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Advertising Communications Google The Internet

Is Google Polluting the Internet? 378

Posted by Soulskill
from the hippie-talk-two-point-oh dept.
Pickens writes "In 1998, Larry Page and Sergey Brin made a promise: 'We believe the issue of advertising causes enough mixed incentives that it is crucial to have a competitive search engine that is transparent and in the academic realm.' Now, Micah White writes in the Guardian that the vast library that is the internet is flooded with so many advertisements that this commercial barrage is having a cultural impact, where users can no longer tell the difference between content and advertising, and the omnipresence of internet advertising constrains the horizon of our thought. And at the center of it all, with ad space on 85% of all internet sites, is Google. In the gleeful words of CEO Eric Schmidt, 'We are an advertising company.' The danger of allowing an advertising company to control the index of human knowledge is too obvious to ignore, writes White. 'The universal index is the shared heritage of humanity. It ought to be owned by us all. No corporation or nation has the right to privatize the index, commercialize the index, censor what they do not like or auction search ranking to the highest bidder.' Google currently makes nearly all its money from practices its founders once rightly abhorred. 'Now it is up to us to realize the dream of a non-commercial paradigm for organizing the internet. ... We have public libraries. We need a public search engine.'"
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Is Google Polluting the Internet?

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  • No we don't. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by xnpu (963139) on Saturday October 30, 2010 @01:41PM (#34074334)

    Please. Not another sink hole.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Exactly. There are 2 motivators for people :

      a. money
      b. power

      If a search engine isn't motivated by money, there's only one thing that will motivate it. Just look at wikipedia, whose pages on any political theory read like they were written by a 15-year old obsessed party member that's about to get thrown out of the party for very good reasons. This is, unfortunately true for most, if not all political ideologies, from marxism (no mention of the billion dead by marxist governments), to nazism (mentions of the

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        I think the reason the atrocities performed by regimes that fall under the various ideologies aren't mentioned at the very top of every Wiki page on any particular ideology is that you're reading pages on IDEOLOGY, not practice. For historical information you should probably look at a historic overview (the page on the Nazi Party mentions the Holocaust in the second introductory paragraph). I find this (sensible, imo) separation quite useful and, well, sensible.

      • Re:No we don't. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by biryokumaru (822262) <biryokumaru@gmail.com> on Saturday October 30, 2010 @02:25PM (#34074650)

        Exactly. There are 2 motivators for people :

        a. money
        b. power

        Gosh, don't let the psychologists hear this, they'll all be out of jobs!

        Oh, wait, maybe human behavior is more complex than that... That would explain why anyone would be interested in investing time in a search engine/web browser/OS not corrupted by a. money and b. power.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          Money and power are just two parts of the many levels of human motivation.

          • Physiology (hunger, thirst, sleep, etc.)
          • Safety/Security/Shelter/Health
          • Belongingness/Love/Friendship
          • Self-esteem/Recognition/Achievement
          • Self actualization/li
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by biryokumaru (822262)
            So sayeth Maslow [wikipedia.org].
          • by WrongSizeGlass (838941) on Saturday October 30, 2010 @03:30PM (#34075090)
            Those 'needs' are almost always satisfied when you have enough:
            a. money
            b. power
            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              If you have enough money or power, can't you just use it to get the other? Much like matter and energy they can be converted back and forth.

              P= $e^2
          • Re:No we don't. (Score:5, Interesting)

            by CAIMLAS (41445) on Saturday October 30, 2010 @03:31PM (#34075096) Homepage

            Maslow's hierarchy is a hack. The hierarchy of needs has no basis in actual, human needs: it was designed as a self-dependent prerequisite, and it's application tends to result in selfish aims alone.

            Maslow tried to discredit detractors by emphasizing that his study only examined 'healthy' people and was not applicable to those with mental/emotional/etc. deficiencies. This is disingenuous:

            The bulk of humanity will often do things which meet the 'higher' things on the hierarchy while neglecting the lower. They'll spend time, money, etc. for the shelter and care of loved ones while neglecting their own. They'll spend money to gain social standing while things as existential as their rent goes overdue. They'll pursue ideological ends while neglecting basic safety. This can be said for the bulk of humanity, at one point or another in their lives.

