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The Need For Search Neutrality

samzenpus posted more than 4 years ago | from the fair-and-balanced dept.

Google 203

wilsone8 writes "The New York Times includes an op-ed today arguing for Search Neutrality: 'Today, search engines like Google, Yahoo and Microsoft's new Bing have become the Internet's gatekeepers, and the crucial role they play in directing users to Web sites means they are now as essential a component of its infrastructure as the physical network itself. The F.C.C. needs to look beyond network neutrality and include search neutrality: the principle that search engines should have no editorial policies other than that their results be comprehensive, impartial and based solely on relevance.'"

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Huh... (4, Insightful)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 4 years ago | (#30579000)

TFA:

For three years, my company's vertical search and price-comparison site, Foundem, was effectively "disappeared" from the Internet in this way.

Inability to explain why. Credibility of your article nullified. Samzenpus is trolling.

Because of its domination of the global search market and ability to penalize competitors while placing its own services at the top of its search results, Google has a virtually unassailable competitive advantage.

Google, a company based in America, has an autocomplete-style guessing algorithm which showed "Michelle Obama monkey" as the first choice when one typed in "michelle". It was so fair that they had to alter their own results and provide a disclaimer for the sake of political correctness. Apparently that wasn't even the first time they'd dealt with that situation. I'd say Google is fair until assholes like article author started bitching and moaning.

Google's treatment of Foundem stifled our growth and constrained the development of our innovative search technology.

Try teaming up with Metacrawler [wikipedia.org] , they are many times as powerful as google.

Even AdWords and AdSense, the phenomenally efficient economic engines behind Google's meteoric success, are essentially borrowed inventions:

Yeah, Toyota also borrowed the wheel from somebody. It's only a matter of time until they're sued in the East district of Texas.

Will it embrace search neutrality as the logical extension to net neutrality that truly protects equal access to the Internet?

I dunno, will you tell me exactly why you feel you've been shortchanged by Google?

New York Times... (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30579048)

...talking about "comprehensive, impartial and based solely on relevance."?

Barf.

Re:New York Times... (1, Insightful)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 4 years ago | (#30579076)

Hey, at least they're not "Fair and Balanced"~

Re:New York Times... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30579170)

PONTIAC: Poor Old Nigger Thinks It's A Cadillac

Re:New York Times... (4, Insightful)

FictionPimp (712802) | more than 4 years ago | (#30579428)

how can you determine relevance while being impartial?

Well condoms are really not relevant to sexual education from a religious nut point of view. I mean sex eduction really just means telling them not to do it....

Re:Huh... (2, Insightful)

khallow (566160) | more than 4 years ago | (#30579082)

I dunno, will you tell me exactly why you feel you've been shortchanged by Google?

If it keeping moving, regulate it.

Re:Huh... (2, Funny)

Tynin (634655) | more than 4 years ago | (#30579146)

If it keeps moving, regulate it.

Using that logic, in order to raise former President Reagan from the dead, all we would need to do is subsidize him.

Re:Huh... (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 4 years ago | (#30579096)

Sorry, I screwed up the quote.

If it keeps moving, regulate it.

Re:Huh... (1, Redundant)

schon (31600) | more than 4 years ago | (#30579154)

Inability to explain why. Credibility of your article nullified.

Agreed.

But to play Devil's advocate for a second, let's assume that the author's company really was legitimate, and really was being "discriminated against" (whether deliberately, or because someone at Google mistook them for search-engine spammers.)

OK, so we have a legitimate company that has been "discriminated against". That still doesn't explain why Google needs to be regulated... there are thousands of scammers who aren't legitimate, and would *love* to be able to game search engines with impunity, making them all but useless.

You are 100% correct to say 'prove your claims', because even if the claims were true, reality still doesn't support the ends they're suggesting.

Exactly (4, Insightful)

headkase (533448) | more than 4 years ago | (#30579196)

Google is a private company that lives and dies on the whims of the market. If they are incompetent and start to screw up their index, who knows it may happen, then people will leave. Geez, imagine if everything somebody didn't like had to be regulated? There is no law against being successful, well there shouldn't be unless you think like a loser. And furthermore, once you start regulating more than is absolutely necessary by "committee" you introduce inefficiencies into our wonderful free market system. Which may not be perfect but it gives us such an advantage that it would be stupid to throw it away over sour-grapes.

Re:Exactly (1)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 4 years ago | (#30579314)

Google is a publicly traded company.

Re:Exactly (2, Insightful)

headkase (533448) | more than 4 years ago | (#30579332)

You know what I meant ;) Our markets aren't perfect like the fact the Microsoft is dominate in operating system but they do work given time, as Linux has established a strong core and is extending as we speak from there. Going to committee nullifies that are we are all poorer for it.

Re:Exactly (3, Insightful)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 4 years ago | (#30579674)

..And the only reason why Microsoft is really allowed to dominate the OS market is due to artificial regulations put in by the government (software patents) and government sponsorship.

Just like... (2, Insightful)

joppinkaru (1254112) | more than 4 years ago | (#30579864)

the US health care system. We need *less* regulation...

Re:Huh... (1)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 4 years ago | (#30579250)

This is my rationale:

Google's treatment of Foundem stifled our growth and constrained the development of our innovative search technology.

