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The Google Gap - The Web According to Google

 7:48 pm on Jun 10, 2003 (gmt 0)

An article [yahoo.businessweek.com] by Business Week Online details some of the issues webmasters are facing getting their site listed with Google.

It is an interesting article because it isn't your normal mainstream drivel.

"we need a concept of the public interest for the Internet that we haven't completely worked through yet. Somewhere between 'the market will magically take care of this' and 'let's regulate the heck out of it,' there has to be a solution."

There is a very fascinating and important point buried on page two:

Call it the Google Gap -- the difference between the growing perception that the site is omniscient and the fact that it isn't.



 10:58 pm on Jun 10, 2003 (gmt 0)

<<Just as The New York Times deploys editors to sort and publish the news, likewise Google deploys it's algo to sort the information that it judges relevant- it's free speech<<

I doubt Google would ever claim any responsibilty for the pages it judges relevant, while the Times is responsible for what they publish.

I am about as de-regulation as one can get, but let's not get too caught up in the whole "gg is private and can do as they please" comments. The FCC is all over much of the private media in the US, again not a good thing.

Someone mentioned that the Internet is different than TV because it is not airwaves. :) There is plenty that is regulated on the internet such as underage adult sites, spam, downloadable music, copywright infringement, Online gambling soon...


 11:29 pm on Jun 10, 2003 (gmt 0)

Just as The New York Times deploys editors to sort and publish the news, likewise Google deploys it's algo to sort the information that it judges relevant- it's free speech<

Nope, if the NYT was seen to to make slanderous claims they would be in trouble... Google can more a less pass the buck to the site owner.

Please look closer: I was referring to the function of sorting and publishing. I was making specific reference to the task of sorting through the news and deciding what belongs on Page 1, and what belongs in the inside back page- This is in the context of a response to the suggestion that there may be legal problems inherent in Google deciding what is relevant.

doubt Google would ever claim any responsibilty for the pages it judges relevant

Google claims responsibility for it's judgement of what is relevant, and they claim that it is it's Free Speech Opinion. If you are familiar with the whole Search King Lawsuit, you'll know what I mean- that is how they defended PageRank.

[edited by: martinibuster at 11:37 pm (utc) on June 10, 2003]


 11:32 pm on Jun 10, 2003 (gmt 0)

There certainly is a lot of regulation regarding what websites can and cannot publish. Regulating Google (or the retrieval of information in general) would be a very different matter. You would effectively be regulating the *opinion* Google may have of any given website. This point has already been tested in law (SearchKing case) and Google won the action.

Added after reading MartiniBuster:

MartiniBuster must type faster than me! He got there first with the same point as me!


 11:35 pm on Jun 10, 2003 (gmt 0)

google, doesnt need regulation.
(indeed government please stay out of the internet completely)

what they need is some good ole fashioned competition. and it's coming. and google is preparing for it.


 11:50 pm on Jun 10, 2003 (gmt 0)

martinibuster must type faster than me!

Actually, I alluded to the searchking case within my first post.

likewise Google deploys it's algo to sort the information that it judges relevant- it's free speech.

Google Gap
FTSE sites get low search rankings [internet-magazine.com]

I don't have time to post more right now, but that's a good starting point for what I'm talking about when I say the Google Gap. I did a whole post about it last week, but I can't seem to find it now.


 12:00 am on Jun 11, 2003 (gmt 0)

Google claims responsibility for it's judgement of what is relevant, and they claim that it is it's Free Speech Opinion. If you are familiar with the whole Search King Lawsuit, you'll know what I mean- that is how they defended PageRank.

SK lost, they used free speech


 12:03 am on Jun 11, 2003 (gmt 0)


I certainly agree that competition is required. As I believe in the (truly) free market I want there to be competition. My interest is what form will that competition take. In another parallel thread I made the point that I don't think "more relevant, higher quality" are suitable grounds to compete on because they are too subjective. I'll not repeat the whole post here, but essentially I feel that the answer lies in the search engines compiling the basic index and offering the ability for third parties (service providers, application developers, etc) to adapt the search for individual needs by querying the index using the most appropriate context for the user.

