Google responds to WSJ guest post; defends search algorithms

Search giant strikes back at column by Nextag CEO Jeffrey Katz, reminding Internet users that if they don't like Google's results, they can always try a different search engine.

Google has struck back against The Wall Street Journal after the newspaper published a rather scathing guest opinion piece lambasting the Internet giant.

Nextag CEO Jeffrey Katz wrote on Thursday evening that Google has ballooned into a monopoly, pegging its closest competition -- at least in the search space -- as one that has no hope of competing. (Interestingly enough, that's Bing, the search entry for Microsoft, which has had its own well-known monopoly-related issues in the past.)

Katz does have some solid evidence here, which is mainly statistics proving Google's dominance in the search field as well as citing Google's altercations with the European Union over antitrust matters.

However, being that Katz is the head of a comparison shopping site, it's hard not to construe his article as something written out of jealousy rather than sincere concern for the marketplace. Here's one of his more sensational excerpts in reference to paid vs. unpaid search results:

As a result, by controlling which companies, organizations and causes get exposure, Google has become a brand killer. If Google pushes a merchant or company to page three of its search results -- let alone page 40 -- it is life-altering. This "cloak of invisibility" for less-favored brands flies in the face of Google's original mission to "organize the world's information" -- or at least organize it in a manner that is in the best interest of consumers, rather than of Google.

This and other accusations in the guest editorial evidently struck a major chord at Google.

Amit Singhal, senior vice president of engineering at Google, responded soundly on the Google Public Policy Blog on Friday, asserting that "unpaid, natural search results are never influenced by payment," as well as potentially attacking Nextag's own policies.

Our algorithms rank results based only on what the most relevant answers are for users -- which might be a direct answer or a competitor's Web site. Our ads and commercial experiences are clearly labeled and distinct from the unpaid results, and we recently announced new improvements to labeling of shopping results. This is in contrast to most comparison shopping sites, which receive payment from merchants but often don't clearly label search results as being influenced by payment.

Singhal continued on to defend Google's search infrastructure and algorithms, reminding Katz and anyone else reading the blog that if they don't find what they are looking for on Google (or simply don't want to use it), they can always try other search engines instead.

So will Google's next major legal battle be against Nextag and/or other search space competitors? At least it would be a change-up from the patent wars.

This story was originally published as "Google strikes back against WSJ post; defends search infrastructure" at ZDNet's Between the Lines.

 

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