tedster - 2:35 pm on Jul 19, 2011 (gmt 0)
I think we're seeing something much different than that harsh assessment - and I think the title for this thread nails it - Google is currently BOTH sophisticated and crude. I don't think we can appreciate what they are doing by focusing on just this current moment.
What they are doing, in my opinion, is taking advantage of their current dominance of the search market to launch a massive and ambitious re-thinking of how to generate web search. Rather than only thinking short term, they are wiling to break a lot of eggs to get their new AI system really cooking. And it is a gamble of sorts for them.
This kind of machine learning along with automated algorithm revision has never been done before, but they have been making gestures in this direction for many years. Now, with Panda, they launched the project full-tilt.
The immediate problem (and Google's intentional "sacrifice") is that in many ways, search quality right now is suffering badly. This is because Google's baby AI system is still quite crude. However, the fact that Google is moving in this direction at all is computationally quite sophisticated. And with all their human quality raters, Google clearly knows that their search results are not what they once were.
Unfortunately for businesses who are caught in the wheels of this machine, the more they have depended on Google traffic, the more they are suffering.