If Foundem was a search company worth their salt then they'd at least have an explanation as to how "The Man" was holdin' 'em down. Just sounds like a shill of another pissed-off advertising company who wasn't good enough to be bought out by Google. There are an awful lot of those out on Madison Avenue. As proof, I'll read to you a quote from the Oct 12, 2009 issue of The New Yorker magazine. The article begins on page 46 and depicts Page and Brin windsurfing:

As the C.O.O. of Viacom, Karamzin represented one of the world's largest media companies...Of more interest to Karamazin was the companie's advertising business...To turn this lucrative system over to over to a mechanized auction posed a serious threat...The Google executives thought Karmazin's method manipulated emotions and cheated advertisers...Karmazin looked at his Google hosts and proclaimed, only half in jest, "You're fucking with the magic!"

Re:Huh... (4, Insightful)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 4 years ago | (#30579156)

Indeed. If you take a look at the site in question, there doesn't seem to be anything about it that jumps out as being novel. It looks like the author created a mediocre search/link site and expected to be in the top results. The telling bit about the whole affair is that the author claims that the site was virtually off the net in terems of searches for three years yet that would largely require the top two or three search engines to do essentially the same thing which probably more than anything leads one to suspect that there's something about the site its self rather than multiple search engines that is the problem.

The money quote: (5, Informative)

whoever57 (658626) | more than 4 years ago | (#30579158)

I like Net Neutrality, but this idea is crap. (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30579264)

He probably broke Google's rules by doing shady SEO tricks and his site just isn't that popular. Why would people want to search for other search engines, anyhow? I want to find actual results, not endless pages filled with "searches" that lead to other searches but never have actual results.

Anyhow, although I agree with net neutrality (because we *can't* easily change ISPs, due to their natural monopoly), this "search neutrality" is utter crap. I can change search engines on a whim. But *I don't want to.* If I don't like the way Google does things, I will drop them. It won't be the first time, either. I used to use Altavista, back when it was the most comprehensive. I still remember, and would use, other search engines, but thanks to Google... I just don't need to.

If you want to get people to visit your site, make it something people want. Don't just whine if the search engines ignore you. You don't have any natural right to a certain ranking on search results (no matter how important it is to your bottom line), and I have to think that this would be an incredibly stupid thing to regulate.

Of course, politicians like regulating things they have no business regulating. *sigh*

Re:Huh... (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30579286)

The author of TFA is upset because despite his best efforts to aggregate other people's information to drive revenues for his site (ie, leech off the actual stores) Google apparently decided that "Foundem" was a worthless piece of affiliate-link-baiting crap. It's essentially one step above making nothing but blog posts about different sites prices, all conveniently linked to one affiliate account.

Any credibility the author of TFA *might* have had goes out the window when he claims that MapQuest was dethroned as leading map service because of Google's actions. Anybody who has actually tried to USE MapQuest knows why it lost - it SUCKS, much like the author's site.

If "search neutrality" actually happened, there would be two results: first, any site that implemented it would be instantly filled with spamblogs and garbage like Foundem, and second, providers like Google would move offshore while pursuing massive litigation.

Re:Huh... (1)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 4 years ago | (#30579296)

this is just a wahhhhhh my internet company didn't work lets blame google for everything piece. atleast slashdot is consistently SHIT

Re:Huh... (1)

Gerzel (240421) | more than 4 years ago | (#30579552)

I'd be happy to have strong network neutrality strongly enforced. Search neutrality is nice but nearly unworkable in any reasonable sense it seems.

Instead of saying these companies have to be neutral I think it would be better to require them to show their work. Post in a database what they are scoring up or down and why and perhaps provide some reasonable method of recourse for parties who believe they have been unfairly targeted.

Re:Huh... (1)

mwvdlee (775178) | more than 4 years ago | (#30579822)

If you google for "Foundem", the first site you'll find is... Foundem.
What you get when you visit this site is a prize comparison site just like all the other ones you already knew.
Perhaps the reason google doesn't list it that high is because there is nothing really special about this site; it isn't more relevant than it's competitors.

When you search for "price comparison", you'll find pages full of price comparison sites or articles about price comparison, all perfectly valid search results.
Foundem is on top of page 6, so it can be found. Add "uk" to the search and it pops up on page 2.
Unless Foundem can somehow proof their site is more relevant than those other sites, they are just bad losers.

By the way, their "about us" contains a really funny graph which seems to make no sense at all. It just claims "We're perfect, everybody else sucks". Really, I'd like to see the science behind that one :)

mouahahah! (1)

Korbeau (913903) | more than 4 years ago | (#30579006)

But now it's too late, my plan worked perfectly five years ago!!

Surprise, surprise... (2, Insightful)

dada21 (163177) | more than 4 years ago | (#30579010)

...the mouthpiece for the State clamoring for MORE State control.

Shocking.

Re:Surprise, surprise... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30579036)

...the mouthpiece for the State clamoring for MORE State control.

Shocking.

Huh, I was thinking more that one site that can't stand up to the giant alone asks the state to help stop the giant. Easy way to avoid a paywall? Ask the government to regulate how people get anywhere on the internet.

That's impossible. (1)

tjstork (137384) | more than 4 years ago | (#30579014)

And PS, keep the goddamned Feds out of search.

.cn? (1)

cadeon (977561) | more than 4 years ago | (#30579020)

China will love this idea.

Sure, that's great. (5, Insightful)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 4 years ago | (#30579022)

Let's go ahead and regulate the living crap out of everything online... that's sure to do wonders for innovation.

Re:Sure, that's great. (1)

Cronock (1709244) | more than 4 years ago | (#30579088)

The only regulation needed is regulation that states X company can't keep Y company from allowing me to access legal content and services online.

