalf. Google's decisions affect hundreds of millions of people, not to mention that they present themselves as experts, in a new sort of way. And just as a civil engineer's opinion given to a client about cement makers is actionable while yours isn't, Google's "opinion" about a website is actionable. Ranking websites is what they do. They present themselves to the world as a content aggregator. That makes them fundamentally different from somebody deciding something about how they will spend their own money.
This is the opposite of "freedom". Realistically, they and a handful of other companies control the biggest pathways to a multi-trillion dollar market and you have to deal with them or one of a handful of others to get what has become a basic service. This is no more an example of "freedom" than choosing a broadband provider is.
This is also not "equality". Anybody going up against them is facing a corporation with more wealth, expertise, market position, and overall power than all but a few dozen in the world. If, say, the government of Sweden were to go up against Google, chances are Sweden would get their ass kicked. Same goes for, say, MIT or, as we've already seen, Microsoft. Anybody who can repeatedly publicly humiliate Microsoft isn't "equal" to anybody anymore.

What is a link farm? (2, Insightful)

zogger (617870) | more than 5 years ago | (#24992553)

A page of google search results is nothing but a link farm with some ads. This is like the old pot calling the kettle black. An individual does a single web page with topic-specific related links...that's the same thing google does, just they generate their's on the fly based on search words. I am not seeing any huge difference there with what the human sees on the screen once the browser renders it, it's a page with topic related links.

Re:What is a link farm? (1)

RobertM1968 (951074) | more than 5 years ago | (#24993003)

This is like the old pot calling the kettle black.

Ummm... no it's not. Search engine/"link farm" relevance would be really poor if a search engine listed another search engine/"link farm" as a viable result.

Re:Why not just improve the site? (1)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 5 years ago | (#24992627)

...They make serving their customers their business, the crazy loons.

And yet keywords are auctioned off to the highest bidders, which goes againt delivering the most relevant search result. Add that Google is an effective monopoly - i.e., wields predominant market power.

Re:Why not just improve the site? (1)

Naughty Bob (1004174) | more than 5 years ago | (#24992687)

And yet keywords are auctioned off to the highest bidders, which goes againt delivering the most relevant search result.

Oldhack. Keywords get you into the ads, not the search results.

Re:Why not just improve the site? (1)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 5 years ago | (#24992839)

Right, I should have noted the search result, including the side bar ads that show up. When Google talks about "user experience" as a justification for the move, they seem to mean putting up "relevant" ads, but the relevancy is determined by auctioning.

Btw, who did you mean by "customer"?

Not so simple once you really think about it (5, Informative)

willyhill (965620) | more than 5 years ago | (#24992005)

At first I thought this was going to be yet another "SearchKing"-like whine with cheese about how unfair Google was being to some sleazy parked domain hoarder. But that's not quite the case. Make sure you RTFA. I think the guy's website is relatively useful and well-organized. It sure doesn't feel like the usual AdWord gaming scheme.

I get the sense that Google is being hoisted by its own petard here. The fact that the article mentions the site in question might be in direct competition with one of Google's main partners is definitely interesting, coupled with the allegation that he knew of at least one other website who got a pass from the algorithm after being evaluated by a human being.

Here's an example. I searched for wood cutting [sourcetool.com] on Sourcetool. That's a pretty relevant list of results if you're a business looking for that kind of equipment. Now run the same [google.com] search directly into Google. See the problem? Yeah, the 5th hit is a Runescape page, for cryin' out loud. I'm sure I could possibly refine the search, but think about the ads that show up on the right side of the page. A link to Sourcetool and five seconds later I'm looking at what I actually needed.

Maybe Google is nervous about niche search solutions? I'm just not seeing their problem here.

If the article is correct, Google is not acting on good faith. To all the people who screamed about how Google is not a monpoly and made Microsoft jokes when Slashdot ran the Yahoo deal antitrust investigation, remember that Google does have more than 70% of the online ad market, and then put yourself in this guy's position. What are your options? MSN ads? You're screwed, because you can't take your business elsewhere.

And I have to say I was astounded at the money amounts mentioned... $600K per month? I'm definitely in the wrong business!