            What's more, things are often done to meet the higher needs (esteem, self-actualization), in the complete absence of the lower levels. See: the sales of Coca Cola in 3rd world countries.

            In contrast, pursuing or adhering to Maslow's hierarchy tends to only be achievable with no concrete acknowledged external responsibilities. It's a pyramid of self-fulfillment. You can't adhere to the hierarchy and be a good parent, for instance, without substantial funds or an external force (eg. government/charity) to aide in the basic physical needs. Ultimately, Maslow's hierarchy seems better - or at least, as good - at encouraging socialist agendas (as I have seen it done) than it does business practice.

          • Affordability (Score:5, Insightful)

            by theshowmecanuck (703852) on Saturday October 30, 2010 @04:24PM (#34075354) Journal

            Morals only apply to those who can afford them.

            In our society, for centuries, thievery has been considered immoral. But we all recognize that when you are starving, in order to feed your family you will steal if necessary. In days past you would be hanged if caught. The interesting thing is that to the person stealing, it is/was moral to do what you can/could to feed your family; while to the well fed, it was moral to hang the thief. The soccer team stranded by plane crash in the Andes Mountains ate their dead compatriots. In poor regions of the world, life is sometimes very cheap when the difference between life and death is thin. In the end, if life is good and you can afford morals, you will have them. It all amounts to how much power you have over your own life. Money is just another way to measure power.

          • by nacturation (646836) * <nacturation AT gmail DOT com> on Saturday October 30, 2010 @04:58PM (#34075500) Journal

            Money and power are just two parts of the many levels of human motivation.

            • Physiology (hunger, thirst, sleep, etc.)
            • Safety/Security/Shelter/Health
            • Belongingness/Love/Friendship
            • Self-esteem/Recognition/Achievement
            • Self actualization/li

            Apparently a need for completion isn't one of the human motiv

      • by vadim_t (324782)

        That explains organizations like the Red Cross perfectly. Why, right this minute they're planning world domination.

    • Re:No we don't. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 30, 2010 @02:06PM (#34074512)

      I had to address this:

      In the gleeful words of CEO Eric Schmidt, 'We are an advertising company.'

      Check out the video starting at 5:15. While he says this with a smile after revealing that ads are 98% of Google's revenue, I wouldn't go so far as to call it gleeful. Seems the submitter threw that in as an attempt to bolster their argument.

    • That will be a monopoly governed by people who's main goal is to get reelected and do it by giving favors out to people who donate money.

      Neither capitalists nor government have your personal best interests at heart. At your interests and theirs are complimentary for a while and you can glean some mutual benefit from working together. It is foolish to believe that either organization exists to help you because both are governed by people who have no interest in doing anything of the sort.

    • by GNUALMAFUERTE (697061) <almafuerte@gmPOL ... om minus painter> on Saturday October 30, 2010 @03:08PM (#34074958)

      Really, why?

      The modern world is, whether we like it or not, run by corporations. So, we have corporations like Lockheed Martin developing more weapons to pollute the earth and murder innocent children overseas. Others, like Microsoft, Apple and Oracle are actively trying to remove our personal freedoms, to control our every thought with DRM, to destroy free software, to be the real owners of our computers, cellphones, servers, and other gadgets.

      On the other hand, we have companies like Google. Don't get me wrong, I'm not buying into the do no evil bullshit, but I can see what they do on my own: They help Free Software projects get where they are going to, they defend free standards, they donate code to the community, they provide valuable services that we use everyday at no cost. And they keep their ads to a minimum, Google is the only company that run ads that don't make you want to tear your eyeballs off. And all it takes to get rid of them is 30 seconds to install adblock.

      Really, I have NOTHING bad to say about google. I use their search engine, their email service for both my personal and my company's email, I use google talk, google trends, Android, I am writing this on Chrome, I use google desktop, google maps, Picasa, Youtube, and countless other services and products from Google. And I haven't ever paid a single buck to them. And I block the fucking ads. They are managing to provide countless awesome services, do shitloads of research, and contribute more than anyone else to the Free Software community and to the world. And they are doing that on ads.

