Google strikes back against WSJ post; defends search infrastructure

Google strikes back against WSJ post; defends search infrastructure

Summary: Google defends its search algorithms, reminding Internet users that if they don't like Google's results, they can always try a different search engine.

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TOPICS: Google
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Google has struck back against the Wall Street Journal after the newspaper published a rather scathing guest opinion piece lambasting the Internet giant.

Nextag CEO Jeffrey Katz wrote on Thursday evening that Google has ballooned into a monopoly, pegging its closest competition-- at least in the search space -- as one that has no hope of competing. (Interestingly enough that's Bing, the search entry for Microsoft, which has had its own well-known monopoly-related issues in the past.)

Katz does have some solid evidence here, which is mainly statistics proving Google's dominance in the search field as well as citing Google's altercations with the European Union over antitrust matters.

However, being that Katz is the head of a comparison shopping site, it's hard not to construe his article as something written out of jealousy rather than sincere concern for the marketplace. Here's one of his more sensational excerpts in reference to paid vs. unpaid search results:

As a result, by controlling which companies, organizations and causes get exposure, Google has become a brand killer. If Google pushes a merchant or company to page three of its search results—let alone page 40—it is life altering. This "cloak of invisibility" for less-favored brands flies in the face of Google's original mission to "organize the world's information"—or at least organize it in a manner that is in the best interest of consumers, rather than of Google.

This and other accusations in the guest editorial evidently struck a major chord at Google.

Amit Singhal, senior vice president of engineering at Google, responded soundly on the Google Public Policy Blog on Friday, asserting that "unpaid, natural search results are never influenced by payment," as well as potentially attacking Nextag's own policies.

Our algorithms rank results based only on what the most relevant answers are for users -- which might be a direct answer or a competitor’s website. Our ads and commercial experiences are clearly labeled and distinct from the unpaid results, and we recently announced new improvements to labeling of shopping results. This is in contrast to most comparison shopping sites, which receive payment from merchants but often don’t clearly label search results as being influenced by payment.

Singhal continued on to defend Google's search infrastructure and algorithms, reminding Katz and anyone else reading the blog that if they don't find what they are looking for on Google (or simply don't want to use it), they can always try other search engines instead.

So will Google's next major legal battle be against Nextag and/or other search space competitors? At least it would be a change-up from the patent wars.

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36 comments
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  • Clueless

    Why did @wsj let someone with no clue about how Google works write an article about Google? #justsayin
    steveplunkett
  • Is this the end of Innovation?

    There was Google vs Oracle, a battle over 9 lines of code and raising the spectre that API's are copyrightable; if that ever happens it would raise developments and raise barriers to entry into developer markets.

    Then there was Apple vs Motorola, which was dismissed through a non-dismissal dismissal.

    Is information technology transitioning from innovation to litigation, whether the company that does the best job litigating controls increasingly less innovative technology.
    DCGideon
  • wsj is a pawn

    for the axis of evil software: M$, apple & oracle.
    One should not trust wsj when talking about google and refer to google's press releases for the real facts.
    The Linux Geek
    • Might as well ask you the same question I've asked others

      If the WSJ is unreliable (and it is a Murdoch paper), what business news sources should we believe?
      John L. Ries
      • It wasn't a business news article, it was an opinion piece by a guest.

        nr.
        dh1760
  • Notice though everything he said about google was true and the entirety of

    googles response was nothing but deflection. Also notice google didnt say anything about an option to let users hide paid results and only see the natural results. Theres a reason bing now out scores google in results relevency. They focus on it, google scarifices it for marginally increasing top line ad revenue.
    Johnny Vegas
    • Nobody forced you to use Google

      Microsoft's MSNSearch is just a URL away as is ask.com or some other search engine. Metasearch engines still exist too.
      DonRupertBitByte
      • What the hell is MSNSearch???

        Last I checked it was called BING.
        wackoae
      • Can't tell your possible customers what search engine to use

        Nobody forces you to use Google, but most of your possible customers probably do. If you're ranked on page 10, they just won't see you. If you're a new company with little links, it makes it that much harder for you to break through. This system works for the big guys.
        themarty
      • themarty said: "This system works for the big guys."