Re:Sure, that's great. (-1)

neoform (551705) | more than 4 years ago | (#30579090)

Care to explain to me what "innovation" can't take place with neutrality rules in play?

Re:Sure, that's great. (2, Insightful)

khallow (566160) | more than 4 years ago | (#30579136)

Raises the barrier to entry for new search engines and related technology, for starters. Regulations have always favored the business that can maintain a herd of lawyers.

Re:Sure, that's great. (0)

neoform (551705) | more than 4 years ago | (#30579228)

Having a dumber search is... harder? Maybe I'm not an expert on the subject, but it seems to me that having a search engine that's biased would in fact be more complicated than an unbiased search engine..

Re:Sure, that's great. (1)

Rakishi (759894) | more than 4 years ago | (#30579320)

You seem confused as to what regulation is, it's not some magical god like intelligence that magically makes something unbiased. It's a bunch of words being implemented by a bunch of people who couldn't get any other job.

Define biased. Define unbiased. Legally, strictly. Can you remove a spam site? What defines a spam site? What algorithms are allowed? Can you filter based on complaints? Human editors? Only algorithms? Which algorithms? What are the guidelines? Who checks if the guidelines are met? How are these checks done? Now prove it's unbiased by that criteria. Now file the paperwork that it's unbiased by that definition. Now pay to have a certified entity sign off on the paperwork that it's unbiased.

Oh wait, you made something new and revolutionary? Well it probably doesn't fit the existing definition, it's very new after all, so that's going to cost you. Senators are after all very expensive and you'll need quite a few of them.

Re:Sure, that's great. (1)

nacturation (646836) | more than 4 years ago | (#30579376)

Having a dumber search is... harder? Maybe I'm not an expert on the subject, but it seems to me that having a search engine that's biased would in fact be more complicated than an unbiased search engine..

Thanks for the teletype font. These easy-to-read proportional fonts are simply a passing fad.

Re:Sure, that's great. (1)

Col. Klink (retired) (11632) | more than 4 years ago | (#30579600)

Don't forget, in addition to the normal operating costs, you will need an army of lawyers to handle, by hand, every single complaint from every single website that believes that their site is rightfully the top link.

Consider the size of the SEO industry (ethical and otherwise), and convince me that every SEO out there won't focus all their efforts on legal claims against search engines.

Re:Sure, that's great. (1)

Cronock (1709244) | more than 4 years ago | (#30579142)

It will severely affect the makers of the Green Dam: American Edition.
Who will innovate in the field of competition-filtering network hardware and software?

Re:Sure, that's great. (5, Insightful)

Col. Klink (retired) (11632) | more than 4 years ago | (#30579516)

With neutrality rules in place, every search engine will:

(1) Need a license or certificate showing that they have been tested and validated. This, in itself, is a barrier to entry.

(2) Results of the search engine will expect to follow the pre-existing norms. Anything innovative, original or experimental will not likely fit into the existing set of regulations and will automatically be out-of-compliance.

Supposed if I wanted to develop a search engine to promote free and open source software. It's not really intended to be a "general purpose" search engine but, instead, is designed to find free alternatives to commercial software. The idea is that you can search for "excel" and it will find you info about Open Office, koffice, etc. It's my own website that I'm paying for at my expense to promote my own personal beliefs.

Along comes Microsoft, a licensed search company. They are, to be sure, not happy that a search engine helps people find alternatives to their software. They complain to the license board that I don't have a license and my site is shut down. Or, I suppose, I could get a license (and have to pass certification on topics unrelated to my search niche). And since the goal of this license is "neutrality," I can't have results that leave out proprietary software. In fact, my search engine can't even legally endorse free software.

Licensing boards exist to maintain the status quo. Innovation is about changing the status quo.

Re:Sure, that's great. (1)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 4 years ago | (#30579636)

I was going to make a bigger reply, but this post [slashdot.org] already summed up most of what I would have said.

Re:Sure, that's great. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30579568)

I completely agree, look what it did for all those totalitarian governments.

Fail. (5, Insightful)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 4 years ago | (#30579030)

The principle that search engines should have no editorial policies other than that their results be comprehensive, impartial and based solely on relevance.

The definition of comprehensive depends on the computational resources of the provider.
The definition of impartiality depends on the morality of the observer.
The definition of relevance depends on entirely subjective criteron.

You can't legislate these things. They're intangible. And besides, Google (and many other search engines) rely on the ability to edit their results to defeat attempts to game the algorithms they use. Legislation that limits that would ironically worsen the very attribute it is attempting to improve! It would allow search engine spammers free reign. The solution here is not to regulate... If a search engine sucks, it'll be replaced by a vendor that offers an alternative that sucks less. But if you must legislate, I would take a minimalist approach -- only regulate that which is proven harmful.

Re:Fail. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30579186)

So... you're perfectly fine if Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, et al. start blocking results from their competitors then?

Re:Fail. (1)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 4 years ago | (#30579318)

If you can furnish proof that they haven't already, especially before Google did, I'll buy you a beer. After all, I didn't hear anything about Bing or Yahoo when the Michelle Obama monkey scandal broke.

Re:Fail. (1)

Loomismeister (1589505) | more than 4 years ago | (#30579542)

How could you possible prove that they haven't done something. You'd have to be omnipotent.

Re:Fail. (1)

telomerewhythere (1493937) | more than 4 years ago | (#30579666)

I think you mean omniscient. Omnipotent is all powerful; omniscient is all knowing.