Re:Not so simple once you really think about it (5, Insightful)

jonbryce (703250) | more than 5 years ago | (#24992091)

When I go to a search engine and ask it to find me something, I don't want to be taken to another search engine that might find me what I want. I want it to find me what I want.

Re:Not so simple once you really think about it (1)

visualight (468005) | more than 5 years ago | (#24992233)

The parent argues convincingly that the search engine Google is not finding what you want, and the sourcetool.com search engine is.

Except that, not (3, Informative)

Scareduck (177470) | more than 5 years ago | (#24993545)

Did you bother to actually look at sourcetool.com? Multiple keywords, all unrelated to each other, each with the same anchor tag. He's a whiner.

And I would use it from now on. (1)

boorack (1345877) | more than 5 years ago | (#24992693)

Wherever it looks like linking farm or not, I've bookmarked it. It is much more acurate than google.com in its own niche. Pretty much the same as freshmeat.net in open-source-software-projects niche.
If google search results and ads linking to sourcetool.com are properly described as a search/directory site, i won't mind seeing it in my search results.

Re:And I would use it from now on. (2, Insightful)

Lehk228 (705449) | more than 5 years ago | (#24993041)

that sourcetool only made money when it was ranked highly on google suggests that it is in fact not useful enough for people to regularly use to find what they want, otherwise lower google rank should have only lowered the rate of growth.

True, but business.com is apparently okay (1)

secondbase (870665) | more than 5 years ago | (#24993561)

I might agree with that, and might even applaud Google keeping the top hits from always being bait-and-switch.

Except for the fact that their "partner," business.com, is much the same sort of thing.

If what's happening is the partner is beating out other directories, solely by the relationship with Google, that's purely anti-competitive.

Re:Not so simple once you really think about it (1)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 5 years ago | (#24992097)

Are you sure they're not acting in good faith? Google gets paid per click, not per impression. If other ads are more profitable for them to show, why should they show his?

Minus expenses (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24992143)

That was 600,000 minus the 500,000 paid back to google.

Still, 100,000 a month is nothing to sneeze at.

Re:Not so simple once you really think about it (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24992253)

I liked the article a lot too, and it's certainly true that someone who is operating a search business is in a tricky position. As I read it he grossed $650K monthly on click revenue, and paid Google $500K a month for keywords.

How much value is the site providing in between clicks? I searched it in a couple areas where I've had to find and buy materials or equipment. I would say not real useful, and far from complete. If you're seriously sourcing stuff for a business, you soon learn who the main manufacturers and distributors are, and if you google, you don't google for a broad category, but for a part number or the narrowest possible technical descriptor. Maybe if you're just starting out and with no idea who sells widget-grinders this would give you some initial places to look.

Other readers will be savvier on this, but the site really looks like it was generated by software with minimal human intervention. I certainly get no sense that experts in particular areas had any hand in making the categories. The guy's business model depends on being widely spread across a whole lot of categories, which pretty much precludes paying for the in-depth expertise that would make it really helpful.

Re:Not so simple once you really think about it (1, Interesting)

Wonko the Sane (25252) | more than 5 years ago | (#24993243)

If you're seriously sourcing stuff for a business, you soon learn who the main manufacturers and distributors are, and if you google, you don't google for a broad category, but for a part number or the narrowest possible technical descriptor.

Many industrinal suppliers have horrible web sites. I buy a lot of Allen-Bradley products, and while I've learned to navigate their web site, I hate it with a passion.

Imagine that you need to know something about a switch, maybe an 800T-J91A. Do you want:

  1. One page for this part number that has (on that page or directly linked to it) photos, drawings, techincal specifications, optional accessories, installation instructions and product manual, or
  2. Go to seperate section of the web site for each piece of information (each with its own search function), figure out the difference between the "product directory" and the "online catalog", and finally find a catalog page which is simply a digital reproduction of the paper version.

Guess which usability model they went with...

Re:Not so simple once you really think about it (1)

jmauro (32523) | more than 5 years ago | (#24993351)

That may be true, but how does this site help? It just links to the same screwed up documentation?