The basic tools and index could be licensed to the third parties, who could then build their own unique search services most appropriate to their users (business, leisure, academic, financial etc). In effect the search engines move away from selling results, to selling *the ability* to create tailored results on the fly.


 12:08 am on Jun 11, 2003 (gmt 0)

governments may well regulate the media -in many western countries in terms of media ownership and monopolies and in others by censorship and gov. monology ownership and licensing.

However, gov does not generally regulate DIRECTORIES or INDEXES of media in print such as those used by publishers, ad agencies, etc.

Two different things.


 12:21 am on Jun 11, 2003 (gmt 0)

"However, gov does not generally regulate DIRECTORIES or INDEXES of media in print such as those used by publishers, ad agencies, etc."

Really? show me an ad in a respected newspaper/mag/tv promoting ...well you can guess can't you

Two different things? only for google they are

However you may be right, remember Rupert Murdoch?


 12:34 am on Jun 11, 2003 (gmt 0)


Google's SERPs aren't actually ads, so your comparison doesn't work. I am sure Google do have restrictions on what can be advertised on Adwords, but the main SERPs are simply an ordered list of web pages, keyed by Googles opinion of relevance to the search term, nothing more. If website owners want to attach more to SERPs, that is their decision, not Googles.


 12:42 am on Jun 11, 2003 (gmt 0)

what they need is some good ole fashioned competition. and it's coming.

I have to agre. Google needs competition. I'd never thought I'd say that I wish Microsoft had a bigger presence, but I do. Much like Microsoft vs. AOL, and Microsoft vs. Sony, I think Microsoft vs. Google would be to the benefit of everyone.

Google has incredible brand awareness and there needs to be someone big to compete against it.

Random thought here, but I was watching a documentary on the History Channel the other day on John D. Rockefeller and Standard Oil. I can't help but see the similarities between the two.

Anti-trust violation?


 1:00 am on Jun 11, 2003 (gmt 0)

If Google disappeared tomorrow the mourning would last a week or two, then we'd have a bit of a battle between Ink, Fast, Teoma and Altavista and in 6 months time we'd be having the same ocnversation about the winner.

And regarding the responsibility for the index, if the Times published a book review about a book that contained illegal material - the review would not in itself be liable for prosecution. Google listings could well be considered to be the same as a review.

And as we know all newspapers review sections contain randomly selected content and not those that the paper thinks most important, or then again maybe not.


 1:09 am on Jun 11, 2003 (gmt 0)

For commercial activities, the Google Gap certainly exists, but for most information searches, I think that visitors are finding that the right answer is popping up to the top, and that's the point. When I do a search for "library homecity", I get the right link to my local library.

In fact, I'm usually happy to just click "I'm feeling lucky" for most information searches.

When I'm searching for something which SEOs have been optimizing for, then I'm a lot more wary, and willing to dig a few pages if necessary.


 1:17 am on Jun 11, 2003 (gmt 0)

Calling for the overthrow of the US government, for example, is NOT guaranteed by the First Amendment

I don't agree with you. The whole point of the first amendment is to allow people to express their political views. Which includes calling for the overthrow of the government. Which is why there is a Second Amendment?

I don't understand why people even suggest that google be regulated? My bookmarks aren't regulated neither are Tommy's Bookmarks (adult link site).

Google is a company which holds an index of Internet websites, it's up to google what sites are in that index. Should the government regulate Yahoo to insert my site?

I understand that people who get kicked out of the google index would be upset. Your website should be an entity that isn't dependant on your google ranking. Maybe they should try to get listed in the human parsed index called DMOZ. Google uses it to seed it's search. This adds quality to the google index.

Today the internet is better off with Google than without it. That's why 80% of the people use it. Also their site is simple. Does anyone remember Altavista's site two years ago? Or take a look at Lycos's site. Who wants to use that cluttered page. Not me.

Google's search engine returns better results that's why people use it (please note I've not been using alltheweb, which appears to have it's own pagerank system which may be good, but the point is google is better than yahoo, altavista, msn.com).