Re:Fail. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30579654)

You can't legislate these things. They're intangible.

There's always copyright. Lots of money in legislating that.

Re:Fail. (1)

JNSL (1472357) | more than 4 years ago | (#30579712)

Copyright wouldn't serve any purpose here. Parent is talking about definitions. Not expression.

Look that up in your Funk and Wagnalls (3, Insightful)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 4 years ago | (#30579052)

Encarta, possibly the most successful commercial digital encyclopedia of all time is based on the old Funk and Wagnalls encyclopedia which unfortunately was subpar to Brittanica and World Book by miles.

Microsoft took that shoddy encyclopedia, added content, added media, added hyperlinks, and turned the paper volumes into the best digital encyclopedia you could (at that time) buy.

But facts are facts. You can't really alter the information of an encyclopedia without someone calling you on it. In the same way, search engines categorize and comb through volumes of information and return data as best it can. Sometimes that data is useless (spam), but other times it is very pertinent (vanity searches).

If Google or Bing can't restrict what is shown in their search results, the value of the search tool is reduced. As we have seen in recent years, Google's search results are getting worse and worse, being flooded by spammers and expertsexchange links that include a couple of search terms but either have nothing to do with the search or require registration to access.

Leave the right to determine what they will return to the search providers. Guarantee that the tool remains useful by allowing them to cull the results responsibly.

Re:Look that up in your Funk and Wagnalls (3, Funny)

Nethead (1563) | more than 4 years ago | (#30579184)

I'm sorry, I haven't seen those ExpertSexChange links that include a couple of search terms but either have nothing to do with the search that you talk about. Are you sure it's not something to do with your search terms?

Re:Look that up in your Funk and Wagnalls (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30579618)

I have when searching for programming problems but here's a pro-tip for everyone: Scroll down.

Yep, at the top of expertsexchange is a bunch of empty boxes that say "answer" but if you scroll to the bottom of the page then the actual answers are there, no registration required. (Not that this isn't underhanded bullshit but you should pay more attention in future)

They bought a hyphen a while ago... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30579690)

Actually, I think they bought a hyphen a while ago, so they're now experts-exchange.

That said, I still don't care to visit them any more than I want to visit Penisland, even though I know what both of those are...

I don't use those anyway (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30579056)

I use Start Page [startpage.com] .

telcos have been granted a natural monopoly (4, Insightful)

seanadams.com (463190) | more than 4 years ago | (#30579058)

... and in exchange, they deserve that we regulate the fuck out of them to just sell us the bits.

Google's search is a free service with multiple competitors and negligible customer lock-in. See the difference?

Re:telcos have been granted a natural monopoly (1)

kinema (630983) | more than 4 years ago | (#30579398)

Not to be pedantic, but natural monopolies [wikipedia.org] aren't "granted" but are rather, well, natural.

Re:telcos have been granted a natural monopoly (1)

psulonen (972101) | more than 4 years ago | (#30579900)

... and in exchange, they deserve that we regulate the fuck out of them to just sell us the bits.

Google's search is a free service with multiple competitors and negligible customer lock-in. See the difference?

Actually, Google reads my mail, handles my appointments, hosts my blog, and even has a few ads on my site. The upshot is that transitioning all that away from Google would be somewhat more annoying than transitioning from one OS to another. From where I'm at, that amounts to a quite a bit of lock-in. Google's position on the search market is as dominant as Microsoft's on the OS market, at least. IOW, while I have my doubts about TFA, and I don't think enforcing "search neutrality" through regulation is the answer, this isn't something we should just pooh-pooh away either. The markets only do their magic under specific conditions, and I'm not sure the conditions apply here.

What an absurd idea (5, Insightful)

pclminion (145572) | more than 4 years ago | (#30579062)

If "relevance" is a requirement, then the government will have to produce a definition of "relevance." Wow, I love this idea. Instead of allowing the advancement of technology, we have to conform to a government definition, and if we rank our search results contrary to that definition, our search engine is ILLEGAL. And I'm sure the government won't abuse their ability to declare certain results orderings to be illegal.

Stay the hell away from my search engines. If I'm not happy with the one I'm using, I'll switch to another.

Re:What an absurd idea (3, Insightful)

Cronock (1709244) | more than 4 years ago | (#30579198)

If I'm not happy with the one I'm using, I'll switch to another.

Exactly, this is the reason why people started using Google in the first place. Everything else was absolutely full of spam, enough that relevant articles were sometimes first listed on the second or third page of results. I can see companies abusing this, but I suspect communities such as Slashdot will scream bloody murder when results are found to be skewed. From there, it's our choice to keep using it or move on to the next startup with a good search mechanism.

Re:What an absurd idea (1)

WGFCrafty (1062506) | more than 4 years ago | (#30579936)

I completely agree, governments find that things which disagree with them are not relevant.

Do we want our google to be China's google?

MALNOURISHED MONKEYS! (2, Informative)

headkase (533448) | more than 4 years ago | (#30579066)

As Techdirt stated, this story was: Vetted By Malnourished Monkeys [techdirt.com] . Apparently the same this happened here. Yay.

Re:MALNOURISHED MONKEYS! (4, Informative)

linhares (1241614) | more than 4 years ago | (#30579260)

As Techdirt stated, this story was: Vetted By Malnourished Monkeys. Apparently the same this happened here. Yay.