        So? By that definition, advertising as a whole "works for the big guys."

        The companies who have enough money to advertise on TV, in magazines, they don't have an advantage? Google is actually one of the few information systems out there that allows "little guys" to still have some representation, AT NO COST. Have a popular site or product? Google will eventually pick it up, no charge. You can't say the same thing for TV or newspapers.
        terry flores
      • They may not be forced to use Google

        though if the user truely believes the results to be relevant as they are led to believe they are, then there lies the problem, as they will continue to blindly use Google in the future.

        Television commercials and ads are required to place certain disclaimers in their ads if it appears that the commercial may be miscronstrude as an actual occurance, or taken out of context.

        Google has no requirement to do so, so users may believe they are getting the best search results, when in truth they are receiving the best purchased results, bought by advertisers, and brought to you by Google.
        John Zern
    • Yes, everything was 100% true ....

      Google does have an (almost) monopoly in the search engine market ... but that does not mean that Google is maintaining their market share by using illegal / anti-competitive tactics.

      Fact is, when it comes to a search engine, Google is currently the best. Bing may have prettier results page, but the results are crappy and most of the time completely unrelated to the search criteria.

      Google is dominating the competition because the competition just plain sucks. The day a competitor comes out with a much better product would be the day people stop using Google. But while the competitors just keep cranking out "me-too" quality services, Google will still be the dominating force behind web searches.
      wackoae
      • Well...

        It is not exactly so.

        With Google, you are penalized if you don't install their spyware cooking injecting code on your pages.

        Their claim that you are penalized in the "automatic" ranking system because of this is "reasonable", even if your site is entirely static, absolutely relevant to the subject (or, in many cases the primary source) yet, you are supposed to support their spyware... in order to rank higher.

        Google is bribing all the webmaster with the "free" analytics stuff and even rewarding those who help them spy on users with MONEY.

        Doesn't matter how poor the other search engines look compared with Google, truth is you are penalized if you don't give them free pass.
        danbi
    • Is Bing free from ads?

      see the title - if no, you're a hypocrite
      Natanael_L
  • you have to agree with Google...

    ...if you don't like the search results, go somewhere else. No monopoly here move along.
    Net-Tech_z
  • Result Position is Powerful

    I think the point is valid. Results that show up earlier matter more. I rarely go past the third page when looking at Google search resutls. Generally, though, I've found if I do try to look at more pages, the results are so poor it's not worth my time.

    However, what's on the first or even second page is where I focus my attention. Jeff Atwood of Stack Overflow lamented a year back (http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/2011/01/trouble-in-the-house-of-google.html) that some copy-sites that copied the Stack Overflow content whole were showing up in Google search results before Stack Overflow itself was -- driving users to click on these links and go to the sites that, in fact, copied the content, in whole, from Stack Overflow itself.

    Stack Overflow was losing visits to original content because the copy-cat sites were showing up first in Google results. Regardless, position n results is powerful.
    dvanderwerken
    • It's not the same point at all.

      It's one thing to say that people doing things illegally can influence Google search results. It's another to say that Google changes the search results for payment.

      As far as people not looking past the first or second page, I find that hard to believe for a simple reason: I look until I have found what I'm looking for. If I put in a particularly broad search term, I will get some trash thrown in from non-related sites and blackhat SEO's, but it still doesn't mean that I somehow forget what I'm looking for or give up.

      As
      terry flores
      • people are lazy

        simple as that
        Natanael_L
      • Doing things illegaly

        No, those people are not doing anything illegally.

        This is the way Google advices them to do in order to rank better.
        That is, help Google track users better.

        It's about the money of course. But you get the sense of it only after you realize, that the true customers of Google services are not users, but advertisers and those who pay for your personal data and browsing habits.
        danbi
  • Never trust google.

    They are thieves in suits and a bunch of cry babies, all Google statements are nothing but blatant lies...never trust a word.
    owllnet