One of the lead developers behind the Firefox browser has accused Google--through "tips" that pop up with search results--of abusing its powerful position in the search market to promote its growing range of products.
In a blog posting this week, Blake Ross said Google is wrong to include such plugs for its Calendar, Blogger and Picasa services at the top of results for terms like "calendar," "blogging" or "photo sharing."
"This is clearly bad for competitors, and it's also a bad sign for Google," wrote Ross, 21, who has been one of the driving forces behind Firefox. As Ross pointed out, many other Web companies also cross-promote their services. However, he argued that Google--with its motto of "Don't be evil"--should hold itself to a higher standard.
The issue has sparked a lively online debate. Some back Ross, agreeing that users could lose confidence in Google if they perceive it as not giving truly impartial information. Others, though, insist that Google is acting within its rights and treats its rivals fairly.
Blog community response:
"Google is predicated on the idea that the democratic structure of the Web will push the cream to the top. Search for 'photo sharing,' and you should already get the highest-quality services. According to Google, Picasa is not one of them."
"One thing we do need to be careful about is making sure this is not a slippery slope. A search for Yahoo Mail should never return Gmail as the preferred result. But at the moment, I don't see anything wrong with the current situation."
--The Browser Den
"Blake's argument is right in that Tips subverts Google's mission statement, is a breach of trust, degrades the relevance of search, is outside being a customer of their own advertising and amounts to a new age of bundling with the deception of choice. But wait, there is more. This could be seen as a commercial interest defining a default. As much as it pains me to point it out, doesn't the Firefox browser offer the Google (search box) as the default due to revenue incentives?"
--Ross Mayfield's Weblog
"I see no naughtiness. Search results are search results. Paid ads are paid ads. We can all tell the difference, and for those a little less intellectually endowed, Google has colored the ad bar and noted it 'sponsored link(s)'. An ad placed by Google has opportunity cost associated with it."
--Overzeetop on Slashdot