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Google sued for banning sites - possible class action
goodroi




msg:1236291
 12:28 am on Mar 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

In an attempt to force Google to reveal information about their ranking method, KinderStart filed a civil complaint against Google and is trying to get class action status in order to represent all sites that Google has banned.

[washingtonpost.com...]

Too early to say if this attempt will make any progress. It is interesting to notice the increasing number of lawsuits against the search engines as the Internet has become mainstream and people better understand the online economics.

 

idolw




msg:1236411
 2:41 pm on Mar 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

looks like now is the best time for that dream to come true
[technology.guardian.co.uk...]

heh, it will be possible to sue the entire EU with one file.

hey, webmasters!
how about google coming to you asking for a dividend from the companies you managed to to start thanks to google rankings only? :-)

europeforvisitors




msg:1236412
 3:29 pm on Mar 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

Also, since I have read many SEO specialists posting here in WW during these tumultuous updates saying that they cannot understand what has happened to their client's websites or what to tell them, I guess that simply being well-versed in SEO is not sufficient.

How is that bad (except for SEOs and their clients)? From a user's point of view--and Google's, for that matter--shouldn't the goal be to prevent manipulation of search results and to ensure a more level playing field?

Miop




msg:1236413
 3:44 pm on Mar 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

<How is that bad (except for SEOs and their clients)? From a user's point of view--and Google's, for that matter--shouldn't the goal be to prevent manipulation of search results and to ensure a more level playing field? >

It's not necessarily a bad thing - I just pointed it out because someone was saying that website owners who fail at SEO are stupid, which is evidently not the case!

Miop




msg:1236414
 4:14 pm on Mar 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

<hey, webmasters!
how about google coming to you asking for a dividend from the companies you managed to to start thanks to google rankings only? :-) >

Nobody has asked G for a dividend!
Mind you since they are using material which is intellectual property, perhaps we should! ;-)

Moosetick




msg:1236415
 4:17 pm on Mar 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

Perhaps G should relocate to Tijuana and give the Mexican govt a nice donation of $10B. That should allow them to do whatever they want. Their employees could live in San Diego and commute across the border daily if they like. They won't have to answer to the US govt or lawsuits of this type anymore. They even get special exemption status concerning copyrights and other problems they have had from the Mexican govt.

Reno




msg:1236416
 4:38 pm on Mar 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

Perhaps G should relocate to Tijuana and give the Mexican govt a nice donation of $10B.

According to the news reports I've seen, Google is attracting the best and the brightest in the field of software engineering. Assuming that is true, then what they should (and probably are attempting) is to deal with the existing problems and fix them so those of us who make a living from online commerce can get a decent night's sleep again.

Someone said in the other thread that Steph_R referenced for me that when Google is planning a major change, they should keep it "private" and allow people like us to give it a thorough testing prior to rolling it out to the general public. That is good advice.

And secondly, as Web_speed has posted, they need a mechanism by which we can get dependable indexing/feedback -- utilizing a "pay per" model if necessary. Speaking for myself, I'd gladly pay for such an enhanced service, as long as it also allowed non-profits and other low income sites to get indexed in the regular way.

Do all that and stay in California....

..........................................

Tapolyai




msg:1236417
 6:45 pm on Mar 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

a. What is Google getting from a webmaster? How much does it worth to Google?

More accurately, how much does it cost Google in terms of indexing content and playing whack-a-mole with the Webmasters and SEOs who are constantly trying to manipulate its search results?

@europeforvisitors, if it had no value to Google, why is Google collecting web sites?

I venture to say, that a single web site's value to Google increases with the PR, position, number of pages, etc.

Drop amazon.com and Google would loose 148 million pages. Drop WebmasterWorld and she would loose 3.8 million pages...

I also venture say that inclusion of web site by google is not "free" to the web site. However it is written, or not written - a web master grants Google access (by not including no follows, robot.txt stops, etc.) to the web site. And in lieu of that Google includes them within her database, potentially driving traffic.

The value to Google might be a fraction of all the pages listed, but it has a value. The service we get might appear to be much more out of balance, in favor of the webmaster (Google providing all the traffic and listings), but to her those services are also just a fraction for a single web site.

