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back to article Google policy wonk patronises Brits over EU search biz probe

Google repeatedly batted away questions about whether it favours its search result services over those of its rivals in Europe, during a frustrating exchange on BBC Radio 4's Today programme this morning. The ad giant's public policy veep, Rachel Whetstone, who is the wife of Steve Hilton - the brains behind Prime Minister David …

Anonymous Coward

Keyword auctions are a protection racket though, business who pay the most get the most prominent listings.....You don't pay up, you end up on page eleventy-seven.

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Anonymous Coward

Isn't that, basically, an auction??

Because I've checked eBay and if you don't pay the most you don't get the stuff either.

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Anonymous Coward

Not if you are also competing against the Auction House for business.

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Mushroom

What's the point of having all that money

If you still have to follow the same rules as the little people?

That was a stunningly uninformative interview this morning.

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Unhappy

Re: What's the point of having all that money

It might have been a stunningly uninformative interview but were they not stunningly badly designed questions?

I am still unable to understand what is being questioned, call me whatever you will for that failing.

If I want a list of places that might be able to suggest where I might find someone to help me find something that is one question and I would need a search site for that.

However, most times when I go to Google I want an actually 'thing', e.g. a blade for a mower.

I do not want to find another search engine that might either (a) find a mower blade or (b) another darned search engine.

Can someone please tell me whether I will still get what I want or would it be a non optional list of things I do not need, e.g. alternative search engines.

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Re: What's the point of having all that money

I think the point that's being raised is that if Google sold mower blades, you'd see their site first...then maybe the cheapest, the best, the fastest etc AFTER you'd been presented Google's placement.

What was missed during the interview was what the term 'depends' meant. Depends on what is the critical question, and one that didn't get asked.

The VP had clearly set out a series of serch queries that were completely innocuous and therefore uncontentious. The ones that would be far more challenging - video content, advertising space online or any of the other google services were not covered.

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Re: What's the point of having all that money

"Depends on what is the critical question, and one that didn't get asked"

If Google refuse to answer, they're hiding something. If Google tell you, you can SEO yourself to the top and the results degenerate into botwars.

Lose/Lose.

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Anonymous Coward

For a company flogging the discovery of information

She sure did a great job of blocking.

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Re: For a company flogging the discovery of information

It didn't come across as blocking, it came across as simply clueless as to how Google works. She seems vague and confused about what was being asked but still mumbled the same garbled shit out.

She wasn't the best interviewee but the interviewer could have asked better, more probing questions. Neither came out of it well tbh.

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Trollface

Re: For a company flogging the discovery of information

For a company flogging the discovery of information

She sure did a great job of blocking.

Wasn't one of Google's mission statements to organise all the world's information? Well some information obviously gets shown to the public, and some gets placed in a drawer in a locked filing cabinet, in a disused toilet with a sign on the door saying "beware of the leopard".

That's organisation for you...

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Actually, 'don't be evil' started with 'don't let money affect your search rankings

""Actually, 'don't be evil' started with 'don't let money affect your search rankings"

Kind of a banal definition of evil.

Honest but weak

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To be fair, Döpfner wasn't any better on the other side of the argument. At one point he suggested that sites should be ordered on the basis of "traffic". Even setting aside the point that search engines don't actually know how much traffic a given site has, it's a colossally bad idea.

Since Google must have a colossal amount of traffic, such a change would probably cement their place at the top of the rankings forever. And woe betide any new entrant to any market - no traffic no ranking, and no ranking no traffic.

I don't think Google is perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but until its critics pony up with:

a) Actual search terms that they find unsatisfactory

b) A set of search results that they think preferable, with the reasons why

c) Some coherent suggestions as to how such results might be achieved

I'm not going to pay them much heed.

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Google in a nutshell.

"I think if it's just the weather, it's the weather, it's not particularly our product or anyone else's product. It's a fact."

That is an incredibly good summary of their attitude to other people's work. No, it's not the weather, it's a weather forecast, which is a preposterously expensive thing to do well, involving the launch of satellites, supercomputers, legions of PhDs, etc -- and yes, that most certainly is someone's product. But hey, claim it's just public property and then you can take the forecasts other people have spent a fortune on, stick them in your search results, and claim there's no problem when people don't then go and visit the sites of the actual forecasters and maybe cast their eyeballs over some of their ads and products.

Google's lask of distinction between "weather" and "weather forecast" is much the same as their attitude to "language" and "novels", or "sound" and "songs".

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Stop

Re: Google in a nutshell.

