@davedm, i agree all except the motivation. i don't think even google can be so arrogant as to think they can get away with serving up bad content and treating their hard earned users like zombies.
i think with 10s of thousands of engineers and who knows how many teams of eager young engineers anxious to make their mark, that they have just lost their way. i don't think there is any other explanation for it. their machine learning apps must be telling them that the local serps are rubbish. but there are so many thousands of signals and parallel initiatives each with their own advocates. I think it is Amit's job to referee these and show leadership and direction - somebody needs to balance all of these forces with some common sense.