Re:Not so simple once you really think about it (2)

Wonko the Sane (25252) | more than 5 years ago | (#24993449)

The subject touched a nerve and I wanted to rant about crappy industrial websites

Re:Not so simple once you really think about it (3, Insightful)

rhizome (115711) | more than 5 years ago | (#24992759)

Here's an example. I searched for wood cutting on Sourcetool. That's a pretty relevant list of results if you're a business looking for that kind of equipment.

Except that every link is to a business.com redirector. Aside from the linkfarm site design going on, the redirect for every link is a big, spammy and red siren for me.

Re:Not so simple once you really think about it (1)

swb (14022) | more than 5 years ago | (#24992775)

I reached the same conclusion as willyhill when I read the article; Google is threatened by niche search and assuages these feelings by protecting preferred niche search solution providers and shunning others. An open market in niche search could lead to niche search providers aligning with Microsoft or other competitors, or generally undermining Google's dominance.

What I can't decide, though, is whether this is a conscious policy on Google's part or some kind of coincidental behavior that's arisen as a result of all the attempts to game Google's search algorithms.

I do agree with the article author's statements that monopolies often can't help but act like monopolies. Pperhaps Google needs to spend more money allowing guys like this to "appeal" the algorithm to humans vs. just being told to suck it hard.

A right to revenue? (5, Insightful)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 5 years ago | (#24992013)

Does a company have a right to revenue? If they base their business model on the rules of another company, do they really have recourse when the rules are changed to damage that revenue stream?

And can anyone point me to a bit torrent of an actual Miley Cyrus CD instead of garbage binaries?

Re:A right to revenue? (3, Insightful)

pimpimpim (811140) | more than 5 years ago | (#24992117)

And can anyone point me to a bit torrent of an actual Miley Cyrus CD instead of garbage binaries?

Indeed. If I want to search for ball bearings, I want google to first give me the search result of a real ball bearing producer or store. Not have to click additional links to ad-ridden garbage pages that might eventually lead me to a ball bearing producer (or not).

Google should be busy optimizing their product (which is views by users who also click on advertisements). This guy is making money from a google algorithm, if it changes for the better, he should change with it. Where is the big deal.

Re:A right to revenue? (5, Funny)

Just Some Guy (3352) | more than 5 years ago | (#24992137)

And can anyone point me to a bit torrent of an actual Miley Cyrus CD instead of garbage binaries?

As the parent of a pre-teen girl who has said CD, let me assure you that you're drawing a distinction that does not exist.

Re:A right to revenue? (1)

ZG-Rules (661531) | more than 5 years ago | (#24993695)

I don't often post to Slashdot, but as a single white guy who has absolutely no insight into the hardships you must face day-to-day (listening to that rubbish), I have to say that you Sir, are a legend. This is one of the most succinct put-downs I've ever seen.

Re:A right to revenue? (1)

russotto (537200) | more than 5 years ago | (#24992749)

And can anyone point me to a bit torrent of an actual Miley Cyrus CD instead of garbage binaries?

No; they're indistinguishable.

Googles value is in picking winners and losers (3, Insightful)

johannesg (664142) | more than 5 years ago | (#24992039)

Making a long list of websites containing a specific phrase is fairly trivial. Finding interesting ones among that set, or in other words, picking winners and losers, is the reason Google (and other search machines) exists at all.

So yes, they damn well should be doing that.

Now, if only they would get rid of those annoying sites that offer "$HARDWARE? Prices, reviews, and benchmarks! Be the first to write a review!"...

Re:Googles value is in picking winners and losers (1)

Reziac (43301) | more than 5 years ago | (#24992081)

Considering that most searches now cough up acres and acres of linkfarms, some of which even come up as sponsored links, I find Google's behaviour more than a little suspicious.

Re:Googles value is in picking winners and losers (1)

hclewk (1248568) | more than 5 years ago | (#24992537)

Example?

Re:Googles value is in picking winners and losers (1)

Reziac (43301) | more than 5 years ago | (#24992643)

Any search at random will do. It's not as bad right now as it was a few months ago, but I expect it'll be just as bad again once the linkfarms catch up to google's latest specs.

