Google, the world’s largest search engine, has recently been manipulating its search algorithms again, and this time it has opted to remove or lower the PageRank of some well-established websites and blogs.
Take my blog, for instance. Just last week it had a PageRank of 5, now it has a 2. Google supplied no explanation for this when asked, but my guess would be that it has something to do with my refusing to put AdSense ads on my Blogger blog. Blogger is owned by Google, and Google has asked me to place AdSense ads on my blog. They even offered to customize them.
I’m not the only small businessperson who has been angry with Google. There are legions of us. The reason for this is that Google is often arrogant in its practices, which is not the best practice approach. From time to time, it uses what appear to be evil practices, in spite of its do no evil motto, which is obviously a pack of lies. Here is one aspect of a small business angry with Google, and a sample of how Google responded:
Deutsche Bahn, the German national railway operator, will file suit Wednesday against Google because the company’s search engine provides links to a Web site that offers instructions on how to sabotage railway systems, Deutsche Bahn said Tuesday. Lawsuits against Yahoo and AltaVista also are being prepared.
Deutsche Bahn recently sent letters to all three U.S. search engine operators asking them to remove the hyperlinks to the online copies of two articles from the German-language left-wing extremist publication, Radikal, which has been outlawed in Germany. The articles detail how to cut power on parts of the railway system.
“We wrote Google and told them that there is illegal content on their pages and that they are linking to pages with illegal content. They have not answered us, so we will file a lawsuit against Google in Germany tomorrow,” said Christian Schreyer, head of the legal department for media and competition law at Deutsche Bahn in Berlin.
Google not only offers a hyperlink, but also has the Web pages with the articles in question in cache, allowing a user to view them on the Google Web site, Schreyer noted.
I wrote Google, as well, but they have not responded. You would think that a company seeking to influence members of Congress would quickly respond to someone who has friends in Congress and friends who work for Members on the Hill, especially when I have said previously that perhaps Google should be regulated by Congress. Perhaps Google is too busy plotting how it can hurt more small businesses by hurting their PageRank, and as a result, their profits and their businesses. Others have noted that ill will against Google is on the rise.
I was wondering how long it would take for this to happen. The acceptability of Google’s politics and public persona could only insulate it from the requisite corporate suspicion for only so long.
In today’s New York Times, Gary Rivlin writes of growing distrust of Google: “instead of embracing Google as one of their own, many in Silicon Valley are skittish about its size and power. They fret that the very strengths that made Google a search-engine phenomenon are distancing it from the entrepreneurial culture that produced it – and even transforming it into a threat.”
How much of the “grousing” is merely bad sportsmanship? More than a bit, I think. After all, “Just as Microsoft has been seen over the years as an aggressive, deep-pocketed competitor for talent, Internet start-ups in Silicon Valley complain that virtually every time they try to recruit a well-regarded computer programmer, that person is already contemplating an offer from Google.”
Since Google is able to spend such a large amount of its capital, perhaps it should be paying me and everyone else to put our information in their search engine at all as they are profiting from it, and without this information it would be completely worthless as a company. Let’s get real; even libraries have to pay for the books that you and I can check out for free. Google gets all of its information free of charge, and it gets to use PageRank algorithm ranking methods to extort dollars from small businesses to buy their AdSense ads. After all, if we don’t buy the AdSense ads, it can destroy our businesses by dropping our PageRank to zero any time it desires. This is a large concern of many small businesses.
Google has a long history of failing to respond to business concerns that aren’t their own. Let’s take a look at who else is not happy with Google and why, for some samples of Google’s behavior.
A writers’ group representing more than 8,000 authors is suing Google for “massive copyright infringement” over its fledgling programme of digitising library books.
The Authors Guild has issued legal proceedings in a New York court claiming damages and demanding the search engine stops uploading the contents of library books.
Google Print launched last October, enables people to search the contents of books online and, according to Google, makes it easier to find relevant books.
Good spin on Google’s part, but the reality is that Google can and may blacklist certain books at any time it wishes if it does not like them, and it can increase search rankings for books it prefers. Isn’t this a little too much authority for what is supposed to be a search engine there to benefit the public? But Google is not really a search engine existing to benefit the public; it’s an advertising company disguised as a search engine, and while its slogan says it’s not evil, there are too many people displeased with Google for it not to be. Good people and entities are generally helpful, whereas Google, as a company, appears to have harmed some, or at least upset them, for its own benefit, while simply ignoring others when they have demonstrated a valid concern.
Publishers had concerns with Google, so they sued, according to the Washington Post:
Five major publishers sued Google Inc. yesterday, alleging that the search engine’s plans to scan millions of library books so they can be viewed on the Internet is a blatant violation of copyright law.