You seem to imply that Google in effect steals its weather data from around the web… However, a bit of searching reveals that Google gets its data from Weather Underground: http://www.google.com/intl/en/help/features_list.html#weather

It is reasonable to assume that they do pay for it.

This is not the issue. The issue is, should Google show data on top of the page, or should it have the user click on one of the result links? The first is easier for the user, and the second is better for competition. But in the end, the reason competition is considered good is only to ensure the user gets good service. This is why Almunia said once "My mission is to protect competition to the benefit of consumers, not competitors."

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Google in a nutshell.

Whenever Google shows me the weather (which is bloody handy) it also gives me three links to specialist weather sites in case I want more detail.

You make a huge assumption that Google doesn't pay a supplier for the weather information they show in their widgets and enhanced search results, I'd be very suprised if they didn't.

In the case of the UK (where me be) the best forecasts tend to come from the Met office, and I have paid for those forecasts with my taxes, I expect to find them as simply and clearly as possible.

You may want to explain your last paragraph, it makes bugger all sense to me. Although I guess you could post some links where Google has published the entirety of someone's copyrighted work without permission, and I mean "Google" I don't mean some freetard who has posted a rip of movie X to Youtube where it will live for a bit until it gets taken down.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Google in a nutshell.

who said absolute power corrupts absolutely? I could use google to find out, but i'd rather not in case someone has paid them to say that barack Obama said it.

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Re: Google in a nutshell.

> You seem to imply that Google in effect steals its weather data from around the web… However, a bit of searching reveals that Google gets its data from Weather Underground

Oh, they do now. But, unless my memory is playing tricks, their original scheme was to nick the data and they were pushed to change when various site's owners made exactly the point I'm making.

> The issue is, should Google show data on top of the page, or should it have the user click on one of the result links? The first is easier for the user, and the second is better for competition.

It is slightly more complicated, since, for some firms, the income that allows them to generate the content in the first place comes from page-clicks, so Google's giving the data directly to the user can only work short-term; long-term, it destroys the source of the information.

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Re: Google in a nutshell.

> In the case of the UK (where me be) the best forecasts tend to come from the Met office

Very funny.

> I have paid for those forecasts with my taxes, I expect to find them as simply and clearly as possible.

You are thinking of the Public Weather Service, which is one thing the Met Office does. But see here, for example:

http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/about-us/advertise

> Although I guess you could post some links where Google has published the entirety of someone's copyrighted work without permission

What, you mean like Google's project to scan every book in existence and put the text on the Web, which prompted legal action from various quarters? Would that count?

You may of course point out that they have permission, to which I will counter that they did what they always do: started the massive and obviously illegal project first, without permission, and eventually negotiated permission and terms after being dragged through the courts by their victims, fighting every step of the way. I think their argument at the time was "Knowledge wants to be free" -- which is classic Google: sounds like a grand philosophical position, but is in fact a business plan that involves taking other people's work without paying them.

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Re: Google in a nutshell.

"However, a bit of searching reveals that Google gets its data from Weather Underground:

It is reasonable to assume that they do pay for it."

Both of those statements are probably true, the former certainly. The point isn't that Google pay for their weather forecast data but the attitude of someone as senior as a VP dismissing it as "just some product, not even ours".

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Re: Google in a nutshell.

Oh, they do now. But, unless my memory is playing tricks, their original scheme was to nick the data and they were pushed to change when various site's owners made exactly the point I'm making.

[Citation needed]

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Re: Google in a nutshell.

> [Citation needed]

Maybe you're such a geek that you're not familiar with the concept, but this thing here is called "a conversation". No-one's writing a reference book here. I have this thing called a "memory", which I use in my day-to-day life and in the course of "conversations". I don't take a photo of every single thing I read next to a copy of that day's newspaper, so cannot provide references for everything I say. And neither can you. But a lot of them are facts regardless.

Anyway, Google were most certainly doing this with share prices, sites such as FT quite rightly complained, and Google have now stopped doing it with share prices. I believe (I did say "unless my memory is playing tricks") that the same thing happened with weather forecasts.

Regardless, as someone else pointed out above, we have a Google VP here claiming that weather forecasts aren't even a product and don't belong to anyone. If you think that comment is an unthinking fuck-up rather than Google policy and part of their usual drip-drip-drip of attitude-manipulating propaganda, historical evidence is against you. If you want a citation for that, it's the Register article you're currently commenting on.

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If Microsoft (and their shills) want to knock Google off their position as default search engine, it's very simple. All they need do is create a better one that more people want to use.