      People is worried about user privacy, but Google has the best privacy record ever. Mention one single event in which google misused users data? The kind of thing google is doing can't be done without access to user's information. You want your email on the cloud (and you don't want to pay for a dedicated server + bandwidth?). Your data will need to be in somebody's server. Sorry, there's no other way.

      And regarding that stupid comment saying that users can't tell the difference between content and advertising? Come on. Adblock can easily tell the difference, and it's a stupid script. My fucking bayesian filter can differentiate content from Spam. If your users can't tell the difference, your users are too fucking stupid.

  • Sure (Score:4, Insightful)

    by guyminuslife (1349809) on Saturday October 30, 2010 @01:43PM (#34074356)

    You pay for the servers, the bandwidth, and the developers, not to mention the managerial and legal overhead, and make it public without making a profit, and nobody will complain.

    For those of us living in the real world, Google's a pretty decent option.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Amen to that!

      Also, no tax money should support it. If tax money supports it then the political system will abuse the hell out of it way worse than Google ever could.

    • Re:Sure (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Frosty Piss (770223) on Saturday October 30, 2010 @02:15PM (#34074578)

      ...where users can no longer tell the difference between content and advertising...

      People need to take some responsibility for their lives and understand that there is a difference between being a sentient being and a consumer.

    • You pay for the servers, the bandwidth, and the developers, not to mention the managerial and legal overhead, and make it public without making a profit, and nobody will complain.

      For those of us living in the real world, Google's a pretty decent option.

      I am one of the people who think the future is in peer-to-peer distributed search. If the search engine exists in pieces on everybody's computer, then by buying the computer you are paying for the server. Open sourcers will donate the development time. And we're all paying our ISP for bandwidth anyway.

  • by cinnamon colbert (732724) on Saturday October 30, 2010 @01:43PM (#34074358) Journal
    I am amazed that people think google is (a) a good search engine, rather then soemthing to generate profit for google, and (b) that as alarge corporation, google can be trusted to do anything other then max profits.
    The idea that a large public company like google will do anything other then maximize profits is silly beyond belief;
    There is one small exception: if a company is a quasi monopoly, as google is, then it can indulge in some luxuries, like sponsering summer of code; the epitome of this was the old Bell Labs research center in Murray HIll NJ (at least one Nobel Prize for fundamental science, microwave background).

    PS google is willing to invade my privacy and yours with street view; can you do streetview for the personal residences of Page and Brin and the directors and senior executives of Google ? why doesn't someone start a site, www.seehowitfeels.net, that is just devoted to giving Page and Brin the same privacy that ordinary people have. Bet the lawsuits come soon and often
    • by zippthorne (748122) on Saturday October 30, 2010 @01:49PM (#34074400) Journal

      I'd say the real thing I'm amazed at is just how long google has remained the go-to search engine. Results have been juuust passable for about five or six years now, when once they were very good.

      Google proved that every so often, you need to refresh search not by "tweaking the algorithm" but by moving to a whole new algorithm, to defeat SEO spam. So why hasn't anyone dethroned them yet, it's long overdue. Is it just that the the expense of initially building the database at google's start was a much lower barrier to entry for newcomers than it is now?

      • I think it's because most people don't have a billion dollars to spend on something that probably won't work.

    • by mwvdlee (775178) on Saturday October 30, 2010 @01:58PM (#34074456) Homepage

      There have been search engines before Google, there will be search engines after Google.

      Google's success is a fragile one at best, and Google knows it, which is probably why they're still mostly on the "do no evil" side.

      By the way; "being a good search engine" and "something to generate profit for google" are not mutually exclusive.

      Maximizing profit is a good thing as long as they're planning to do it long term; that would require keeping everybody happy.

    • by catbutt (469582) on Saturday October 30, 2010 @01:59PM (#34074470)

      he idea that a large public company like google will do anything other then maximize profits is silly beyond belief;

      That is like saying that it is inconceivable that a person, being a product of Darwin, would do anything other than what is necessary to survive and reproduce, that is, behave 100% selfishly.