Frex, two months ago I input "patterdale terriers" and got NOTHING but linkfarms on the first two pages (and in the ad and sponsored link boxes). Today the results are somewhat better, tho there are still a lot of "generic content, tons of links, tons of ads" sites included that aren't exactly "real sites".

Re:Googles value is in picking winners and losers (1)

Lehk228 (705449) | more than 5 years ago | (#24993071)

if any search will do, surely you could provide an example, because you are definitely not full of shit.

Re:Googles value is in picking winners and losers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24993447)

Hear is one [google.com].-)

Google (2, Interesting)

perlchild (582235) | more than 5 years ago | (#24992059)

If
The Google rules are:
1) well understood
2) documented
3) Non-arbitrary

I'm sure google will be able to defend them in court.

However, whenever I hear people discussing them, 2) is not true, on the argument that they would be gamable otherwise.

I predict a loss for Google. Without documentation they can't prove they're not arbitrary. If they're arbitrary, they're acting like a monopoly and need to be struck down. From "do no evil" to "do the only evil that's actually explicitly forbidden by law for a company". It's quite a drop

Re:Google (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24992203)

It's not "do no evil." It's "don't be evil".

Probably it's not possible for them to never do anything that someone would consider evil.

If you care to revise your statement in light of that, I would be interested in hearing it; the rest of your comment seemed pretty insightful.

Re:Google (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24992303)

Yeah, but you can make millions if you can game google's algorithms, and there is always gonna be a category of site in between linkfarm and value-added guide. If I were google I would absolutely be a little vague.

Re:Google (1)

DoktorTomoe (643004) | more than 5 years ago | (#24992485)

The point is: as soon as Google documents its algorithms for the general public, they become meaningless, because it would get just too easy to game them.

Google will *never* allow anyone outside the developer teams to know about how the system works in detail.

BTW: If I u

Re:Google (1)

mysidia (191772) | more than 5 years ago | (#24992587)

Sounds like attempted security through obscurity to me.

Sufficiently determined gamers will still find the ways to game the algorithms.

Re:Google (1)

russotto (537200) | more than 5 years ago | (#24992771)

Sounds like attempted security through obscurity to me.

Sufficiently determined gamers will still find the ways to game the algorithms.

If the algorithms were static, it would be security through obscurity. Since they aren't, it's an ongoing contest between Google and the gamers.

Re:Google (2, Interesting)

R2.0 (532027) | more than 5 years ago | (#24992565)

"I predict a loss for Google. Without documentation they can't prove they're not arbitrary. If they're arbitrary, they're acting like a monopoly and need to be struck down."

I think you misunderstand anti-trust law. "Arbitraryness" has nothing to do with it - it might even be a good defense. Anti-trust id designed to prevent companies from using their monopoly power to run competitors out of business. It has to be a conscious choice - they have to TRY to run someone out of business. But if a company goes out of business as a result of the way Google does business on an everyday basis, then they can't make the claim that they were specially targeted.

In addition, the complainer was both a competitor and a customer. Anti-trust law doesn't compel companies to make it easy on their competitors, only that they don't make it harder.

Lets take the classic trust, Standard Oil. If I run R2.0's fuel distributorship, and I buy gas at $4.00/gallon, run it through a filter, and then sell it back to Standard Oil at 4.25 gallon, Standard oil is under no compulsion to keep selling to me, or keep buying from me, just because there is a loophole in my sales and procurement practices.

All google has to say is "We believe link farms are bad for consumers and also competition; our algorithms discourage us doing business with ALL link farms, not just his" where's the problem?

Re:Google (1)

perlchild (582235) | more than 5 years ago | (#24993529)

And since he claims not to be a link farm, they wouldn't have to explain how their algorithm isn't faulty, and flagging him as a linkfarm? Especially since no human intervention is occuring?

I'm not talking about the scoring of points that comes out of the algorithm, but the classification of sites.

Your examples would be great, except they deal with real goods, not information. If I MD5 some string of bits, I can't guarantee it's as useful as the original string of bits, but from the point of view of the law, I just applied an algorithm, same as if I rot-13ed it.

