back to article Google stabs Wikipedia in the front

Anyone who doubts the impact of Google's power - it's currently the subject of an antitrust complaint to the European Commission by vertical search companies - needs to read this. The complaints to the Competition Commission maintain that Google's arbitrary promotion of its own material harms the market. But in this case, the …

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  1. JDX Gold badge

    The thing is, if I search for something and Google can show me what I need without me having to manually load another page, that's of benefit to my user experience.

    1. Chris Miller

      Quite so. Sometimes I'm just looking for a single quick fact - the half-life of nickel-56 or the GDP of Luxembourg - and if my search engine shows me the answer straight away, that's great. Sometimes I'm looking for a more in depth article, in which case I may well end up on Wikipedia. I would guess that my actual visits to Wikipedia have significantly declined as a result, though my 'dwell time' probably hasn't altered much.

      1. bluest.one

        And here's another point - when I need a bit of information on something, going to the Wkipedia page is sometimes a laborious process of reinterpreting what's written there or finding the specific piece of info I need. The salient points might not be in the first paragraph, but the fourth. Or the second paragraph of the third section.

        The Google cards often get straight to the point in most cases. And wikipedia (or other resources) are there if I need more.

        It's competition: Google are genuinely offering something Wikipedia aren't and clearly meeting a need - hence the wiki page views dropping.

    2. Richard 81

      Agreed. Providing that information is correct and isn't littered with corporate spam, of course.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      That's fine, as long as Google are showing you the best information, not just automatically their own information. Google are pretty close to a monopoly, there are many people for whom you click the big blue E or the swirly fox to open Google. Google is in turn is the Internet. This is partly the legacy of people who setup mum and dad's PCs, so as smarty pants engineers we have to take a bit of the blame. The problem is that as "The Internet" Google are in a position to crush any competition, I seriously doubt that Google's offering (that I've never heard of) is better than Wikipedia and I'd much rather click on a link to get something accurate - or at least looked at by many more people who could correct - than have one or two person's opinion spouted back to me inline with my search results.

      1. Joe Harrison Silver badge

        New year's resolutions

        For those of us on diets this is a valuable resource - typing "calories potato" will bring up the information I want (how many calories in a potato) immediately. Otherwise it is a hell of clicking links all over the place and wading through invitations to sign up for a free diet club account etc.

        Also there is a surprising lack of consensus about the energy content of certain foods and the search preview usually turns out to be the most accurate.

        1. Eguro
          Meh

          Re: New year's resolutions

          @Joe

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Potato#Nutrition

          That was difficult! All those dietary clubs I had to join! At least now I'm a life time member of the Wiki-diet-watchers monthly club. . .

          1. Simon Harris Silver badge

            Re: New year's resolutions

            @Eguro

            Given a choice between typing "calories potato" and "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Potato#Nutrition", I suppose you might burn off a fraction more of a calorie typing in the wikipedia url.

            When I type "calories potato" into google, I get the quick answer in the left hand column, and more complete nutritional information (sourced from Wikipedia, with a link to their potato page) on the right.

            Actually for most factoids I tried, which could be expressed as a simple answer on the left, I got more complete information on the right, with a quote from and link to the appropriate Wikipedia page - could not the fact that Google is quoting from Wikipedia each time be counted somehow in Wikipedia's statistics?

            1. Eguro

              Re: New year's resolutions

              @Simon

              Fair enough. For me it's typing "w potato" to get to the wiki page on potato

              Now granted it might not work as well for stock prices or calculator stuff

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: New year's resolutions

          > For those of us on diets this is a valuable resource

          ....

          > Otherwise it is a hell of clicking links all over the place

          Surely the exercise involved in a few extra clicks would be welcome? Every calorie counts and all that. :-)

        3. Cryo

          Re: New year's resolutions

          Is this a big potato or a small potato? What kind of potato is it? Does this include the skin, that you may or may not be eating? Google's quick result gives "163 calories" for "1 Potato medium (2-1/4" to 3-1/4" dia)". According to the detailed nutrition information off to the side,such a potato weighs "213g". Interestingly though, clicking through the first search result also provides the nutrition facts for a presumably equal-sized "1 potato medium (2-1/4" to 3-1/4" dia)", but says it's only 129 calories and weighs 173g. They at least provide the information that these values including the skin though. So, which is closer to a typical-sized medium potato? Should I trust the site Google most recommends, that specializes in providing nutrition information for various foods, or Google themselves, who leave out key details and tack on a photo of a mysteriously deformed heart-shaped potato that looks like no potato I've ever seen before? Either way, you'll probably want to weigh your potato, then divide and multiply to extrapolate the estimated calories in your particular potato to derive any semi-accurate results, since Google doesn't appear to let you add the specific weight to your search query to calculate that automatically.

