As much as Google likes to deny they are evil their drive for revenue has overtaken their drive to provide users the best product when it comes to search. They are using the ad dollars from search to subsidize the hundreds of business ideas the leadership comes up with. And people and governments are noticing. Jason Calacanis recently posted about how Apple was quietly building a search engine of their own and is posed to potentially take on, or over, Google. And I agree with him. It is clean, easy to use, not full of hundreds of ads, and provides the results I am looking for.
While the way Google displays ads is definitely of concern and even I find myself having to double check I am not clicking on an ad sometimes. My bigger concern is their algorithm in general. While updates like Panda and Penguin are said to have eliminated search spam, I actually believe they increased the spam to some extent. When I search for a person I am usually trying to find one or two things about that person. If I already know who the person is I am most likely trying to find a recent article about them or their website. If I don’t know the person, or who they are exactly, I am most likely trying to find out who they, what they do, and if I want to learn more about them.
Google has always had a “negative” factor in their algorithm that gives preference to articles that are negative about an individual. While there is definitely a place for this in the search results, it seems lately Google has been giving incredible weight to these stories, regardless of old recent the article is or how relevant it is to the search. To see an example of how much weight Google is giving negative results do a search for someone like “Michael Arrington”. Out of the 10 results on the page 5 are negative stories and those stories are from over 3 years ago and essentially resulted in nothing but some short term news. Does the user really need to see 5 results about a story that did not evolve further than the month or two it was the topic of tech circles? If I were searching for Michael I am most likely not interested in the allegations against him unless I purposely included that in my search term. I want to know what he is doing and what he is working on now.
The European Union passed the “right to be forgotten” law to allow individuals to have outdated or inaccurate information removed, and while Google complied they did not comply fully and now the EU is coming after them to fully comply.
I like Google, and often their search results are the best ones, but I do find myself increasingly using other search engines such as DuckDuckGo as the results are less tainted with negative stories. Google please go back to the basics with your search and stop trying to be everything you weren’t not meant to be.
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