First amendment, right? (2, Insightful)

Just Some Guy (3352) | more than 5 years ago | (#24992083)

So they're asking the gov't to determine whether Google has to highly rank link farms?

Yes, Google absolutely has the right to pick and choose results. They're the sole owners of their data and may present it any way they want. By what legal theory could that possibly be untrue?

Re:First amendment, right? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24992453)

Antitrust laws you god damn moron.

Re:First amendment, right? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24992567)

Mod parent up, MORAN.

Re:First amendment, right? (1)

Cheech Wizard (698728) | more than 5 years ago | (#24992715)

Antitrust laws you god damn moron.

In which case Microsoft and many other companies would have to be broken up. All antitrust laws are totally arbitrary.

Re:First amendment, right? (2, Informative)

mysidia (191772) | more than 5 years ago | (#24992625)

Actually.. this is about price discrimination, not choice of content: running an auction and specifying an exhorbitantly high minimum bid for one site (your competitor) and a different minimum bid for another site (your business allies) for the very same purchase.

This is not unlike Microsoft charging one price to OEMs who bundle Windows with every single PC and denying the discount to any OEM who sells any PC without windows on it.

In this case it's about the site containing a search service and directory of other sites (So it is in competition with Google's search feature)

Re:First amendment, right? (1)

jmauro (32523) | more than 5 years ago | (#24993311)

No. They're charging everyone the same price per volume. It's about this guy's business model not working out once the price per ad on Google climbed above the price per ad posted on his website. As such I don't really feel all that sorry for him. There are other ad organizations out there that may suit his needs, but blaming Google for raising fees to cover costs (like in this case where he's taking 1.2 million a year from Google) is just plain silly.

And yes, he has a nice looking link farm, but that doesn't make it not a link farm. It provides no new and unique content that cannot be found elsewhere.

Re:First amendment, right? (1)

mysidia (191772) | more than 5 years ago | (#24993435)

If that's your definition of a link farm; then in what way is the Google or Yahoo search engine not a link farm?

Search engines don't provide new content either. A cursory examination of his site along with some sample searches demonstrates fairly clearly it is not a link farm, by the commonly understood definition, the claim that it is a link farm is misleading if not deceptive.

A link farm is a group of sites that all link to each other, for the purpose of increasing their pageranks. The site is not a link farm, because hardly any of the sites it links to link back directly or indirectly.

If you read the article, it's pretty clear that the nature of the complaint is they're increasing HIS minimum bid.

Other advertisers can still place a bid lower than the increased minimum they are imposing for him, and for other advertisers that are not "preferred".

Re:First amendment, right? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24992649)

If in a monopoly posistion, the government can make substantial restrictions to what you may and may not do with data you possess. Hell, MS was almost forced to sell/spin-off Windows, or does our collective memory not extend to 1999?

Re:First amendment, right? (1)

Korin43 (881732) | more than 5 years ago | (#24992713)

How is Google a monopoly? Sure they control 80% of the search business, but that doesn't stop anyone from using any other search engine. I can go to Yahoo, MSN, or a thousand other smaller search engines. The reason I go to Google isn't because it's the biggest company, it's because it works the best.

Re:First amendment, right? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24992743)

thats fine, but 80% *is* a monopoly. But Monopoly's are not illegal, only using the monopoly abusively. You want to lay money on whether dicking around (deservedly or not) with a niche search engines (read:competitor) ranking will be viewed as using a monopoly abusively?

It's an AdWords arbitrage site. It should fail. (3, Informative)

Animats (122034) | more than 5 years ago | (#24992085)

That's an AdWords arbitrage site, one that buys cheap clicks to get traffic and sells expensive clicks to its own advertisers. Such sites are just another form of webspam. When Google raised their minimum bid for ads on search, many of those bottom-feeders dropped out, and ad clutter was reduced. Google revenue went down, too, but may recover in time.

Re:It's an AdWords arbitrage site. It should fail. (1)

VoidEngineer (633446) | more than 5 years ago | (#24992227)

Actually, as far as I'm aware, you have it precisely backwards. If it's truly an arbitrage site, it should succeed, by definition, until the arbitrage opportunity runs out.