That's the link [kedrosky.com] I was looking for. Mods take notice of parent's post please? Here is a tidbit:

NYT Runs Quack, Self-Serving Anti-Google OpEd By Paul Kedrosky Monday, December 28, 2009 ShareThis There is a quack, self-serving, and silly search-related OpEd in Monday's NY Times that would be amusing, if it weren't so indelibly dumb. In it the founder of a company, Foundem, in the search business alleges that search company Google should be investigated and forced to do a better job of highlighting firms like his. Gosh, what a shocker. Someone in search with minimal web traffic -- Compete says Foundem gets a little less web traffic than The Fortune Cookie Chronicles does, which is to say around 1,700 a month -- wants someone in search with a lot of web traffic, Google, to send his company buckets of visitors. Amazing. The OpEd goes downhill from there. We get a litany of silly complaints, like the idea that Google doesn't innovate, that it just buys stuff from others, and that Google's Maps and other products have hurt other companies. Yeesh. I'll say this really slowly: Consumers want products that work together, simplify our lives, and solve problems. For this nitwit to want to throw us back to a world where we need point products -- maps here, directions there, product search there, email over there, etc. -- as some sort of full-employment act for me-too companies that can't get web traffic on their own merits is batshit nuts. Of course, there is a second level of stupid to this piece, and that goes to the NYT itself. It took until the fourth paragraph of the piece until we find out that the OpEd author is, you know, conflicted in that he himself runs a search company (albeit one with negligible traffic). Not only that, he has an axe to grind, as he goes on in paragraph four to arm-wavingly allege that Google "disappeared" his site from its results...

It goes on from there. Excellent piece overall.

Thank you for playing (1)

Scareduck (177470) | more than 4 years ago | (#30579072)

the principle that search engines should have no editorial policies other than that their results be comprehensive, impartial and based solely on relevance.

Here, there's this thing called the First Amendment [findlaw.com] . You may have heard of it. This is nothing more than some dingbat whose business it isn't to insert his nose where it don't belong. Once you accept his premise, spammers can also force changes in Google etc. rankings based on their own notion of "relevance". ("see? We have tons of this keyword in our page. We MUST be relevant!")

Sour grapes (5, Insightful)

whoever57 (658626) | more than 4 years ago | (#30579084)

Here is the motivation for the article:

For three years, my company's vertical search and price-comparison site, Foundem, was effectively "disappeared" from the Internet in this way.

What are the options?

1. His site just never had enough incoming links to raise it in the rankings.
2. His site employed tricks to artificially raise its ranking and was penalized for this.
3. Google marked down his site for other reasons (competitive?)

Really, what is the most likely answer? For yet another price comparison website?

Monopolies and the purview of the FCC (5, Insightful)

Pfhorrest (545131) | more than 4 years ago | (#30579100)

Infrastructure is a natural monopoly. Broadcast spectrum even more so.

The FCC's original mandate was to govern allocation of broadcast spectrum; the naturally monopolistic tendencies of wired infrastructure (the need for eminent domain to build it, mostly) provides a reasonable justification for extending its purview to that as well.

But search engines are not natural monopolies. Anyone can come along, do it better than the other guys, and run off with their lunch money, so to speak. Just like Google did to all the search engines that they put out of business or pushed to the sidelines when they debuted. Sure, overturning a very popular brand like Google in the minds of users will be difficult, but that's mostly because Google is good enough for most people; if it sucked, people would be happy to try something new, and if a competitor search engine can't even carve out a little niche for itself to compete in, it obviously has nothing of significant benefit to offer.

And unlike the inevitable Microsoft comparison, switching away from Google to another search engine costs the users absolutely nothing, compared to not only the cost of acquiring an alternative operating system, but of learning it and changing over almost all of your apps which depend on it. If switching from Windows to Linux or OSX or BSD or what have you were as cheap and easy as switching from Google to Yahoo or vice versa, I suspect MS wouldn't have nearly the stranglehold it has on the operating system market.

Point being, there's absolutely no need to regulate search engines, because this is about one of the clearest examples of where the free market can handle itself best.

Article debunked here (3, Interesting)

Jim Buzbee (517) | more than 4 years ago | (#30579112)

There's a good debunking of the article here [kedrosky.com]

Why?? (4, Informative)

johnlcallaway (165670) | more than 4 years ago | (#30579118)

First .. the person writing the op-ed had been penalized by Google and is biased. They don't mention why, but probably from breaking some of the search engine rules regarding gateway pages or meta tags or something else. Anyone with any web skills could have contacted Google, found out why, and corrected the problem.

Secondly .. Google got where they are because the majority of people probably like they way their search engine works, and how it is integrated with other tools. Just like Microsoft .. it didn't get to be the largest software by having the best software, just the one that most people used. If google was biased politically, I doubt that would have been the case. This guy is upset because his business was impacted because he didn't follow Google's rules and didn't bother to contact them.

Lastly, there is NOTHING wrong with a biased search engine as long as the people using it understand the bias. Business, environmental, left wing, right wing, socialist, communist, capitalist and what-ever-ists might like to have a search engine that gives them results according to their political views. WHY does a search engine have to be non-biased?? Because this guy didn't follow the rules, was too lazy to fix it, and got hurt??? That's one of the reasons I think the Fairness doctrine is .. well .. unfair. Why can't I find a media source that has the same bias as I do so I don't have to read all the tripe from those that disagree with me. Free speech doesn't mean I have to listen to it. Free choice in search engines means I don't have to use those that don't return the results I want to see.