It is an obscure symbiotic relationship. There is a type of ant which requires a certain sap. To the tree, a single ant is of not much value. To the ant the tree is all there is - life and everything. Yet if you take away most the ants the tree will die. The tree requires the ants to clean them from pests and encroaching wines. So how much value does one ant give to the tree?

Mark my word - Google needs to diligently listen to all web sites, not just to the top.

A union of webmasters can seriously damage Google, by simply excluding themselves.

This case may be of no great value to an individual web site, but I certainly hope will wake the sleeping Google.

europeforvisitors




msg:1236418
 7:11 pm on Mar 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

A union of webmasters can seriously damage Google, by simply excluding themselves.

And who'd exclude googlebot? Certainly not the site owners who receive organic traffic from Google.

If an unhappy Webmaster chops his tree from page 50 of the SERPs, does anyone hear it fall?

walkman




msg:1236419
 7:23 pm on Mar 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

>> A union of webmasters can seriously damage Google, by simply excluding themselves.

you do it first--I will follow one day :)

Liane




msg:1236420
 9:12 pm on Mar 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

I'm with Walkman! By all means ... go ahead and put the "no follow" tag on your site. As for me, I think I'll take a "wait and see attitude" before joining your Webmaster Union! ;)

StupidScript




msg:1236421
 11:53 pm on Mar 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

Wait a minute ... isn't this a case about losing business when one of the advertising channels decides to exclude you? Like, when a newspaper decides not to run your free ad because it doesn't meet their terms and conditions? Or when a television station elects not to run your ad because it is produced in Portugese and their audience is English?

Would you sue the NY Times for "ruining your business" because they dropped your free classified ad that violates their ad terms?

a) ANY business owner who risks their business by relying exclusively on one advertising channel is doomed from the start. Any capitalist who invests in any business whose sole ad channel is any single entity deserves to lose their money. What kind of business plan did they use, anyway?

b) For those of you who are wondering, the Google documentation covers every flaw in the site that has resulted in its downward slide. If you have a question about why your own site is sliding, read, read, and read again. Then tweak, tweak and tweak again until it fits the Google model.

Then go back and do the same for MSN. Then go back and do it again to recapture what you lost in Google as you optimized for MSN. Then do MSN again. Then Google.

The simple truth is that all advertising channels have their rules, and any of them can refuse to run even your paid advertisements for any reason that fits into their ToS. That is what happened to these guys in this case, and what should happen to everyone (and HAS happened to most of us).

Eggs all in one basket? Basket kicks you out? Business starts failing? Not much of a business, was it?

I'm not averse to legislation, but this is a non-starter, and should not be the type of case upon which U.S. laws or regulations are decided. A stupid business owner lost their only advertising outlet because of their own idiocy and now they are trying to recoup damages from the ad channel. Yeesh!

And what a great lesson for the kids and parents they claim to be supporting!

JayC




msg:1236422
 12:04 am on Mar 21, 2006 (gmt 0)

>> What would the searchers have to search with
>> no websites? They would have no business!
>> Surely the base is the product they
>> are 'selling', which is the content of
>> people's websites.

Surely not; to define "the base" as "the product" is a complete departure from the original analogy and changes the meaning of the word. :)

But the point is that changes of any kind (algorithmic, manual review, whatever) which result in a particular site dropping in the rankings also result in other sites climbing to take their spots. These changes, then, will not result in "searchers having nothing to search." It's the operator of a particular site who cares whether that one site is at the top or not, the searcher just wants to see a site that's a good match for what he asked for.

The idea that there'll be no sites left in Google is simply silly.

Google, to be successful, doesn't have to please any particular web site operator by ranking his site well (or by telling him why they do not)... all they have to do is return one site from the set of sites which, just like that hypothetical site operator's, are what the user is looking for.

>> If the searchers were the base, G would charge >> people to search it, which is how it works >> >> with specialist libraries and such.

"And such" that have to take that kind of approach, because they don't have the huge satisfied base that Google has, a base which encourages advertisers to pay for their eyes. Which is why the users are the "base" -- they're the people who drive the business model. Hence, they are the people who must be kept happy.

The site operator unhappy with his rankings doesn't matter. He'll do what he can to get back in place, but in the meantime Google will have some other site at the top doing the job. If the "dropped" site never gets back, so what... it won't be missed.