Instead they go whining to the bureaucrats. Apparently the big bully was horrid to them and wouldn't let them play on their front page, or something.

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Stop

Yup and if someone wants MS to stop shipping i.e. with their products, they just need to build a better OS.

Works both ways.

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Anonymous Coward

I'm not aware that MS ever stopped shipping IE with their OS.

More's the pity. You have contradictory information?

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Anonymous Coward

Indeed. Microsoft has always shipped IE with Windows, and yet, IE is not the dominant browser anymore. Because, yes, other people created better browsers.

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Anonymous Coward

re: Because, yes, other people created better browsers.

And then used their monopoly position in search to push that browser on to a whole load of people who aren't even aware of what "installing a new browser" means. They just clicked on a "make the internet better" link.....

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Re: re: Because, yes, other people created better browsers.

Firefox has a market share that is comparable to IE, and they got there without using a monopoly position in anything.

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Anonymous Coward

You guys need to go on iplayer and listen to the interview.

The german guy runs price ag sites which are just total shite anyway. He mentioned how after a change one of his sites lost 70% of its traffic. Could it possibly have been when google fixed it so that you could actually get your result on the first page instead of 200 price ag and marketing sites.

According to the german gy in eastern europe google has 99% market share. nice :)

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Anonymous Coward

Over the top?

Guysm can you please stop with the over the top Google hate? We all know Andrew is still hurting from the 2003 googlewashing of "the second superpower", but it really is becoming ridiculous. All google related articles are usually at an insulting level, like if the "m$ windoze" kids had changed sides and were now writing for the reg. It just makes me discard any possibly valid accusation as a fanboi rant.

Even more when the whole point of this "article" is to defend a bunch of idiots, running sites like "price ag", that are only link farms full of spam. I prefer to have my searches free of that crap.

Also, listening to the interview, the interviewer never wanted to know what "it depends" means. If it means that we get relevant results instead of links to loosely called "search engines", perfect.

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Re: Over the top?

> Guysm can you please stop with the over the top Google hate?

Poor widdle AC, did somebody not like what you like?

The Reg itself is pretty evenhanded in its hate. MS, Apple and Google are all regularly crapped upon by the journalistic staff. Where it gets interesting is seeing where the commentards prefer to defecate out their uninformed loathing.

We could start collating a scoreboard as to who hates which company most. There's one bar chart that's going to have a big, blue line on it (along with a short multicoloured line and mid-length line of tasteful chrome and magenta) fuelled by frothing individuals like yourself.

If only you hadn't posted AC. You're ruining the model.

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Re: Over the top?

"Poor widdle AC, did somebody not like what you like?"

Heh. And that also sums up the whole Googlehate thing in its entirety. "Poor widdle hater. Did somebody not fear/hate something you hate/fear?"

What is Google? A website which expresses an opinion about what it found on the Internet. Why do people use it? Because they choose to. Of. Their. Own. Free. Will.

All these lovely chains and blades people are making to bring Google down could eventually be used against any other site made with the same DNA: i.e. someone's opinion of other people's stuff on the internet... We're going to end up with a global DMCA takedown law for opinions. Because *that's what people wanted*.

Hate. It's the Future.

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(Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

Re: Over the top?

"Guysm can you please stop with the over the top Google hate?"

No, and it's not hate. It's healthy criticism and scrutiny.

Google is the biggest thing on the web; it has near-unlimited power over the day-to-day internet lives of countless millions. Yes, it does a lot of good, but that doesn't give it a free pass. Gigantic corporations need to be kept in check, and that's why we keep the screws turning.

C.

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Happy

Re: Over the top?

On the subject of keeping giant corporate entities in check, does The Register have a policy of doing no evil? Enquiring minds would like to know…

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Re: Over the top?

> What is Google? A website which expresses an opinion about what it found on the Internet.

... and builds driverless cars, and takes photos of every street in the world, and provides a free video service, and denies the free video service to musicians who won't do what the fuck they're told, and provides a blogging platform, and provides online office software, and provides a free email service, and scans every email that goes through the free email service to sell the data to advertisers, and grabs encrypted wifi data from people's houses, and lobbies governments to change copyright law, and scans millions of copyright books and puts the text on the Web ....

There's some good in there and some bad, but they're definitely not just a search engine. Are you living in 1998?

> Why do people use it? Because they choose to. Of. Their. Own. Free. Will.