          1. Simon Harris Silver badge

            Re: New year's resolutions @cryo

            Depends where you come from. It might convert it into olde-worlde measurements for the Merkins, but for us Brits and other Europeans it defaults to 77 calories per 100grams (sadly for SI purists typing 'kJ per kg of potato' doesn't provide a handy answer!). Those answers aren't just numbers btw, they are drop-down menus to change the potato recipe and size.

            Never seen a funny shaped vegetable before? Obviously That's Life never made it to the US! Over here we grew up on a diet of vegetables that looked a bit rude!

    4. jubtastic1
      Thumb Up

      Which is great

      Unless in the process of saving lazy short sighted fucks a click the content source goes offline.

      1. John Lilburne Silver badge

        Re: Which is great

        I'm pretty sure that the lazy idle fucks don't care about that. I'm also pretty sure that they don't care about teh accuracy of the data presented either. Anything plausible will do.

    5. Turtle

      @JDX

      " if I search for something and Google can show me what I need without me having to manually load another page..."

      That's exactly the problem. If Google shows you the content you want without having to "manually load" the page from which the content originated, then Google gets to show you to show you their ads, but the owners of the original page get nothing for their content - not only do they not get views for any advertising on which they might rely to keep their heads above water, but you might not even take notice of their existence.

      This is not a symbiotic relationship, this is the usual Google parasitism: just another way that Google extracts free labor from the rest of the world.

      1. Turtle

        Additional Side Effect - Re: @JDX

        "That's exactly the problem. If Google shows you the content you want without having to "manually load" the page from which the content originated, then Google gets to show you to show you their ads, but the owners of the original page get nothing for their content - not only do they not get views for any advertising on which they might rely to keep their heads above water, but you might not even take notice of their existence."

        And another side effect of this. If the site originating the content is a Google Affiliate or uses Google Ad-Sense then Google does not have to pay the originating site for the content being viewed.

        But if the originating site does not use Google but instead uses some other ad network, then not merely does Google not have to pay for the content being viewed on the Google Search Results Page or Knowledge Graph, but the ad network servicing the originating site does make any money either, thereby making it harder for that, or any other, ad network to compete with Google.

    6. Madeye

      That is a variation on the theme of "Who cares that the product I am buying is sold at a loss by a company trying to corner the market? The only thing that matters is it's cheap"

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: if Google can show me what I need without me having to ...

      Presumably this is only true if you trust Google to have "borrowed" reliable content to show. So you have to trust both their motivation and their knowledge/ability to borrow something sufficiently correct (with which to "benefit to your user experience").

      I may perhaps think their motivation to provide a "best extract" is ok, but I really don't see why I'd trust their (or their algorithms) knowledge/ability on many subjects.

      1. heyrick Silver badge

        Re: if Google can show me what I need without me having to ...

        "I may perhaps think their motivation to provide a "best extract" is ok, but I really don't see why I'd trust their (or their algorithms) knowledge/ability on many subjects.

        Could say the same for a lot of Wikipedia...

        1. Turtle

          @heyrick Re: if Google can show me what I need without me having to ...

          "Could say the same for a lot of Wikipedia..."

          That's exactly why the Wikipedia discussion page is at least as important as the main article.

        2. Tom 35 Silver badge

          Re: if Google can show me what I need without me having to ...

          There is a difference between a simple fact like the half-life of nickel-56 in the example above, or 22 centigrade to fahrenheit and something that might be complex, or contentious like naked short selling.

          Google is great for the simple fact. Wikipedia is better for the more complex things, both are of limited use for contentious items. DuckDuckGo is a bit better at finding both sides as it will not try to guess what you want to see.

          1. tom dial Silver badge

            Re: if Google can show me what I need without me having to ...

            Corporate toady that I am, I still have Google as my default search, but from time to time sample others, including yahoo, bing, and duckduckgo.

