SEARCHVILLE

If you use the Internet to search for information, chances are you use Google to do it. But there is more to search than meets the eye. In fact, there’s a lot going on behind the scenes.

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CLUB DROID

Google has maintained and expanded its dominance in search and search advertising by imposing exclusivity restrictions on its partners.

“We are using compatibility as a club to make [phone makers] do things we want.”

— Dan Morrill, Android group manager (The New York Times, 8/5/11)

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TRAFFIC COURT

By locking in advertisers to its platform and handicapping them with a “quality score,” which can be lowered without warning and with little or no justification, Google can manipulate paid search to limit competition.

“For something that is used so often by so many people, surprisingly little is known about ranking at Google. This is entirely our fault, and it is by design. We are, to be honest, quite secretive about what we do.”

— Udi Manber, VP of Engineering (The Official Google Blog, 20/5/08)

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LE HAM

Users expect search results to be presented in the order of their likely relevance to a query. But now, Google’s own sites compete with vertical sites, incentivizing Google to prefer those rankings, instead of simply ranking and listing the most relevant results

“I actually think most people don’t want Google to answer their questions. They want Google to tell them what they should be doing next.”

— Eric Schmidt, Google Executive Chairman and former CEO (The Wall Street Journal, 14/8/10)

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OUTPLACED

Users expect search results to be presented in order of relevance. However, Google deceptively displays many of its own pages at the top or in the middle of the results page as if they were natural search results, without clearly identifying them as Google results

“To the degree that we host content, we ultimately have a monetary incentive to drive people to those pages if those pages have ads on it.”

— Marissa Mayer, VP of Local, Maps and Location Services (Seattle Conference on Scalability, 23/5/07

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CONFLICT OF INTEREST

Google’s competing vertical and information content services sites give it the incentive – and its dominance in search and search advertising gives it the ability – to exclude competition from independent sites.

“We expect that advertising funded search engines will be inherently biased towards the advertisers and away from the needs of consumers.”

— Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Google co-founders (“Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine,” 1998)