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Refuting NY Times Search Neutrality Article

Search NeutralityI read the New York Times recently published “Search, but You May Not Find” and find it to be one of the most biased and misguided articles from a supposedly reputable news source. The article discusses net neutrality which prohibits Internet service providers from discriminating or charging more for access to certain services or applications on the Web. The author, Adam Raff, uses the same net neutrality argument to support his claims for a “search neutrality” which you will see is a slippery slope argument

Adam explains that Internet search engines such as Google, Bing, Yahoo, are becoming gate keepers of information and that their results should be unbiased and ranked on relevance. There is truth to this. If Search Neutrality should be the case, we would essentially have a single search engine for all our needs because they would all share the same algorithm to rank sites and content. However, what search neutrality implies is that all the engines would have the same exact results which would be anti-competitive. A user is not forced to user Google or any other search engine. The openness of the Internet allows for anyone with the best service to succeed without prohibition. Isn’t that what Net Neutrality is all about? Google itself hardly ever advertise it’s service. Users flock to Google because it does provide the most simple and effective search results. By having different search engines with varied results and services, creates competition for all sides and ultimately benefiting the users.

Adam Raff does disclose that he works for Foundem – a search site to compare products. Raff alleges that his site’s Google search rankings disappeared and thus stunted his company’s growth. Writing an article against Google on the NY Times is also a sure way to bring exposure to your company doesn’t it? What Raff doesn’t explain is why his site disappeared from search results. Gaming the system by adding keywords hidden behind background colors can do this. Listing your site on link farms solely for the purpose of Search Engine Optimization can also put your site in the “bad neighborhood”. Raff does not explain how his site might have been black listed by Google or what he tried to do to remedy the situation.

Raff further claims that Google isn’t innovative as people expect but instead buy a lot of other companies such as YouTube and Applied Semantics (now AdSense). AdWords is developed by Google but licensed under its inventors Overture. My response to this is – so what? Is buying another company a moral crime? What does acquisitions have to do with search neutrality? My understanding of what Raff is trying to say is that Google can provide preferential treatment to search rankings for it’s affiliated services as somehow it is not beneficial to the user. Hey, Raff, remember, you can still use Bing or Yahoo if you want Search Neutrality as you claim. Why is Google singled out in your article? You didn’t mention Microsoft’s interest in providing Bing as the search engine for Yahoo. I take it because your site wasn’t black listed from them.

Raff has a lot of superfluous reasons for search neutrality. However, he can best support his argument by presenting a case where if a site is black listed from a search engine without justifiable cause, then there should be an explanation and process to fix this. However, Raff’s article seems more like a kid ranting he didn’t get picked to play basketball. Maybe Raff’s next article should be on Sports Neutrality where every player no matter what his skill set, gets to score.

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