            For the "calories potato" search, Google provided a result that was the best by far, giving a box on the right with calories for a medium potato and a number of other potato nutrition information, sourced to Wikipedia. Google also provided a box at the top of the page with clickable options for type and quantity. It was followed by Yahoo (which had a link that gave calories, but for a large potato), partial nutrition information, as the first non-ad result link. Bing produced a box sourced to wikipedia with some potato facts that included no calorie or nutrition information; the last link on the page showed calories for a small baked potato and no other nutrition informaton. Duck Duck Go provided links, but no calorie or nutrition information at all.

            The quality difference came as a bit of a surprise, as my usual results are pretty close among the four. However I expect to continue Google as my default search engine until one of the others produces results that are as good, and will continue to use Wikipedia for anything likely to need more than quick answer.

    8. Jim 59

      Competition

      @JDX and when the parasitised resource dies so does your choice and the quality of your user experience.

      I notice even a mild criticism of Google is quickly downvoted in these forums. Certain commentards just won't here a bad word said about Googlesoft.

      1. JDX Gold badge

        Re: Competition

        I assume you people jumping to criticise Google for taking away other sites' sources of advertising revenue don't run ad-blockers. Otherwise saying it's short-sighted to support this for a better user experience would be pretty hypocritical.

    9. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      > if I search for something and Google can show me what I need without me having to manually load another page, that's of benefit to my user experience.

      That is correct, in the short term. The problem is when the content being shown is not created or maintained by Google--in this case, unless the third party receives some sort of benefit, they will eventually stop doing their work due to the absence of a continued sustainable business case.

      In Wikipedia's case, I understand Google contributes significant support, and there is no complaint about the content being used in violation of its licences, so it looks more of a win/win to me.

      Many other cases (as the photographers mentioned by Orlowski), unfortunately, look rather more dubious. Perhaps Google should share part of its revenue with those other actors? I seem to recall that early HTTP drafts at one point toyed with the idea of payment support. Pretty sure there is even a 4xx error code to the effect.

    10. Shannon Jacobs
      Holmes

      New motto: All your attention is belong to the google

      Just so, child. Since your effective search query should hint what kind of information you want, then it obviously optimizes the experience from the google's perspective if you get the answer immediately--as long as you still see some paid-for ads. In fact, I'd wager that they strongly optimize the ads around their guess of what information you want, and this would greatly increase the likelihood of your clicking through on an ad as soon as you know the answer to your actionable question.

      Is this EVIL? Actually, I think so. Serendipitously, I just finished writing a blog on the topic. It probably won't come up on the google search engine, and given that the blog website is probably owned by the google, I better make a local copy, too, just in case of an accidental data loss.

      http://anti-dubya.blogspot.jp/2014/01/all-your-attention-is-belong-to-google.html

    11. toadwarrior

      Yeah except Google is taking all the profit for someone else's work. They're basically providing content rather than being a search engine. That's fine except they're not generating their own content. They're mooching off someone else and then not allowing them to profit from it.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    or maybe...

    ...it's down to the amount of crap on some pages on Wikipedia that is turning people away from it?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: or maybe...

      or maybe ...

      ....it's down to the millions of dead links and mis-quoted references and outright wrong "facts" posted by the highly opinionated contributors as they blast the planet with an asteroid-sized chunk of false data.

      Maybe people are (finally) simply getting tired of being lied to.

      1. pepper

        Re: or maybe...

        Spot on Andy, Wikipedia seems to be getting worse and worse, even on the 'simple' things that should just consist of facts. It seems most articles dont even try to be bias-free anymore, mostly the hint is in the language used...

        Alas, it will be a shame to see it go down.

  3. ratfox Silver badge

    Is it a real problem for Wikipedia?

    After all, in contrast to most of the web, Wikipedia does not rely on advertising. So a comparative decrease in views is not as important for it as it is for others.

    Anyway, Wikipedia's real value is not on the blurbs that may appear in Google's Knowledge Graph, but in the more detailed information it provides. Until there is a drop in contributors, I would say they have no reason to worry...

    1. Fibbles

      Re: Is it a real problem for Wikipedia?

      Really? I had imagined that most people use Wikipedia as I do; good enough for a brief overview but not to be trusted on the finer details.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Is it a real problem for Wikipedia?

        I use Wikipedia for the links - to the original sources of the information I am interested in ;-)

        ... and Google has not been able to dredge up anything really useful for a long time now, 2-3 years. Their search engine is clearly losing to the spam-bots and spam-vertisers, Bing was always rubbish at everyting ... even pr0n ... and Yahoo has now been subsumed by Bing. The web is turning into gray goo, basically.