Foundem is a SEARCH ENGINE. So I typed in 'price search engine'. Interestingly enough, Google was fourth on the list.....I couldn't find Foundem in the first 4 pages. Here are the meta tags on Foundem's home page ---

vertical search, price comparison, compare prices, flight search, hotel search, shop, buy, online, compare, best deals, best buy, prices, electronics, reviews, computers, job search, property search.

Wow ... no wonder they don't show up. They don't do anything UNIQUE. There are hundreds of companies doing the same thing. I guess they still haven't figured out how to get placement on a search engine.

Personally, I will discount this op-ed piece as little more than whining by some company too lazy to figure out what their market is, create a unique product, and spend the time and effort to get it to show up on Goggle's search engine. Lots of other companies do that just fine.....they must have skilled web staff working for them.

Or they figured if Google can't drive traffic to their web site, maybe the Times will. Seems the only advertising they want is 'free'.

New York Times hate Google as well (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30579356)

The New York Times has also struggled with getting people to pay for their shit, and right now is part of an effort to bring pressure against Google anyway it can.

Re:Why?? (0, Troll)

michaelmalak (91262) | more than 4 years ago | (#30579668)

Lastly, there is NOTHING wrong with a biased search engine as long as the people using it understand the bias. Business, environmental, left wing, right wing, socialist, communist, capitalist and what-ever-ists might like to have a search engine that gives them results according to their political views.

Exactly. And it should be the FTC that regulates it, not the FCC. FDR created the FCC to censor political speech [mises.org] under the guise of allocating limited spectrum. Since the Internet is not restricted by limited spectrum, the facade has been thrown off and the FCC is only about censorship in relation to the Internet.

As I've argued before here [slashdot.org] , bias is good, as long it is disclosed. It was the Progressive Era that ushered in "neutrality", as if there could ever be such a thing, which has only allowed biased views to masquerade as unbiased views.

What is Google's bias? For starters, they should more prominently disclose their association with the federal government. I still remember Google censoring [archive.org] my AdWords in 2002 for "anti-GOP views" (at a time when Bush was leading the U.S. into a an unjust war).

Too much money is involved (1)

BearRanger (945122) | more than 4 years ago | (#30579120)

Good luck legislating this. When Microsoft can pay Verizon $500 million to install a Bing search icon on their phones there's bound to be lots of push back and lobbying efforts to make sure this does not happen. Truly "neutral" search will never be a reality unless there's some movement to disclose back room deals such as this. But that can't happen, at least not easily. And I'm not sure if it should.

At some point consumers of services have to be smart enough to look out for themselves. The government won't be able to legislate away all risk.

Google maps and preferential search treatment? (5, Interesting)

rmcd (53236) | more than 4 years ago | (#30579128)

A lot of this article is sour grapes.

The statement that Google Maps beat Mapquest because of preferential search treatment is hilarious. When google introduced the satellite view I recall reading (Wall street journal maybe?) that a mapquest executive had said he couldn't envision any need for the satellite view in a mapping service. (I just looked for the quote and couldn't find it. Too bad. Does this ring a bell with anyone? Bad as it sounded then, it sounds unbelievably idiotic now.) Mapquest just got beat by better technology.

Re:Google maps and preferential search treatment? (5, Interesting)

Xeno man (1614779) | more than 4 years ago | (#30579216)

You can say the same thing about street view. At first though there is no piratical use of other than that's kind of neat but Google is out there with a custom car and hardware mapping out the cities of the world. Google is the first and so far the only ones to do that and it's that type of attitude that made Google as successful as it is.

Re:Google maps and preferential search treatment? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30579458)

Bing Maps beta has its own street view now, called "Steetside," although with far fewer cities than Google so far.

Re:Google maps and preferential search treatment? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30579580)

At first though there is no piratical use of other than that's kind of neat

I've actually found a good use for it: since nobody bothers to put instructions on where the fuck to park, I can virtually drive through downtown until I figure out the nearest garage or lot that doesn't look like it's going to cost me more than whatever I was going downtown for in the first place.

Re:Google maps and preferential search treatment? (1)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 4 years ago | (#30579602)

Google is the first and so far the only ones to do that

Google was the first to make it a production-quality feature, in 2007. On the other hand, Live Maps (now Bing Maps) had a publicly accessible demo of a similar thing in 2006 [bing.com] (the link in the article still works, but the UI is really painful to use).

Once Google released Street View, and it became quite a success, others have [bing.com] followed [yandex.ru] , so it's not really the only one providing this. Their coverage is still superior, though.

Once again... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30579138)

...another clueless and arrogant American thinks that their morally declining country's FCC has jurisdiction over the ENTIRE FUCKING WORLD.

Re:Once again... (1)

jocabergs (1688456) | more than 4 years ago | (#30579336)

Except the FCC would have jurisdiction because Google is an American company which operates primarily on American soil ("Communications Act of 1934", which explicitly and implicitly details FCC powers over all forms of telecommunication). Not that I agree with the article in the least, but this arrogant American just wanted to prove the Anonymous Coward wrong.

Re:Once again... (1)

SnowZero (92219) | more than 4 years ago | (#30579632)

Foundem is a UK site (foundem.co.uk) run by a UK company (Infederation Ltd).

When do anti-trust laws kick-in? (1)

nagarjun (249852) | more than 4 years ago | (#30579140)

With 71 percent of the United States search market (and 90 percent in Britain), Google’s dominance of both search and search advertising gives it overwhelming control.

