Schmidt in the Hot Seat

Google Chairman Eric Schmidt recently testified in front of the Senate’s anti-trust committee. Not that he needs my help, but here is my defense.

I would guess that most people who are unhappy with Google are people who run websites of their own, and wish that Google would send them more visitors. Such accussations seem rather disingenuous, especially since those sites would probably receive far fewer visitors without Google’s help.

As far as I can tell, the only reason people have to believe that Google is boosting itself in its own search results is that Google happens to do well when people search for stuff that Google provides. Maybe that’s because Google offers compelling services, and actually deserves to be highly ranked. That would not surprise me at all. My experience with Google services is that they are quite good.

If we look at who disagrees with Google’s rankings, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find that it’s mostly the sites that wish they were ranked higher on Google. By contrast, I’d bet if we ask actual consumers of web search whether they think Google uses search results to promote itself, most of them would say no. That would be because users have generally found that Google provides high quality, objective results.

Consider how Google clearly distinguishes between ads, and organic results. Less scrupulous companies would be happy to let ads masquerade as bona fide search results. I remember reading a magazine article, and later realizing it was an ad that had been intentionally designed to look like an article. Google actually goes out of its way to make sure users do not get confused about this, as illustrated by my example to the left.

That example also shows that Google does not always show up near the top of its own search results. None of the top ten results includes boutiques.com, a clothing site that Google owns.

Google has always been committed to objectivity; nobody (including itself) should get special treatment, even if that hurts business. That’s because Google knows its long-term success depends on the trust of its users, and there’s no better way to destroy that trust than to “cook” its results.

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