      Fact is, being selfish turns out, in many cases, to decrease chances of said reproduction. It may be indirect (i.e. people figure out they can't trust you, you lose friends, you don't find a spouse, you don't have anyone to help you out when bad things happen to you, etc)

      Same thing happens with corporations. Behaving purely "selfishly" (i.e. do everything to maximize profits) can have the opposite effect. (i.e. you have to pay a lot higher saleries if you want to hire the best and brightest, you lose customers because they think you are evil, etc)

      I'm not saying anything one way or the other about Google, I'm just saying I disagree with the simplistic notion that all corporations, large or small, will only act in ways to maximize profits....or your implication that "being a good citizen" can't be a viable strategy toward maximizing profits.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Omnifarious (11933) *

        Fact is, being selfish turns out, in many cases, to decrease chances of said reproduction. It may be indirect (i.e. people figure out they can't trust you, you lose friends, you don't find a spouse, you don't have anyone to help you out when bad things happen to you, etc)

        I agree with you completely. So many people completely misunderstand this. I blame it on the idea that our moral sense is given to us from a deity or creator rather than being a product of evolution. There is a survival reason that we behave in a moral fashion.

        • by vadim_t (324782)

          IMO, there's nothing wrong with selfishness when things are thought out long term. Being known as a jerk who can't be trusted isn't in most people's interest.

          A sucessful selfish person would be somebody like Slughorn from Harry Potter.

          • by catbutt (469582)
            I would argue that the word "selfish" loses its meaning when it is applied to behavior that there is "nothing wrong with".

            Yes, technically the behaviour may benefit oneself in the long term, but unless it is directly beneficial, and is non-cooperative behavior, I don't think the word "selfish" is really a good choice.
    • by Asdanf (1281936) on Saturday October 30, 2010 @02:04PM (#34074488)

      PS google is willing to invade my privacy and yours with street view; can you do streetview for the personal residences of Page and Brin and the directors and senior executives of Google ?

      Yes, you can. I did a quick Google search for [larry page's home address], the first result listed his address, and then Google Maps was happy to provide me with both aerial photos and street view.

      • by h4rm0ny (722443)
        When you are a multi-millionaire, you can protect your privacy whether people know your address or not. It's not like you'd be able to sneak into Larry Page's house at night or loiter outside his house till he has to go out. But most other people? They're more vulnerable.
    • good search engine, rather then soemthing to generate profit for google

      Stupid argument. It generates profits for Google because it's a good search engine. If it wasn't, people wouldn't have changed from Yahoo/Altavista/wtv.

      PS google is willing to invade my privacy and yours with street view; can you do streetview for the personal residences of Page and Brin and the directors and senior executives of Google ? why doesn't someone start a site, www.seehowitfeels.net, that is just devoted to giving Page and Br

    • What "privacy" do you think you have while you're out on the street?

      • by cdrguru (88047)

        Pretty much the same difference as walking out your front door to pick up a newspaper while nude and being featured on the E! Channel nude. Or MTV. Or Fox News.

        The first situation is one where if a very few neighbors aren't looking nobody sees anything, the second potentially everyone on the planet is watching. What Google has done with Street View is put everything in everyone's face all the time.

        Do a search on YouTube for "street view". A lot of the early hits are Google-created but there are millions

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Rakishi (759894)

          So you want the internet to be shut down, is that what you're arguing for? Or are you not aware that 99.99999999% of the horribly embarrassing photos on the internet had in no way originated with google street view.

          In fact the chance of the google van being in front of you when you do something stupid is infinitesimal compared to some asshole with a cell phone being there and instantly uploading your photo to the internet.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Err., you do realize that they've publicly stated several times that if you simply ask to have your house censored, they will? They're also implementing face-recognition (obviously no perfect).