And while some people are going to wring their hands and moan that value was taken away from, arbitrage is simply one of the many mechanisms that markets use to adjust mispriced commodities and services to their correct market value. Same with shorting stock. Yes, some people are going to loose in the process, but in the end, both shorting stock and arbitrage are necessary and useful mechanisms for repricing commodities, services, assets, and other tradable goods.

This is just a signal that they need to readjust their prices, and that their revenue may be about ready to be affected also. Just because they're Google doesn't mean that they can ignore the economy they operate within.

Re:It's an AdWords arbitrage site. It should fail. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24992415)

Arbitrage is fine, until you try to force one party to sell to you cheaper than you resell. If Google says "Your pages discredit our product, so we'll send you less traffic unless you compensate us adequately", then that's the market at work as well.

Re:It's an AdWords arbitrage site. It should fail. (3, Informative)

ngg (193578) | more than 5 years ago | (#24992449)

Actually, as far as I'm aware, you have it precisely backwards. If it's truly an arbitrage site, it should succeed, by definition, until the arbitrage opportunity runs out.

It seems to me that by increasing the minimum bid (mentioned in the grandparent), Google did cause the arbitrage opportunity to run out. So in fact, this link farm should no longer succeed. The market worked. What exactly is the problem here?

should Google be able to pick winners and losers.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24992095)

Google should be able to list whatever it wants on its search engine, it's called free speech. Period, end of discussion.

Re:should Google be able to pick winners and loser (1)

Arthur B. (806360) | more than 5 years ago | (#24992801)

Can't mod parent up, but that's there's nothing more to add.

what a crappy article (4, Insightful)

Bert690 (540293) | more than 5 years ago | (#24992105)

More "oh look google is becoming evil!" nonsense. How exactly is it evil or "acting like Microsoft" to refuse over a half million dollars in revenue every month in order to prevent some lame ass site from annoying real users: the people who actually use the search engine to find information? People should try to use SourceTool before they draw any conclusions. I'm sure NOBODY would visit that site unless tricked into clicking on one of their ads. Don't you think if the site actually provided any real value, they could get plenty of visits through other means such as organic search listings?

Re:what a crappy article (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24993745)

How exactly is it evil or "acting like Microsoft" to refuse over a half million dollars in revenue every month in order to prevent some lame ass site from annoying real users: the people who actually use the search engine to find information?

RTFA. It's evil if revenue_from("business.com") > ad_revenue_from("sourcetool.com"). business.com is a partner, whereas sourcetool is not. Isn't this the definition of monopoly abuse?

Don't you think if the site actually provided any real value, they could get plenty of visits through other means such as organic search listings?

I dunno. Do you know of any site that provides the same info (business manufacturers directory) with a better presentation or organization?

Search and money (1)

houbou (1097327) | more than 5 years ago | (#24992149)

Search engines companies do certainly make money from companies who pay them to be on top. But it shouldn't be up to a search engine to decide what is interesting or not.

The only added value of having a search engine meddling in search results, is if they can 100% identify phishing and scam sites.

Re:Search and money (3, Informative)

MindlessAutomata (1282944) | more than 5 years ago | (#24992367)

But it shouldn't be up to a search engine to decide what is interesting or not.

Bullshit. Why are you the great arbiter, the Great Decider, on what a search engine should be?

Not to mention, that is exactly what search engines do--they sort through the more relevant (which are the "interesting"--links most of interest) first through algorithms for relevancy and traffic.

Re:Search and money (1)

houbou (1097327) | more than 5 years ago | (#24992857)

Actually, to perhaps better explain what I meant, a search engine which categorizes based on traffic and relevancy is. Any other criterias which could be deemed subjective, not quantifiable, however should not be used. And I fail to see how your aggressive tone in your reply is going to impress anyone.

Ideals and Reality (1)

RAMMS+EIN (578166) | more than 5 years ago | (#24992155)

``should Google be able to pick winners and losers among industries and business models?''