Miop




msg:1236423
 12:23 am on Mar 21, 2006 (gmt 0)

To JC - Sure, I agree with all of that.
The bottom line is that the base which Google has is a large (majority) pool of eyes which it has attracted with other people's (free) content that it harvested and which attracts the people whose content was harvested in the first place to pay to get business from the pool. It's not even chicken and egg because the pool of eyes would not come if not for the pool of free content and hence the advertisers would not come because the pool of eyes would be absent.
It's a brilliant concept. Let's sneak up [1] and copy all the content of all the websites we can lay our hands on (without asking permission from the owner of the content), build it into a giant index and spread the word. Millions of people will come to look through the (free) content and then we can charge the people whose content we copied in the first place, for a space at the top of the page. I wish I'd thought of it!

IOW G has us over a barrel - I think we realise that, but we shut up because we need any traffic that comes our way from there. Traffic we not just want, but need, because the amount of content which G has taken is so huge that most people use G to look for stuff.

People (whether as a collective or individual) who own the content which is indexed there now hope to be told (even if only non-specifically) that there is some problem that needs fixing with their site, and for someone to interact with to some degree when there is a problem. Personally cannot see any rational argument why that should not be a reasonable proposal.

1. And bots *do* sneak up. My bandwidth keeps being drained by new bots appearing all the time - yes I can block them, but by the time I've worked out how to do that, it's too late - they have already stolen a large proportion of my content.

I have content scraped on sites which I don't want it to be on - it's mine and I don't want it there. Can I get it removed? No - they won't answer my emails. One even refused to take it off their site. Even G ignores my requests to remove cached pages of my sites - most have been pending for months. Sooner or later the issue of ownership and rights of website content will be set in stone in a court of law (probably not through this case), and then the relationship proper with Google as well as other SE's, bots and scrapers will begin.

BigDave




msg:1236424
 1:54 am on Mar 21, 2006 (gmt 0)

People (whether as a collective or individual) who own the content

Well, there is part of your misunderstanding. Once something is published, you are no longer the content owner. You are the copyright owner.

The general public "owns" the content, and in exchange for your content they grant you a copyright. They also grant others specific rights to use that content. You do not have the right to stop Google from using the content that you have published, if they are within their rights. Even if you block them with robots.txt, they would still have significant rights to use your published content.

Once you get away from thinking that you actually "own" the content, you might want to rethink your position within that context.

Web_speed




msg:1236425
 2:39 am on Mar 21, 2006 (gmt 0)

Getting back to the topic. This case will probably fail in court BUT it does raise a lot of eyebrows and brings up many questions, most of the public was never aware of.

What I particularly like about this case is the fact that it is being mentioned in almost every news publication i read online or offline.

Check out this one for example (a major Autralian newspaper):
[theage.com.au...]

Whether we like it or not, Google's power is getting tremendously dangerous for many businesses (mighty big or/and small). And in the real world, when businesses are feeling threatened or affected on a large scale they start pressing legislative buttons at the Senate.

Time for Google to get back to the real world and start acting again in a more responsible manner. The way I see it, if this to continue, they are likely to face though regulatory measures much sooner then most of us think.

IMO, watch this space for many more new similar cases (around the world) to start popping up soon.

Whitey




msg:1236426
 4:06 am on Mar 21, 2006 (gmt 0)

Check out this one for example (a major Autralian newspaper):
[theage.com.au...]

It's spread to Sydney as well Website owner sues Google over dropped site [smh.com.au]

My sense is that the direction these people are taking in the suit is flawed, but as I keep saying "communication" is the key and if Google talked they likely wouldn't be doing this.

This doesn't need to happen if the support service and systems are good and Google listens to what's being inferred out here - it won't be long before other's say - hang on - where's my business website! That's worth money to us - lets challenge Google's silence on our problems.

More effort needs to be made by Google to make webmasters happy and sell the benefits of their advertising offerings etc alongside this - otherwise it will lead to bigger problems

Whitey




msg:1236427
 4:24 am on Mar 21, 2006 (gmt 0)

I wonder if these guys are aware of the judge's ruling in the SearchKing v. Google case:
[research.yale.edu...]

It seems to me that the legal approach of "show me your proprietary secrets" to unlock the problem is a flawed approach by the plaintiff. But it won't be long before a lawyer finds it appealing to run with a more solid and better prepared case. There are many different angles on the disruption being suffered by webmasters and site owners.