I would be sick tomorrow if there was no google. The internet would return to the useless clutter which it was before google showed up.

If I can't find what I'm looking for in google, a tear almost comes to my eye because I know the chances of me finding in on another search engine's site are slim to nill.

Why doesn't someone come up with the stupid idea to regulate what code is accepted in the Internet Explorer HTML rendering engine?

"It doesn't accept the blink tag, my site doesn't work. I want to sue somebody"
-- Average whinny, sue happy, government blaming american

Funny thing is how people keep saying that Google can pack up and move to another country. That's all fine and dandy if you are European or from anywhere other than America.
"I'll move from France to Germany. Or from Hong Kong to Australia."
-- Non-American
But if you are American you live in the only country on the planet and would never leave. Microsoft threatened to move to Canada. And we know that was a bluff. The would never do that. If it was so easy for them to up and move to Canada why did they even stick around for the court judgement. Canada would have accepted them with open, tax hungry arms.

Every april fools day or whenever google feels like it they should mess with their index and return the most ignorant and wrong results, just to show you who is in charge of the index. Not me, not you, not the government but google itself.

I can't believe the people who get upset because bad news about them is on google. Hello? that's life. You know how many millions of peoples lives have been made easier by google's cache feature. I can't count the number of times my day was saved by info that was cached on a site that was down or no longer exists.

I know virtually everyone here (including myself) is a webmaster, and many of you have a bad understanding of search engines. You believe that there should be a set of rules to follow and tags to fill which should grant you supreme rights to top rankings on search engines. NO. Search engines are supposed to find the most relevant data for the user. Searching throught the data the way it's dumped onto the Internet. That's why google searches excel and pdf files. It helps people.

Businesses want to push their money muscle and get listed as number one. Well turns out websurfers like search engines that return relevant results not the most expensive results.

No one has to go through google to get to a website, that's why we have domain names. That's why domain names are regulated and google is not. Google does not control access to ANYTHING on the internet.

Google!= Internet


 1:34 am on Jun 11, 2003 (gmt 0)

1. Google is currently a private party that does favor particular sites (for particular reasons that fall within the limitations of its algorithm) and hurts others.

If the article had pursued that thought then the article would have been hitting closer to the truth about the Google Gap, which to me is the fact that most web sites are designed by Marketing people and Graphic designers who are proposing solutions to design issues and proposing no solutions to the search engine indexability question.

Thus, the Now Interactive Solutions sites bite the dust in Google because they never addressed the question. Most web shops don't. You can pick up any web design book, attend any web design class, read any design magazine and you will see what I mean.

Communication Arts is arguably one of the most authoritative Graphic Design magazines in the US. On their web site they publish a site of the week [designinteract.com] as judged by Communication Arts Magazine and virtually everyone of them is destined for the Page 88 graveyard of the SERPS.

That is the Google Gap, and that is why I stated in my first post:

Too bad they wasted everybody's time talking about "businesses that run afoul of the rules Google uses to ensure site don't manipulate rankings."

[edited by: martinibuster at 1:38 am (utc) on June 11, 2003]

Watcher of the Skies

 1:37 am on Jun 11, 2003 (gmt 0)

Dennis et al v. United States - 1950

1. As construed and applied in this case, §§ 2 (a) (1), 2 (a) (3) and 3 of the Smith Act, 54 Stat. 671, making it a crime for any person knowingly or willfully to advocate the overthrow or destruction of the Government of the United States by force or violence, to organize or help to organize any group which does so, or to conspire to do so, do not violate the First Amendment or other provisions of the Bill of Rights and do not violate the First or Fifth Amendments because of indefiniteness. Pp. 495-499, 517.

Sorry, facts is facts - though your "dissenting opinion" is noted.

By the way, using pejorative comments about any country is generally frowned upon, and is almost as bad as being mis-informed.


 1:45 am on Jun 11, 2003 (gmt 0)

Google is in fact far more than a US company. Sure HQs, legal standing: all US. But not only do they have offices in several countries worldwide, the do business worldwide, being even more dominant in several countries than in the US. Like any company they are subjet to local laws, US laws for US operations, Other Country laws for Other Country operations.
There have been several incidents where Google operating in other countries has led to problems.