      While I agree that Google's here to get profits, their actions have been balanced (IMHO). Take, for example, the Android Market. The app purchase price goes to Developers + Cell companies (0% to Google, they get a $15 one time developer license), and the advertising in said apps is open to any company (not just Ad

    • by FourthAge (1377519) on Saturday October 30, 2010 @02:11PM (#34074552) Journal

      The capitalist restaurant is run for the benefit of its owner.

      The communist restaurant is run for the benefit of the customer.

      Now.. which one has better food?

      Google exists to generate profit for Google, yes, but that doesn't mean it doesn't provide a good service for the rest of us. Its goal (profit) and our goal (searching, blogging on Blogger, whatever) are perfectly aligned. Ladies and gentlemen, it's the magic of capitalism, where selfish motives are harnessed to serve the common good.

    • by thethibs (882667)

      The proof that Google is a good search engine is the traffic they generate.

      The way Google maximizes profit is by providing a service many people use, which in turn generates advertising revenue. Got a problem with that? --Don't use it.

      I hate to burst your bubble, but that's what free enterprise is about. If you'd rather recreate Soviet Russia or some other failed socialist state, you're in the wrong place.

      What makes you think that Street View misses Page and Brin? Even if you're too lazy to start your own "

    • by yotto (590067)

      I would appreciate a link to their addresses, and another link to the Google Street View outside their residences where their houses are grayed out, or where all the streets in the area are in Street View but theirs is not.

      But I think if you drove past their house with a car and took a few pictures of their house, not only would you not be breaking any laws, but they wouldn't care one little bit. If you stood outside their house for hours with high-def cameras, then maybe they'd have a problem.

    • by Kjella (173770)

      I am amazed that people think google is (a) a good search engine, rather then soemthing to generate profit for google

      Are those mutually exclusive options? Every so often I get stuck on a Windows/IE machine I didn't configure and end up having a search go to Bing. I don't know what they're doing wrong, but they rarely find as relevant hits. Plus google has lots of neat little "oracle" functions, which unlike Clippy is actually very useful. For example you can search for "300 bits per second * 1 day in gigabytes" and google will calculate it for you. You can even throw in lots of values and constants like "mass of earth * c

    • by owlnation (858981) on Saturday October 30, 2010 @03:59PM (#34075254)

      I am amazed that people think google is (a) a good search engine, rather then soemthing to generate profit for google.

      It was, by comparison. When Google first started it was vastly superior to the keyword-spammed search engines such as Altavista, Infoseek, Yahoo, etc. You could type in a word and would likely get what you were looking for in the first page or two -- rather than on page 10, or 30 with the other engines.

      The problem is, that Google has not improved. Google Instant does not improve Search -- it's annoying and turns up the same results. Their new image search does not improve the results, just makes it slower to load.

      13 years later, and not only is Search not any better, it's actually worse. People have long ago figured out how to game Google. Comparison site scams often appear as the top links on search terms (especially moreso on google.co.uk -- being the site the article is actually about). Wikipedia appears as spam as the top link on almost everything, even when that page is a stub, or just plain crap (due to the skewed page rank of the site -- not the individual page). Searching for an hotel is near impossible. Searching for a product is near impossible. Searching for anything local is near impossible -- you just end up with comparison site spam every time.

      The other search engines are currently no better, so there's no point in switching. They, like Google, are corporate monoliths that are almost incapable of innovation.

      Search is not going to improve until someone does what Brin and Page did. Two guys with a good idea cobbled together from spare parts in a garage somewhere.

  • by Mabbo (1337229) on Saturday October 30, 2010 @01:44PM (#34074368)
    Google didn't make their index of human knowledge for free you know. If you don't like it, make your own. It will cost you billions of dollars, not just to create, but to keep up to date, up to the second.
  • by cpghost (719344) on Saturday October 30, 2010 @01:45PM (#34074370) Homepage
    We've tried this before with GRUB [grub.org], but it didn't really take off for a multitude of reasons.
    • It's ironic that Grub returns nothing but sites that want to sell me jerseys when I search for an NFL player, whereas the top Google links are always the player profile pages from NFL.com and other major sports sites, and the player's Wikipedia entry. Add to that the easy access to "news" for the player and there's little question which search engine is the more useful.