While it is interesting to consider what Google should be able to do, it is also important to recognize what they can do. AdWords is theirs. They control it. They can set the rules, and your only choices are to accept the rules, or to not play.

Re:Ideals and Reality (1)

Ash-Fox (726320) | more than 5 years ago | (#24992725)

While it is interesting to consider what Google should be able to do, it is also important to recognize what they can do. AdWords is theirs. They control it. They can set the rules, and your only choices are to accept the rules, or to not play.

"A strange game. The only winning move is not to play. How about a nice game of chess?"

linkfarm (1)

ProfessionalCookie (673314) | more than 5 years ago | (#24992245)

The business centers around providing links for business that sell industrial products

Linkfarm. Google wins, +10 experience, x2 do no evil bonus.

Internet business: adapt or die (1)

BemoanAndMoan (1008829) | more than 5 years ago | (#24992371)

I had a business that lost 90% of its business overnight because of changes an advertising company (Overture) made. We made a bunch of changes and recovered within a couple of months, only to suffer the same fate again a year later (by which time we had moved on and the revenue was luckily no longer that relevant).

If a company has a site that doesn't continue to work positively within this complex, maturing environment (read: heavily influenced by a mass of competing goals, ideals and agendas) then it's not going to be successful. Google is just a easy target and victim of its own success. I for one doubt they ever adjust rankings or their formulas to intentionally reduce the presence of their competitors, since this kind of action usually results in generally diminishing returns (bad press, loss of faith, etc.).

not 'googly' enough? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24992439)

Because that'd be so not cricket...

If the linkfarm guy wins.. (2, Informative)

zsouthboy (1136757) | more than 5 years ago | (#24992591)

Please, PLEASE allow us to check a box in our settings that gets us to the "real" search results, Google.

Name it something innocous, like [] Remember the Good Old Days

In fact, do that now, please - checking the box will remove Expert Sexchange, cnet, pricerunner, etc. etc. from the search "results"

[the list that givemebackmygoogle [givemebackmygoogle.com] is a good start for the block list]

My Experience With AdWords (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24992815)

I have a related experience with Google. My site is an online games site (poker), which as we all know was made illegal a while back in the US. However...we turned our site into a FREE site whereby people play for fun but we fund the site by ads and even payout real cash to people (50% of the ads revenue, actually).

Now here is the thing...we applied to Google Adwords program and they rejected us. Their terms and conditions state our site is pertaining to gambling and therefore not allowed in the program. Fair enough. Despite being 100% legal, and a free site, we can live with this since people do associate poker with gambling.

But here's the thing...after declining us they still allow our direct competitors to both use Adwords and Adsense! When we highlighted this to them we just get canned replies and no changes. So the upshot for us is that we have to compete on an unfair playing field where our direct competitors (and by "direct" I mean: EXACTLY THE SAME BUSINESS AND MODEL) get the advantage of using the largest advertising network on the web and we don't. Unfair business practices, Google sucks.

Why isn't "Expert's Exchange" in the doghouse too? (4, Interesting)

soren100 (63191) | more than 5 years ago | (#24992883)

One of the greatest annoyances of Google (to those of us techies searching for answers) is "Expert's Exchange". Google gets to see the answers, but anyone searching for those answers doesn't get them, but is told to sign up and pay money for a "premium subscription".

There are ways around this, but this is all an annoyance and a pain to deal with, because the answers are readily and freely available on the Internet, and they would be much easier to find if the search results weren't clogged up with this type of garbage result.

So why aren't they in the "doghouse" too? (while we're at it, It would be great to move all the scientfic access-for-pay journals to a separate "scientific" google while we're at it -- they end up being half the results of my searches sometimes, but at least they aren't the tease that the EE site is)

Re:Why isn't "Expert's Exchange" in the doghouse t (2, Informative)

idlemachine (732136) | more than 5 years ago | (#24993371)

One of the greatest annoyances of Google (to those of us techies searching for answers) is "Expert's Exchange". Google gets to see the answers, but anyone searching for those answers doesn't get them, but is told to sign up and pay money for a "premium subscription".

There are ways around this, but this is all an annoyance and a pain to deal with[...]