I guess BMW found a way to quickly get noticed and put back on Google. Why shouldn't that approach be equal to Mr and Mrs Average's business. My hunch is it was the size of the potential conflict that caused a timely resolution.

My desire is that Google communicate and resolve community issues more quickly. Let's hope this forum dialogue and the Press that's going around assists them in finding a way to do this amicably with site owners and webmasters .

Web_speed




msg:1236428
 6:18 am on Mar 21, 2006 (gmt 0)

Add CNN to this list:
[money.cnn.com...]

luckychucky




msg:1236429
 11:01 am on Mar 21, 2006 (gmt 0)

A union of webmasters can seriously damage Google, by simply excluding themselves.
Like prisoners on hunger strike, eh? And since no one will care in the slightest about their fate, pointless death is a foregone conclusion from the get-go
:o)

Miop




msg:1236430
 11:53 am on Mar 21, 2006 (gmt 0)

<Well, there is part of your misunderstanding. Once something is published, you are no longer the content owner. You are the copyright owner.

The general public "owns" the content, and in exchange for your content they grant you a copyright. They also grant others specific rights to use that content. You do not have the right to stop Google from using the content that you have published, if they are within their rights. Even if you block them with robots.txt, they would still have significant rights to use your published content.

Once you get away from thinking that you actually "own" the content, you might want to rethink your position within that context. >

But most material in the world is published voluntarily, not by default, the latter being similar to implying consent/acceptance by silence, something which is not acceptable, at least in UK law.
As I understand it, the material is only considered 'copyright' because there is an opt-out from being spidered by Gbot, which gives an 'implied license' for G to show cached content and such use is 'fair use'. However the opt-out for G is Google-specific, not a standard one (Brett's argument, as seen on Danny Sullivan). I agree with that and as such I think that as this argument develops further, it will be seen that it is not an 'implied license' unless you invite Gbot in specifically - not just Gbot but all bots, many of which cannot be excluded with a standard exclusion tag. Few people object when Gbot scoops your site up, but the same premise applies to unindentifiable/unknown bots which presume permission to take your content because there is no meta-tag to tell it otherwise - there is no exclusion meta-tag because the site owner doesn't yet know about the bot .
Just because it has not been decided in court that it is wrong to presume permission to publish as yet, does not mean that it won't be, and my personal opinion is that it should be considered wrong to collect website content if the site owner has not specifically requested it.
The whole argument for that view is expanded here (am I allowed to post this? If not, please remove!)
[forums.searchenginewatch.com...]

I can't see a valid argument against website owners to be able to protect their content. The only one which has been used so far is that it didn't impact the business - not good enough IMHO.

Tapolyai




msg:1236431
 4:04 pm on Mar 21, 2006 (gmt 0)

A union of webmasters can seriously damage Google, by simply excluding themselves.

And who'd exclude googlebot? Certainly not the site owners who receive organic traffic from Google.

If an unhappy Webmaster chops his tree from page 50 of the SERPs, does anyone hear it fall?

@europeforvisitors & walkman...

[webmasterworld.com...]

Web_speed




msg:1236432
 4:30 pm on Mar 21, 2006 (gmt 0)

http://www.webmasterworld.com/robots.txt

LOL, i almost fell of my chair laughing when i saw this robots.txt
Brett, maybe you should rename it to robots_blog.txt :)

Good one!

kwasher




msg:1236433
 6:53 pm on Mar 23, 2006 (gmt 0)

While Im not certain this particular lawsuit has any merits, I am glad to see it being discussed! I have felt this way for a long time...

G steals (i.e. takes without permission) and reproduces your actual content including the source code (a product of value) and bandies it about in order to make money from its paid ads, which it does in spades.

Google IS built on the backs of webmasters. To keep google from scraping and stealing your site, you must jump some hoops (robots.txt, etc).

This is like saying it is ok and legal to rob my store, until I get a burglar alarm installed.

LifeinAsia




msg:1236434
 7:06 pm on Mar 23, 2006 (gmt 0)

That's sort of like saying the phone company "steals" your name, address, and phone number so they can have some "content" in their phone directory and you have to jump through hoops (get an unlisted number) to prevent it.