 1:49 am on Jun 11, 2003 (gmt 0)

Great point Heini.

I think the Google gap they are speaking of is true in many cases. People actually believe they are somehow reading pages found on Google as authorotative sources.

As the Web becomes more prevalent among the youth and educational systems, hopefully people will learn a lot more about Internet research and search engines when they are young. The gap is not the fault of Google, but rather the users who never bother to look into it.


 2:35 am on Jun 11, 2003 (gmt 0)

<<So someone claimed that Graham Kandiah was dropped from Google's index for doing a pop-up? That's pretty bogus.>>

Googleguy, I have to assert that the article was conveying the fact that Graham Kandiah didn't really know why the site was dropped, with no communication coming from Google. They had to assume.

I can relate to that fact, having tried to get any response from Google (other that an automatic one) has been an exercise in futility. IMHO, those that are dropped from the index are more upset about being shut out from Google feedback and really just looking for info as to why.

Being a neophyte myself I just looking for a little love from the big G ;)


 2:41 am on Jun 11, 2003 (gmt 0)

I doubt Google would ever claim any responsibilty for the pages it judges relevant, while the Times is responsible for what they publish.

Precisely. Google is like the Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature or The Magazine Index. It indexes what's published, to the best of its ability, but that's all.


 3:11 am on Jun 11, 2003 (gmt 0)

Is Google a library? I think not? Is she the librarian? No she it not.

She is just like the librarian assistant that you ask: "could you please get me a book about ..."

We should always be the last filter to accept information.

If business are blamming google for their loss ... you should check your marketing campaign and not to rely TOO MUCH on Google and Search engines.



 3:12 am on Jun 11, 2003 (gmt 0)

Google telling the world what sites are relevant is literally judging the web by its cover and reading between selected sites....

Watcher of the Skies

 3:15 am on Jun 11, 2003 (gmt 0)

Yes, EFV, but the point is that Google has become the major means of distribution, now, of what's published (electronically). It is the medium. At that stage, it becomes a whole new game. Like Microsoft, AT&T, and "windfall" profits before them, it's not even a question of whether it does what it does with excellence or not. It's a question of whether it has too much "power". And the government's remedy, if it comes to that, will not be to try to adjust the Quality of Google's results, but to spread out the search options, in whatever horrific, unfathomable fixes that might entail. :)


 3:37 am on Jun 11, 2003 (gmt 0)

I for one do not think there is a google gap.

It's true that for the last 2 years I can say google has delivered significantly more traffic to my site than any other SE, probably most of the others combined.

But that is simply a measure of it's user base and popularity.

If the google site(s) crashed, and went down where do you think everyone would go? Where would you go? That's where your traffic will come from next.

With google's index mischief, I'm seeing an increasing amount of traffic from Altavista. I'm seeing an increase of Altavista's bots too.

It's too bad I don't have a PR from Altavista, so I can better optimize my pages for it's bots as well as google's, or whomever else brings significant traffic my way.


 5:30 am on Jun 11, 2003 (gmt 0)

And the government's remedy, if it comes to that, will not be to try to adjust the Quality of Google's results, but to spread out the search options, in whatever horrific, unfathomable fixes that might entail.

It's unlikely to come to that, especially in a Republican administration that's hardly likely to be favorably disposed to antitrust suits. And if it did, the legal remedy would be simple enough: eliminate some or all of the third-party search deals (such as AOL and Yahoo). There's a BIG difference between Google's market dominance and Microsoft's, since (a) nobody with any degree of credibility is accusing Google of dirty tricks, and (b) users have plenty of other search options available at the click of a mouse, which obviously isn't the case with an operating system. Google may have considerable market share, but it's hardly a monopoly.


 6:01 am on Jun 11, 2003 (gmt 0)

My response to the whiners of the last part of the BW article is the "responsibility gap".

Its always the fault of another - never introspection to own responsibility.