So Google is a monopoly then. Won't they hear from anti-trust regulators if they abuse that position and try to gain an advantage in other markets like comparison shopping?

-1 Troll (1)

Bryan_W (649785) | more than 4 years ago | (#30579182)

This has to be the worst idea ever put forth on slashdot....ever

How about "News Neutrality"? (2, Insightful)

khchung (462899) | more than 4 years ago | (#30579206)

"Today, news media like New York Times, Fox News, CNN have become the news gatekeepers, and the crucial role they play in dictating what news is prominently visible to the people means they are now an essential component of the society. The F.C.C. needs to look beyond freedom of the press (freedom to publish your own newspaper) and include news neutrality: the principle that news media should have no editorial policies other than that their results be comprehensive, impartial and based solely on relevance."

I don't think it will happen in my lifetime though.

Have "some" faith in the people... (1)

dominatenashville (1709352) | more than 4 years ago | (#30579240)

While admittedly people are lazy and wait until the last minute to make radical changes, I believe there will always be choices when it comes to the internet. Should Google control everything? Hell no. There should people that step up and take the same innovative risks that they do. Should the government be regulating them? Are we in China? Double Hell no! BING, YAHOO, CUIL, ASK, etc... should sack up and start innovating. Reinvest their earnings back into their business. As a capitalist, the idea of having a monopoly is quite intriguing (and perhaps desirable). As a Libertarian, or is it Librarian? As they say, the toothpaste is out of the tube... trying to stuff it back in will do nothing... people will "vote" with their search bars. If Google continues to drive relevant content, the people will be served. There is no profit long term in trying to force feed a result to the user. That is simply, killing the golden goose.

So the advertisers become like lobbyists? (1)

Bob_Who (926234) | more than 4 years ago | (#30579258)

I get it, just like everything else, it will be fair and impartial. The FCC just let Comcast buy NBC, so clearly they could do no evil. OK sure I feel so much better... We can always trust laws to prevent unfairness and everyone will happy with what the money decides.

Why is this such a bad idea? (2, Insightful)

wisnoskij (1206448) | more than 4 years ago | (#30579262)

I am surprised everyone seems so against this idea.

I do not know about anyone else but i do not go about trying addresses in the address bar and hoping to get a relevant site. if it does not show up on the first page of google chances are I will never visit the web page.

But, from what I have seen google does not seen to do much censoring, so i am not really worried at this point.

and I would consider it important not to be censored from any part of the internet.
Not that they should not edit out the people that try to artificially raise their relevant lvl, but web pages should not be filtered because some religions/ethnic group has a problem with the material.

Not that we necessarily need laws and the government to regulate it, if their are enough people around that consider it important hopefully their will always be censor free searches around.

While the article might contain some parts that sound like they come from someone upset that their business failed and are just blaming google because it is easy to do so, I believe the fundamental idea of search neutrality is something to want.

nutrition neutrality (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30579272)

You know what would be great? Nutrition neutrality. Screw search engines...that's just the tip of the iceberg. It's not fair that my triple cheeseburger makes me fatter than whatever skinny people are eating these days, so I want Congress to pass a law ensuring that every food tastes just as good and is just as healthy as every other food. With that and the law that makes Brad Pitt just as ugly as me and one more that makes Stephen Hawking just as dumb as me, I'm certain we'd all be happy.

it's the whole point, duh (1)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 4 years ago | (#30579316)

search engines are supposed to discriminate. they pick a winner and a loser and rank everything inbetween. so this guys site was like every other shitty fucking link aggregator out there and google weeded it out for it's users. fuck you very much thanks for playing.

Statism Masquerading as Net Neutrality (4, Interesting)

anglophobe_0 (1383785) | more than 4 years ago | (#30579328)

The reason it's so important for net neutrality laws to prevent ISP's from filtering or throttling traffic is because they have such a stranglehold on the market, and that monopoly/cartel is mostly government-protected. There's no way to bypass your ISP except via proxy or by switching ISP's, and many people have neither the technical knowledge to do the first, nor the availability of the second option. If you don't like the way a particular search engine behaves, just don't use a search engine, or switch to another. Telecoms are almost as impervious to market swings as the government itself, whereas there are new search engines popping up every day. Take cuil for instance. Besides, how are they going to regulate different types of search engines, for instance Bing vs. Google vs. Wolfram Alpha. Each of these engines has a very different idea of what is "relevant", even if you strip away any manipulation done for ulterior motives.

Government keep your paws off the Internet! (2, Insightful)

flajann (658201) | more than 4 years ago | (#30579338)

The Government should stay out of dictating to Google and the other search engines how they rank the searches. Period.

If Google screws around, there are always rival search engines that would give you the content you are looking for.

The real danger is that the Government might tell Google and other search engines to filter out what the Government considers to be "dangerous information", "State Secrets", or other nonsense.

Basically, we are talking Search Censorship.

EFF and others should lobby hard against *any* government interference into how online services conduct their service. We can decide for ourselves if the Search Engines are being fair, and if not, we can launch new search engines and watch the big ones loose market share.

KEEP THE INTERNET FREE.

"neutral search engine" is an oxymoron. (1)

plasmacutter (901737) | more than 4 years ago | (#30579340)

You use a search engine to pair down listings based on arbitrary criteria, and you want those results to be relevant. This means intelligent algorithms which are by their nature non-neutral.

Given that the internet is 99% porn, I think its a very, very bad idea to ban such relevance sorting. I'm sure parents will be happy with their congressman after their kid enters "jupiter" for a science project and gets 10 pages of XXX to sort through.