In a lawsuit filed in federal court in Manhattan, the publishers asked a federal judge to block Google from resuming its scanning of books on Nov. 1. Google had stopped digitizing books while it sought a compromise with publishers.
“If they are allowed to unilaterally change the copyright law and copy anything unless somebody tells you ‘no,’ it will be impossible for people in the intellectual property community to operate,” said Patricia Schroeder, president of the American Association of Publishers. “They keep talking about doing this because it is going to be good for the world. That has never been a principle in law. They ‘do no evil’ except they are stealing people’s property.”
In a statement yesterday, Google defended its approach, saying the scanning of millions of library books from the collections of Harvard University, Stanford University, the University of Michigan, the New York Public Library and Oxford University is legal. The search engine said its program will make library books more widely available to readers online.
The reality is that Google can, and likely will, use these books that it is obtaining free of charge to make money by selling more AdSense ads, or perhaps it is doing this in an attempt to get into the book selling business. This, of course, does not benefit the world as much as it benefits Google, in spite of what kind of spin Google may attempt to use to cover up that reality.
There are others who are unhappy with Google, as well, according to this report from Reuters:
A parental advice Internet site has sued Google Inc. (GOOG.O: Quote, Profile, Research), charging it unfairly deprived the company of customers by downgrading its search-result ranking without reason or warning.
The civil lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in San Jose, California, on Friday by KinderStart.com seeks financial damages along with information on how Google ranks Internet sites when users conduct a Web-based search.
Google could not immediately be reached for comment but the company aggressively defends the secrecy of its patented search ranking system and asserts its right to adapt it to give customers what it determines to be the best results.
KinderStart charges that Google without warning in March 2005 penalized the site in its search rankings, sparking a “cataclysmic” 70 percent fall in its audience — and a resulting 80 percent decline in revenue.
At its height, KinderStart counted 10 million page views per month, the lawsuit said. Web site page views are a basic way of measuring audience and are used to set advertising rates.
“Google does not generally inform Web sites that they have been penalized nor does it explain in detail why the Web site was penalized,” the lawsuit said.
It is this sort of arrogance that has caused Google’s approval rating and stock to drop. There’s more to this story:
The lawsuit notes that rival search systems from Microsoft Corp.’s (MSFT.O: Quote, Profile, Research) MSN and Yahoo Inc. (YHOO.O: Quote, Profile, Research) feature Kinderstart.com at the top of their rankings when the name “Kinderstart” is typed in.
The complaint accuses Google, as the dominant provider of Web searches, of violating KinderStart’s constitutional right to free speech by blocking search engine results showing Web site content and other communications.
KinderStart contends that once a company has been penalized, it is difficult to contact Google to regain good standing and impossible to get a report on whether or why the search leader took such action.
I contacted Jason Shellen, one of Blogger’s founders, who works at Google, to ask him why my blog’s Google search engine ranking had been dropped and asked him to restore my Blogger blog’s ranking. He did not respond. My business has suffered. What do you think? Should I join the long list of folks who have decided to sue Google? After all, it is clear that Google is using unfair trade practices to hurt my business via blacklisting or algorithm methods. AdSense buyers are not suffering. Google is obviously giving them an unfair advantage. So why isn’t the DOJ investigating Google?
On top of the many moves Google has made to cause ill will toward it, it has yet to refine its pay-per-click system to filter out click fraud, which is why I have never purchased those ads from them.
At a time when Google is seeking influence in Washington, it’s making small businesses all across America angry, it’s making publishers and writers angry, and I’m sure it will make anyone else angry whom it feels it can take unfair advantage of in order to make a profit. Google needs to be regulated by an act of Congress. Its arrogance and manipulative methods clearly are not always in the public’s best interest, and Google far too often causes damage or loss where it is clearly not warranted.
Why anyone would want to hold stock in a company that manipulates and takes advantage of others so boldly is beyond me. Microsoft has not even stepped on as many toes as has Google in its rise to dominate the software market. Perhaps Google should follow Apple’s lead and value its customers and other stakeholders, and create something that is actually new and innovative instead of stealing everyone’s content and ideas to make billions of dollars from it.
Do no evil? Google is perhaps the most evil, dishonest, and out of touch company under the sun. Congress should regulate this obtrusive behemoth before it’s too late as it has damaged far too many innocent stakeholders already. The only entity that knows who Google will step on next is Google, and those toes need to be locked down before they hurt anyone else. Google may not like this outlook, but if it removed it’s head from its behind, it may actually see that many hold this view, and the sentiment is strong and growing.
The DOJ investigated Microsoft when it used questionable practices, so why aren’t they investigating Google on the same basis? Businesses are suffering here and many want answers, but they are not getting them from Google, the biggest search engine monopoly in the world.