Miop




msg:1236435
 7:28 pm on Mar 23, 2006 (gmt 0)


<That's sort of like saying the phone company "steals" your name, address, and phone number so they can have some "content" in their phone directory and you have to jump through hoops (get an unlisted number) to prevent it. >

Not really - they can't steal it because they provided it, and also you can be ex-directory if you choose. They are careful to give you that option!

Miop




msg:1236436
 7:33 pm on Mar 23, 2006 (gmt 0)

< This is like saying it is ok and legal to rob my store, until I get a burglar alarm installed.>

Very good :)

bigjohnt




msg:1236437
 7:38 pm on Mar 23, 2006 (gmt 0)

Just because the plaintiff was benefitted from free traffic(advertising)for a period of time does not mean the provider of that free exposure is obligated to continue doing so. Regardless of the provider's prominence.

I see this as similar to allowing someone to post a sign on your property next to a highway for years, and then taking it down. Just because that property gets better exposure than the next does not add to their "right" to use your property for advertising. Google is a private entity, and can decide to allow or not allow anyone to be included, and where they go.
A ruling for the plaintiff in this case would be disastrous to ALL search engines, directories and algorithms - as where could the courts draw the line for the SE's determination as to who gets into their index, goes where? Utter chaos.

A frivolous lawsuit at its worst.

PS. I am not an attorney, nor do I play one on TV or in forums. But I think I CAN pass the "reasonable person" test. If I study hard enough.

LifeinAsia




msg:1236438
 7:44 pm on Mar 23, 2006 (gmt 0)

Not really - they can't steal it because they provided it, and also you can be ex-directory if you choose. They are careful to give you that option!

They're only providing the phone number, not your name or address.
And anyone can be ex-Google as well if they choose- it's called the robots.txt file.

kwasher




msg:1236439
 8:21 pm on Mar 23, 2006 (gmt 0)

Bad analogy.

Does the phone company break into your house to give you a phone?

Miop




msg:1236440
 9:00 pm on Mar 23, 2006 (gmt 0)

<They're only providing the phone number, not your name or address.>

In the UK, your name and address, and online, your postal code is also ecorded. What would be the point of a telephone directory with only phone numbers and names in it? How would you know if you have the correct Dave Smith?! :)

<And anyone can be ex-Google as well if they choose- it's called the robots.txt file. >

You cannot use a blanket exclusion which keeps Gbot out. As I said before, you don't mind because it's Google, but what if it's a bot you are unaware of and by the time you've twigged what it is and how to block it, it's ripped your website contents?
Can you honestly uphold the right of all kinds of bots to tear into your website willy-nilly purely because you have given 'implied consent' to crawl it by *not* having it mentioned in robots.txt, because whatever ruling applied to G, would presumably set a precedent for other SE's. If you uphold the right of G to simply extract your content, then you are upholding the right of all bots and scrapers to do so.
Right now, Gigablast is tearing through my site in spite of it being blocked, and PSbot pushed the server over several times. Some unidentified bots get around the blocking by simply changing their IP.
This really is not reasonable behaviour IMV.

bigjohnt




msg:1236441
 9:09 pm on Mar 23, 2006 (gmt 0)

It is a symbiotic relationship. Both benefit. Equally? That is a case by case thing. I cannot imagine any of my clients NOT wanting Google to spider them. Proprietary/client info perhaps, but not any information they put "out there" allowing Google or anyone else to read it, grab it and use it.
Like anyone who wants to copy my advertising and distribute for me, free of charge - FEEL FREE!

If search engines are the major way folks get to web sites - and they are - the issue is clear. We need them, they need us.
"The phone companies are build on the backs of people who have phones." But not those that are unlisted.
-- But I benefit from the people who want to call me, and are able to find me in the phone book. If I don't want them to call me, I can opt out.

I don't understand the angst of webmasters ire at Google for providing a service to us, and the user, and getting paid for it.
Without Google and other SE's what good would websites be excpet for leveraging offline efforts?

This whole "class action suit" smacks of taking a shot at Google for an out of court settlement - since they can afford it. An online "slip and fall" case.

Maybe I should sue Yahoo for changing their algorithm, and my top spot client falling to page 3 - since after all they make their money on the client's content. Monetary damages are staggering, punitive damages can be negotiated. And I did nothing wrong, and was not even banned, but suffered by THEIR evil-minded algo change.

It's just so silly.

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