The answers -are- there, just scroll down past the point that mentions subscription and you'll find them. If scrolling is "an annoyance and a pain", try hitting the End key...

Re:Why isn't "Expert's Exchange" in the doghouse t (2, Informative)

soren100 (63191) | more than 5 years ago | (#24993511)

I used to do that, but I tried that the other day, and it didn't work. I am looking for answers, not to play games with that website.

The real problem (1)

Restil (31903) | more than 5 years ago | (#24992945)

Sourcetool (and numerous other companies) have a business model that is almost entirely dependent on the business model and operation of another company or industry, which in this case is Google. If they existed prior to any major search engine existing and the growth and dominance of Google has, over time, eroded or destroyed Sourcetool, he MIGHT have a point. Of course, history is full of examples where the development of one industry destroyed another (horse buggies vs automobiles for instance), but that doesn't really apply here anyway.

Sourcetool was launched in 2005, well after Google had gained their current level of industry dominance. The site itself clearly states that it relies entirely on Google ads as a source of revenue. The site was developed, from its very inception, to be entirely dependent on how Google
chooses to operate. Google itself has no obligation to continue to operate in such a way that benefits any specific site or industry.

The way to protect yourself from this is to not be dependent on any single company, or any single method of revenue. Don't offer ads ONLY from google. And don't rely entirely on ad revenue to support the business. Certainly, many business do that, and many businesses are created and disappear as a result. It's part of the cycle. Either diversify or deal with it.

-Restil

Abnormally high market power (1)

saterdaies (842986) | more than 5 years ago | (#24993035)

Google should be able to pick and filter their results in the same way that the NY Times' editorial board does with their newspaper. If a story doesn't appeal as much as another, they go for that one. Likewise, Google should be free to choose what they think appeals and promote that.

HOWEVER, Google shouldn't have such dominance in the search market. The problem is that Google controls the majority of search advertising. While the NY Times has a wide readership, it probably doesn't even reach a 10% market position. In fact, with daily circulation around a million, it has 1%? less?

I think it's good when companies can make editorial decisions, but only if that company doesn't have abnormally high market power. If Google were to open-source it's algorithms for search and allow competitors to join in with their own editorial decisions, it would be fine. So long as they remain in their privileged market position, they deserve both scrutiny and regulation.

The entire concept of AdWords... (2, Interesting)

pongo000 (97357) | more than 5 years ago | (#24993155)

...has morphed into a "pay to play" scam, where you either pony up what Google demands, or else choose not to do business with Google. I've used AdWords for a couple of years now. This past year, I've noticed a disturbing trend: When I select relatively obscure (but valid) AdWords, with low CPC traffic estimates, it takes about a day before Google exponentially increases the price -- sometimes by a factor of 10, even more. And here's the kicker: Google does not give you the choice of paying to rank "in the middle of the pack". Instead, it's all or nothing: Either pay the exorbitant price tag Google now demands for the number #1 slot, or don't run your keywords at all.

This makes sense, in that it ensures that Google can take in maximum revenue for each keyword, rather than varying levels based upon what customers are willing to pay. As is to be expected from a publicly-traded company seeking to maximize shareholder value.

As a small business owner, I simply can't compete with (1) the click fraud that's rampant in AdWords, (2) the ability of well-heeled businesses such as eBay to bid up random AdWords to excessive CPC values, and (3) legitimate companies who can afford the number 1 AdWord slot for a keyword.

The sooner people realize that Google is not craigslist and has no reason to support anything that does not directly and positively affect its bottom line (thereby further enriching its shareholders), the sooner we'll get alternatives out there from companies and individuals who truly believe in enhancing usability and accessibility for the typical Internet denizen (read: you and me).

Go GOOG Go! (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24993509)

Roughly 2 years ago I wrote Google about my mother searching for cancer information only to be presented with link farm results. They promptly replied with an uncanned email to the effect they were fully aware of the situation and that they were actively weeding out the "pollution" (their word not mine).

That said, even if there is a remote possibility Sourcetool.com is not farming pay-per-click links (and I highly doubt it), he is simply a casualty of war and one which I'm glad Google is actively fighting.

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