ColourOfSpring - 11:12 am on Jul 28, 2013 (gmt 0)
Actually it is a rating service. That was the whole purpose behind its initial design, the updates and all the Animal Farm patches. Rather than just being an ordinary search engine, it rated sites based, initially, on the site's link authority. However that's broken now.
Yes, Google are a defacto ratings service. A broken one at that. They use proxy signals to hazard a guess at how good a service or product a company provides (the proxy signals being content, user metrics, inbound links etc). As we all know, these are often misleading signals. They're also signals that site owners obsess over. How to make Google like me? How can I appear better in Google's eyes? How can I be more popular with Google? To me these are the wrong questions - wrong because Google change their rules so often anyway. And wrong because what Google wants isn't really what your searchers want (and that's becoming evermore the case as time goes by).