      Google works because their ranking system works. If it stopped working well, they would lose market share very quickly.

  • Libraries (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hatta (162192) on Saturday October 30, 2010 @01:45PM (#34074374) Journal

    We're more likely to lose public libraries than gain a public search engine.

  • by xiando (770382) on Saturday October 30, 2010 @01:46PM (#34074380) Homepage Journal
    I agree that we need a public people-controlled search-engine, and http://yacy.de/ [yacy.de] is sadly the best P2P search engine there is right now. It is, sadly, a major fail as it is written in Java and brings the average desktop computer to it's knees just by doing whatever in the background. A good P2P engine would make a good alternative to the commercial search-engines. There really is no alternative to Google as of now, I've tried the alternatives and they are all epic failz & pure jokes.
  • by Nemyst (1383049) on Saturday October 30, 2010 @01:47PM (#34074388) Homepage
    ... controlled by the US government (who else would have the means and would volunteer?), the same which will soon have an Internet kill switch and is almost completely submerged by lobbyists? Is it really that much better?
    • by CharlyFoxtrot (1607527) on Saturday October 30, 2010 @02:08PM (#34074526)

      ... controlled by the US government (who else would have the means and would volunteer?), the same which will soon have an Internet kill switch and is almost completely submerged by lobbyists? Is it really that much better?

      Sounds like something that's right up the EU's alley: creating a public alternative to a foreign-owned monopoly in a critical growth sector.

  • You want a public search engine? Just make one and stop whining.

    Also he complains about cencorship?
    Let's see how bad cencorship gets on a nationally owned search engine. I bet all kinds of unfavorable facts begin to disappear rather quickly.
  • The danger of allowing an advertising company to control the index of human knowledge is too obvious to ignore, writes White. 'The universal index is the shared heritage of humanity.

    Just how are we to create incentives for an organization to do this? Commercial companies will want to make money off of it, advertising is one way to monetize this service, charging an access fee would be another. I wouldn't really trust a government to do this, not because they have agendas/etc. but because they simply are not technically competent enough to do this. Any non-profit/etc. organization would have to be insanely well funded to accomplish this task, so that's unlikely.

    For better or worse it lo

    • Any non-profit/etc. organization would have to be insanely well funded to accomplish this task, so that's unlikely.
      Wikipedia does it. I think a good non-profit search can raise some serious funds.

      • by catbutt (469582)
        Wikipedia does it because the main thing of value they offer is the content itself, which can be crowdsourced (admittedly, they have to pay for bandwidth and servers as well). Most of Google's money is spent on writing the code, and providing the infrastructure to do fast searches. That's going to be a whole lot more expensive than what Wikipedia offers (beyond the content itself).
  • ...where users can no longer tell the difference between content and advertising..

    But those are the same people who never could tell the difference.

    Although admittedly there is a problem with search results being full of pages that, once you get there, turn out to be advertising with phrases added to get themselves into the search results, it's prefectly obvious to me when I actually load the page that it's advertising, almost always for something in which I have no interest, but I'm certainly not going to rewarded them by going to them even if it's something I do want.

  • In the beginning, we had a variety of search engines out there. It wasn't necessarily obvious at the time that a company like google would get a near monopoly.

    I think the meta question here:
    what are the range of services that really ought to be public vs. private/corporate?

    The net simply would not exist if it hadn't been for DoD participation. I think we are still missing basic pieces of infrastructure. Some of these simply will not exist without public input.

    My sense is that 99% of the time, google works fine-but that 1% of the time it doesn't work is critical.I think clearly identifying that 1% is a good idea and a site that could do that well might be important in its own right.

    • by khallow (566160)

      what are the range of services that really ought to be public vs. private/corporate?

      I think there's a simple question here. Is it a service that can only be provided by government? If the answer is "yes", then go public, else go private/corporate. Here, we have a clear demonstration that a private service can provide search results. Hence, no need for a public option.

      The net simply would not exist if it hadn't been for DoD participation. I think we are still missing basic pieces of infrastructure. Some of these simply will not exist without public input.

