The second half of John Battelles’s The Search discusses Google’s rise to riches, respect and the women that come along with those things. Ok, it doesn’t discuss the women, but I wanted to spice up this blog post a little bit as not to turn off the few readers I have.
In 2003, Google adjusted its algorithm to provide better search results and filter spam sites. These spam sites were identified by Google’s software found sites that illegitimately paid people through Ad Word’s revenue sharing. These sites paid the site’s owner for ever visitor that clicked on the page. This change in the algorithm affected thousands of legitimate, classifying them as spam and dropping their page rank out of the top 100 results. Going from first to last in searches killed once successful businesses. Businesses found they had to adjust their Web sites for search engine optimization (SEO).
Another chapter talked about allowing deep linking to password protected sites. Some sites, such as the Wall Street Journal, require a subscription to view articles. This affects their search results because the indexing program Google uses cannot read the articles, causing the page to be ignored by the entirety of the Internet. Battelle argues that people will pay for subscription services if enough people point to the article from other Web sites. I highly doubt this. People aren’t willing to pay for music, they aren’t going to pay to view the Wall Street Journal online when there are many other free sources of news.
The problem I see is barriers set up to stop us from gathering information, such as private libraries (like the JHU VPN thing we have to use to get research studies). I’m not entirely sure why universities keep this stuff under lock and key. If they are promoting knowledge and education like I think they are, we should have access to all of this information. Who is it going to hurt if I get my hands on a study about hamsters dancing to bad music or if I find that tobacco leaves are really a great alternative to fiber-glass insulation? Do we not want terrorists to know this stuff? It seems to me that it is a Marxist struggle of the haves (people with the knowledge) and the have nots (people without access to the information). Why do universities shut the average Joe out, but promote education at the same time?
On privacy issues, Google says it will never distribute our personal information. In the news recently, Verizon admitted it turned over customer information to the government. Since the USA PATRIOT Act, the government has had the right to demand information from companies about their users. The act says the government and the copy do not have to let the public know when this happens. I imagine that Google has done this and will never admit to it, despite denying it has happened.
Google tried to remain a private company for a long time, but its size forced it to go public. There was some apprehension with buying tech stocks since the Internet bubble burst, but Google has seen nothing but success since going on the market. Its shares are above $600 at the moment. This could be a sign that tech stocks are back and people are willing to invest in new technology again. Too keep the innovations coming and share-holders happy, Google Labs runs a think tank that has created a variety of computer applications that have made our lives a lot easier. Google Maps and Analytics came out of this thing.
Finally, Battelle talks about the future of search. He thins we’ve come up with searches engines that are about 10% of their potential. I can see why he thinks this. We still get irrelevant search results and much information either isn’t available or requires a password to get to. If these barriers were over come we’d have a modern day Library at Alexandria. The government is actually working on digitizing information at this very moment. I think a collaborative effort would stop different groups from digitizing the same information twice and speed up the process. I think that a lot of thing have already been digitized illegally by copy-right violators, and I think this resource shouldn’t be passed over. The work of these pirates is often of great quality, and documents found through searches should be used to check items off the to-digitize list.
In the near future, I’m hoping we’ll have one, massive online library that will be a central repository for all information. I think we have trouble finding the results we are looking for, even though we know they exist. For example, a search for habits of video game players will give more than just a blog or commercial site, all statistics compiled from scientific studies will be shown and gaps in knowledge will be easily identified for future research.