See, that only worked as long as they were only a search engine. No-one chose to have their wifi data slurped; no-one chose to have their house photographed; authors and publishers did not choose to have their books scanned -- quite the opposite: they fought Google to try and stop it; and no-one voted for the Google ideologues in the Intellectual Property Office who are trying to change copyright law in Google's favour.

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Re: Over the top?

On a purely cultural level it is fascinating watching a small company becoming a large company, becoming a BigBadMonster, and how that affects how the *same* actions with the *same* effects are perceived.

Because bigger things can cause more damage by accident they are instinctively kept under closer watch, especially unpredictable ones like Google which jumps all *over* the place knocking down old walls, stirring pots, scaring the shit out of people and competitors.

Now, as a website funded by clicks, do you play to the cheap seats, or do you tell a story that isn't popular? As a commentard, you can *feel* the primal pull of the righteous horde: "Come to the torchwielding side - fuck cookies, we have spitroast!". It tries to leech into you over time as you slowly marinade in its presence. What must the temptation be like for the journos? :)

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Re: Over the top?

"No, and it's not hate. It's healthy criticism and scrutiny"

I politely interject that I can roast meat over the current levels of "healthy criticism and scrutiny" from certain quarters :) Was it two or three articles slamming that EVIL toy car? If IBM had made it instead, would you *really* have given it the same reaction?

"Google is the biggest thing on the web; it has near-unlimited power over the day-to-day internet lives of countless millions. Gigantic corporations need to be kept in check, and that's why we keep the screws turning."

This gets an intrinsic autofrown. When is judging someone on their actual actions suddenly not right? At what size do employees become assumed-evil? Why is assuming the worst suddenly the socially responsible thing to do? When did inflicting pain *just in case* become a good thing? S'pose I should direct those question at society itself..

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(Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

Re: Re: Over the top?

Daggerchild, the only person here using the words Google and evil is you.

C.

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Re: Over the top?

"the only person here using the words Google and evil is you"

*blinks* Technically correct... if you don't want to read my paraphrasing as paraphrasing.

"Earlier this week, Google tipped off selected journalists"

so I'll quote your journo instead and ask if that statement is a deliberately negative stance, given that the evidence seems to suggest it isn't actually true. A Google bot is contacting the Google Webmaster Tools admins... automatically...

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Don't be evil, don't use Google.

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Axel Springer

I wonder if we can expect changes from the new commission?

Supposedly the fun-and-games that gave us Juncker as President of the Commission relate to this subject. What changed Merkel's mind, and made her backtrack on a possible deal with Cameron to block Juncker, was the massive reaction in the German press. Although her coalition partners were also in favour of Juncker.

Anyway, I've seen a couple of sources say that Juncker's campaign team promised Axel Springer that the new Commission would support them against Google. And this may be related to the sudden huge outcry in the German press.

I've seen this reported in several EU politics stories in the Guardian and FT. Although I've not seen it mentioned in business / IT news.

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Google weights it's search results on what users have clicked through to before, yes? I've never quite understood why this would be considered good practice in two areas.

The first being that I want the best match for my search, not the ones that people making broadly similar searches have clicked on before. Often you have to go down a page or more to find a page containing your exact search term.

The second area being commercial, and it's not just about Google pushing their own services. Once something gets to the top of the search rankings it's hard to get it off there simply because lazy idiots don't bother reading the results that just click on the top ones. This has a positive feedback effect on search rankings. This not only means that Google's own services will be hard to shift from the top of the rankings, it means that other popular businesses will stay at the top of the rankings even if there are better competitors around. All of which has the result that companies pay to have their search rankings skewed by various means. Which in turn means that the supposed theory behind Google's search rankings being the best way of doing things gets blown out of the window by the fact that the more money you spend the further up the rankings you go. As such up and coming companies stand no chance even if they provided the best product or service unless they can find funding to distort Google's supposedly impartial search results.

Oh and I haven't used Google for quite a while for the first reason I mentioned.

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Assumptions are fun.

"I want the best match for my search, not the ones that people making broadly similar searches have clicked on before"

Indeed. That would cause a singularity. Averages are inherantly dangerous. The average human is a manwoman, owning half a catdog, living near the centre of the Earth, for instance. The data doesn't lie, and yet it's 100% wrong!?!

What you have to do to avoid that is treat individuals individually, work out what they do and don't like, and give them results popular among other people who do and don't like the same things as you.

Now you see the *deeper* problem. This is *only possible via user tracking*. Equivalent exchange in its most primal form :) You cannot escape the fundamental laws of chaos and order, not even here.

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