NY Times Should Practice Some Net Neutrality (1)

Ron Bennett (14590) | more than 4 years ago | (#30579344)

In order to access our Web site, your Web browser must accept cookies from NYTimes.com. More information.

Another NY Times article that I won't be reading.

The concept of "neutrality" is best applied to things that tend to be natural monopolies, such as infrastructure, including high-speed internet connectivity.

terrible idea, but (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30579394)

I must admit I get a kick out of seeing Google being attacked from the geek left. They've made fortunes for themselves and their founders playing their holier-than-thou positioning vis-a-vis Microsoft (the whipping boy representative of the old guard).

the media has never been neutral (0, Troll)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 4 years ago | (#30579432)

for example, the idea that right wing media versus left wing media is a new development, and in the past the media was neutral is downright laughable. look up "yellow journalism". point being: bias in media will never go away, and you simply should learn to develop a good bullshit meter

therefore, in the future, i fully expect search engines to develop a subtle or not so subtle bias. not that they don't have it already, just that this becomes part of their identity and common wisdom

Net Neutrality versus Search Neutrality (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30579448)

Private companies want to shape traffic to maximize their profits. Slashdot "Regulate! Regulate!" Private companies want to shape search results to maximize their profits. Slashdot "Don't Regulate! Don't Regulate" Adoration of Google around here is sort of like the citizens of a planet in the Star Wars Universe cheering the Clone Army kicking off the Separatists.

Bah. Need to enforce NXDomain! (5, Insightful)

bingemaster (1679738) | more than 4 years ago | (#30579508)

Ya know, if a better competitor (from the public's POV, not from "Foundem" biased viewpoint) appears, Google will fade. Anyone remember:
  • wwww.com - the world wide web worm?
  • lycos?
  • yahoo?
  • altavista?

I'm sure that Google will innovate/improve to keep that from happening, but it's not as if I don't have a choice between any search provider. OTOH -- I set that in my browser. Having the ISP (I'm looking at you, Charter) hijaack the NXDOMAIN to go to their own engine is causing me serious heartburn (especially since I'm trying to *telnet* to a valhalla.private address!

I told you asshats this would happen (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30579512)

When you all decided that network neutrality was such a great idea. Innovation is driven by need in the marketplace. The "war on marketplace need" is thus necessarily a war against innovation. What's the shortest route to the network not being a monopoly? A badly abused monopoly network! And we don't even freakin' have one of those! Practically everyone in the nation can get online via 3-4 of the following 5 media: satellite, cell network, short-range wireless, cable, or DSL. "Awww, but there's only one DSL provider and they charge $10/mo more than my brother gets charged in BigCity, BigState, and they throttle bittorrent and they say unlimited bandwidth but I heard they cut someone off at 700GB, and also my pussy hurts."

Re:I told you asshats this would happen (0, Redundant)

RyuuzakiTetsuya (195424) | more than 4 years ago | (#30579646)

You mean like how sub prime derivatives were innovative?

Innovation isn't always a great thing.

Re:I told you asshats this would happen (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30579656)

What's the shortest route to the network not being a monopoly? A badly abused monopoly network!

Why? Oh right, because everyone will rush to the other evil company. Or they'll bite the bullet and buy shitty low-bandwidth one-bar cellular wireless or expensive high-latency satellite links because those are totally substitute goods for wired lines. Or they'll jump on a hotspot, plugged into one of those wired lines.

What's the shortest route to the network not being a monopoly? A badly abused monopoly network!

Or, you know, asking the ISPs to kindly stop threatening dicking with our internet traffic. Funny how that's even shorter since, as you say, we're already at the destination.

in two words (1)

magical liopleurodon (1213826) | more than 4 years ago | (#30579576)

government sucks.

Search Neutrality: Never an issue if.... (1)

sazy (633424) | more than 4 years ago | (#30579702)

We hadn't made getting here as easy as pushing an on/off switch.

yeah right (1)

ILuvRamen (1026668) | more than 4 years ago | (#30579732)

The government can't come in and tell me how to run my own damn business, why should they tell Google? Why should it be any different to force a very clearly non-monopoly market to be regulated so extensively? If I don't want shirtless people coming into my store, they can't cuz I put up a sign. If I don't want certain results displayed on my search engine's website at all, I can remove them. It's ridiculous to treat search providers like utilities as if their operations are that critical.

What about PageRank? (1)

vikstar (615372) | more than 4 years ago | (#30579758)

I heard that Google weighs certain websites it deems more valuable over others, in addition to the default weight given by the PageRank algorithm. Can anyone confirm this?

Maybe everything should be neutral (1)

WGFCrafty (1062506) | more than 4 years ago | (#30579860)

On the Neutral Planet.

(when dying)
I want you to tell my wife, hello.

I don't want search neutrality (3, Interesting)

holophrastic (221104) | more than 4 years ago | (#30579910)

Why would I want search nutrality? I don't want all search engines to return essentially the same results. I want Bing to return more Microsoft-centric results, and I want Google to return Google-centric results. I want community-oriented search engines to return community-centric results, and I want product-oriented search engines to return product-centric results.

When I want MSDN documentation, I want to go to Bing, search for javascript, and get the msdn javascript reference -- above the mozilla one.

You know, like when you want a science book, you went to a science book store. And when you wanted a book by a british author, you called a british book store.

It's all a part of considering the source -- in all senses of the words. I don't want everything to be the same.

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