1. If searchers cannot find burried results - learn to search. Use more and varied search words, use advanced search.

2. If parents are scared of children not using libraries/books, educate and explain them to do so and why it may be better.

3. If webmasters cannot get their sites - listed. Find out why, its really not difficult.

4. If your website is so important to you search engine/business wise. Use several websites or advertise.

People are getting spoiled.

Google owes me a living and should adopt to my lazy way of living.

Where is constructive criticism?


 6:23 am on Jun 11, 2003 (gmt 0)

vitaplease.. very good points...

I think its hard to argue that the best information is "buried" in google. I think its not too much to expect that web search skills should be a major life-skill for intelligent people in this information age, and at the very least this means maybe having to refine your search or use a few words rather than one or two. Google results change dramatically once you add a few more words or modifiers to a query. And other search engines offer "refined" searches as an option. Either way we can't "baby" people for too long..


 6:49 am on Jun 11, 2003 (gmt 0)

>> Call it the Google Gap -- the difference between the growing perception
>> that the site is omniscient and the fact that it isn't.

This sounds like a total straw-man argument to me. Not even newbies to the Web have such a perception. Nobody in their right mind thinks Google is omniscient or anything close to it.

I agree that many people consider Google to be "good enough" that they use it to search the Web almost to the exclusion of other tools. And of course if you aren't in Google there's no question you will have an uphill battle being found. But I dislike the implication that users don't understand what's going on, or that there's a problem which is somehow Google's fault. People are simply making decisions based on the fact that they have a finite amount of time and Google is arguably the best search engine right now.


 7:29 am on Jun 11, 2003 (gmt 0)

I agree that refining searches is a pretty good skill to have. I just ran across a useful example today--think about the words that a webmaster would use. For example, suppose you want to see a map of belgium. If you go to Google Image Search and type in belgium, you'll get a smattering of different types of pictures--flags, coins, maps, landmarks. But if you type in map of belgium, it's exactly what you want. Webmasters don't always use the words that searchers do, so sometimes you get better results as a searcher by thinking how a page creator would write things. In an ideal world, search engines could bridge the difference in nomenclature, but semantic analysis and scoring isn't that advanced, yet.

Ach, crivens.

Please Be Gentle

 8:09 am on Jun 11, 2003 (gmt 0)

Hi Googleguy
I think learning how to phrase a query is sometimes the most difficult thing, you know what you want but sometimes it is difficult to strike the right balance between being specific enough and not eliminating relevant results by being too specific - less is sometimes more, but not always.
With respect to refining searches, does Google publish statistics on the frequency of use of search modifiers such as "minus" or "OR". ( On the google papers site I found “Improving Category Specific Web Search by Learning Query Modifications” but I think the site is down and I am not sure that this contains the information I am looking for.) I know that Google publishes the most popular queries for a given month on Zeitgeist, but does Google publish/maintain information on the differences between how males and females basically ask the same thing or is this a contentious/confidential issue. (To use the googlebar one needs to register and I am sure that Google also selects members of the public for testing purposes so it is not beyond the realms of probability that they would collate this information). I do not mean the topic of the queries, rather how the queries are phrased. For instance, that old staple of Google´s "Britney Spears" is more likely to be the theme for a male´s search than for a female´s search. However men and women would equally be inclined to buy a house, rent a car, look for a job etc., and I want to know if there is a trend in differences between the queries before the stopwords are removed. So if you could point me in the right direction (I have looked on google but I fear my query was not concise enough :) ) or tell me if I am wasting my time, I would be gratefule


 8:19 am on Jun 11, 2003 (gmt 0)

Having total knowledge; knowing everything: an omniscient deity; the omniscient narrator.

1. One having total knowledge.
2. Omniscient God. Used with the.

Call it the Google Gap -- the difference between the growing perception that the site is omniscient and the fact that it isn't.

Is there actually a growing perception that Google's omniscient? That sounds like an education problem, not a Google problem. No information source - whether it be Google, NYTimes or the 6:00 news - should be considered omniscient to an educated reader.

Would be great though: an omniscient deity at my beck-and-call 24-hours a day. :-)

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