      Wholly irrelevant unless you can mention a service or piece of infrastructure that requires government.

      My sense is that 99% of the time, google works fine-but that 1% of the time it doesn't work is critical.I think clearly identifying that 1% is a good idea and a site that could do that well might be important in its own right.

      But not a site that is government run.

    • Mod parent up. Competition is the better cure. The federal government's role should not be to compete directly, but to referee, promote fair competition, and refuse to be bought with extreme prejudice. Only when no one wants to play should the government consider stepping in to play themselves.

      I'd like to move away from Google since they started that link redirection crap. Slows me down having to wait on that. Also makes copy pasting of links trickier. But all the other search engines have jumped on

  • by thethibs (882667) on Saturday October 30, 2010 @01:56PM (#34074444) Homepage

    Just what we need--a public search engine, paid for by taxpayers and managed by "public servants" who get to choose what's indexed and to censor whatever's not politically correct.

    Welcome to the Disney Internet.

  • Of course it is (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mbone (558574) on Saturday October 30, 2010 @01:56PM (#34074446)

    In connection with spam marketers and clients, it is.

    Here is an observation. I have a bunch of news filters for my sites and client site. 5 years ago, these would mostly return real hits (mentions in blogs, or the press, or a link, whatever). Today, they mostly return spam sites (sites that have a bunch of links to real businesses, but no real information and, of course, a bunch of ads). I presume that these sites are mostly put up to get hits from Google searches, and that it must be working (as there are so many of them).

    If that's not pollution, I don't know what is.

  • What we need... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by miltonw (892065)
    What we need is "researchers" who are a bit more intelligent. This person claims users "can no longer tell the difference between content and advertising". Based on what? HIs own experience?

    Personally, I don't know anyone who has any difficulty in telling the difference.
    • Re:What we need... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by guyminuslife (1349809) on Saturday October 30, 2010 @02:04PM (#34074492)

      Traditional ads, no. Astroturfing, I'm sure I've been fooled at some point. But it's hardly fair to blame search engines for that.

    • Re:What we need... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by FourthAge (1377519) on Saturday October 30, 2010 @02:27PM (#34074668) Journal

      The article says:

      "Google was originally conceived to be a commercial-free search engine. Twelve years ago, in the first public documentation of their technology, the inventors of Google warned that advertising corrupts search engines... And they condemned as particularly "insidious" the sale of the top spot on search results; a practice Google now champions."

      The misunderstanding is obvious. Google's ads are clearly separated from the search result - different style, different background colour. And yet the writer seems to think they are one and the same. It seems he has based an entire article on his own inability to distinguish between ads and search results.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by theskipper (461997)

        I think the larger issue being hinted at is that if you search for 'widgets', the first few organic results will be someone who wants to sell you a widget. Further down the page will be a blogger who shares his knowledge about how to fix the widget, for example. Or some other cool widget use. It's amazingly common and the trend has become more apparent over the last couple years.

        So yes, there is a clear delineation between paid ads and organic results. But under the covers it certainly appears there

        • Re:What we need... (Score:4, Interesting)

          by MattskEE (925706) on Saturday October 30, 2010 @04:06PM (#34075290)

          This is pretty reasonable to me. For example, when I search Google for the title of a book, I'm looking for the Amazon sale page at least 50% of the time. Lots of people are looking to buy stuff when they search for it on Google, and if Google arbitrarily excludes those results it would dilute the value of the search. If there are too many sales results then clarifying the search by adding or excluding certain terms will usually narrow it down enough.

          What would really be interesting is if Google could distinguish between, say, commercial and non-commercial results automatically. It obviously has some capabilities in this regard with its product searching options, and if they could put in something like a (buying/not buying) check box it would mean we could find our results even faster without further clarification of search terms.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Bigjeff5 (1143585)

        He apparently doesn't know how search engines worked before Google.

        Used to be, you paid for a search ranking. Whoever paid the most got the top spot, no if's, and's, or but's about it. These were completely indistinguishable from non-paid search results! For a popular subject, you could pretty much guarantee the first 10, 20, even 100 pages of search results were paid results. I remember constantly digging into the back of a set of search results to get past the bullshit irrelevant results.

        In comes Goog

  • "where users can no longer tell the difference between content and advertising, and the omnipresence of internet advertising constrains the horizon of our thought" who cannot tell tell the difference between content and advertising?? its pretty obvious most of the time. and how exactly does "the omnipresence of internet advertising constrain the horizon of our thought"
  • This opinion piece is quite the hodgepodge of thoughts. The author brings in Sir Francis Bacon (division of knowledge), then spins off into Jonathan Swift's criticism of indexing knowledge. Apparently, indexes make us "lazy as thinkers." Running through the same discourse is the idea that Google provides an easy way to include advertising which pollutes the internet. And since Google is so omnipresent, it poses a danger. Then, he brings up the idea that since Google is an "advertising company" it cannot
  • by arcite (661011) on Saturday October 30, 2010 @02:13PM (#34074566)
    ...and unfortunately the vast majority of the 'internet' is a cesspool not unlike the back alleys of a medieval city of yore. Google is a gateway, a path to a destination, a route to traverse the maze of everything... but what is gained? The internet is still about the destination, the site, the content. Do we care about those little blinking ads tailored to our whims that entice us, distract us, while we attempt to get to the 'content' we are searching for?

    Ah.... but what if the path is merely a maze going nowhere? A ship in a bottle floating in an endless sea of replicating bots who tirelessly analyze our essence and present false choices in an endless stream of nothingness only with the intent to gain our credit card number...

    Suppose for a moment, that we are not just entertaining ourselves to death, but are still empowered by our desires to know the truth, to synthesize information in a free society and hold our ideas as our own, and are not just a copy-write infringed info byte of a subsidiary of a monolithic corporation.

    The lesson perhaps? Nothing is free. Everything has a price. Search is free, but the road has a toll...for our soul, our individuality.

    This is the 21st century, we gotta get with the program. Block the ads. Pay for your hosting, own your domain... pay your dues. Own your identity. Don't sell yourself for nothing. And remember, always make a backup.

  • by Dishwasha (125561) on Saturday October 30, 2010 @02:21PM (#34074614)

    causing every website that uses Google Analytics and YouTube to take a horrendous time to load. It didn't used to be this way, but within the past year Google's non-search infrastructure has really not scaled very well.

  • Don't mix Google the search engine (probably the biggest one in internet, that have their own small ads in the results), with Google the ad network with a lot of big and small competitors, where webmasters decide to put their ads, and how. If you complain about internet pollution because a site is having too much ads, is probably webmaster/designer fault, not Google.
  • where users can no longer tell the difference between content and advertising

    These are the same people who need warning labels to tell them to put the jelly on their toast after it comes out of the toaster. While I'm definitely sympathetic to the arguments in TFA, there's a limit to how much a search engine can compensate for the cognitive deficits of its users.

    In any case, honesty in advertising is not a technological issue, it's a question of legislation and law enforcement. And if we lack the will to rein in abuses in a single country, good luck with the internet.

  • by sirwired (27582) on Saturday October 30, 2010 @04:06PM (#34075288)

    Gee, I have no problem whatsoever telling the difference between ads and content on Google (or almost anywhere, for that matter.) Even if this clown can't tell the difference, I can't say it's a universal problem. As far as the search index goes; Google seems to have been a decent steward so far. For what I search for, it produces good results, and they clearly delineate between ads and search results (unlike some other engines) and they have always done so.

  • by Burnhard (1031106) on Saturday October 30, 2010 @05:06PM (#34075546)
    People quickly become remarkably good at spotting the obvious sponsored results from the genuine ones. The basic idea behind this story is that we're all bloody idiots. Well ok, many of us are, but we're also a suspicious lot; so I don't really think this is an issue. The alternative is too horrible to contemplate: an international body (such as the UN), subject to political pressures, controlling search. I would trust a corporation that cares about its share price more than a bunch of faceless bureaucrats dependent on Government for their funding any day.

Vitamin C deficiency is apauling.

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