        1. ratfox Silver badge
          Angel

          "Google has not been able to dredge up anything really useful for a long time now"

          And there was no unemployment before, and we had proper money, and young people were polite to their elders, and winters were less cold, and stairs were less steep?

          1. Tom 13

            Re: winters were less cold, and stairs were less steep?

            Absolutely NOT!

            Why when I was a lad, during the winter you had to wear your long johns even when you were IN the building. Stairs? You have stairs? All I had was 20 feet of rope and a grappling hook with two bent tines!

            But yes, money was proper, we knew our places.

            And the sheep were scared.

          2. DropBear Silver badge

            Re: "Google has not been able to dredge up anything really useful for a long time now"

            No. It's really happening; I noticed it too, exactly in the mentioned time frame. Being good at searching is a thing of mine, and recently I've seen the relevance of the first search results dropping noticeably.

            1. Cryo

              Re: "Google has not been able to dredge up anything really useful for a long time now"

              It's not just the results either. The interfaces of their sites are going through the floor. For everything they improve, something else gets made worse. And recently, they've been forcing unwanted Google+ integration into all their sites. Google has long since abandoned the simplicity and usability that made them popular to begin with in favor of coercing people into using their services to further their goals of monopolizing the connected world.

        2. Greggles

          Re: Is it a real problem for Wikipedia?

          Untrue sir! Bing is by far the superior search engine for pr0n. In fact practically anything I search for on Bing pops up something naughty on the first page.

          1. cambsukguy

            Re: Is it a real problem for Wikipedia?

            > "Untrue sir! Bing is by far the superior search engine for pr0n. In fact practically anything I search for on Bing pops up something naughty on the first page."

            Yep, find it using Bing and surf it with Chrome - so I don't have to tarnish IE's history with dodgy content but *still* get history matching etc. unlike if I used InPrivate mode.

    2. Tom7

      Re: Is it a real problem for Wikipedia?

      I think that drop in contributors has been noted for some time, in fact considerably longer than the drop in page views.

    3. Turtle

      @ratfox Re: Is it a real problem for Wikipedia?

      "Until there is a drop in contributors, I would say they have no reason to worry..."

      I don't have a citation handy (see what I did there?) but, as far as I know, the number of contributors (called "editors" in wikispeak as I am sure you know) has in fact been dropping. But I don't think that it has anything to do with Google's Knowledge Graph.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Holmes

    Agenda...

    "Google once championed the cause of "net neutrality" - but abandoned the neutrality crusaders as soon as it had built out the world's largest private network, one designed to carry Google's own video traffic."

    Microsoft tried to "embrace" and "extend" the Internet. Even tried to make their own "internet"...

    "The moral is: if you're a contributor to an "open" web resource, then beware: the hippy ethos simply marks you out as a mug. Unless you protect and license your work, you will be exploited by a powerful corporation."

    Like Apple with FreeBSD? The moral is that people do what they please with their work no matter the clichés people try to impose and more important, not what the reporter would like.

    "Incidentally, Knowledge Graph is already a part of an official complaint to the antitrust commish: by photographers."

    The photographers have plenty of ways to stop Google, besides the complaints: watermarks, user registration to access the photos...the fact is, everyone whants to be indexed by Google but even the photographers don't want to pay a dime to be indexed!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Agenda...

      Quote

      The photographers have plenty of ways to stop Google, besides the complaints: watermarks, user registration to access the photos...the fact is, everyone whants to be indexed by Google but even the photographers don't want to pay a dime to be indexed!

      That didn't stop them from getting hold of some of my photographs. I found that one had been published in a blog in Japan. The link to my picture was via google. My watermark was clearly visible and they hadn't stripped my copyright info from the metadata. Yet the blog owner was claiming the picture as his own work.

      As a result I have pulled ALL of my pictures from the internet. People say, 'don't you have a website?' The looked shocked when I say 'No I don't. I don't want my pictures copied'. I'm a semi-pro photographer so it can hurt me a bit financially but I don't want my stuff nicked.

      A sad state of affairs but there it is.

      I do contribute some images to a few sites but these have had any copyright removed and are marked 'Public Domain' sure they can be copied and I don't care. They are not my best work though.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Agenda...

        "Yet the blog owner was claiming the picture as his own work"

        I understand your problem but, the problem was Google indexing your work or a blogger pirating your work?

        1. Def Silver badge

          Re: Agenda...

          I understand your problem but, the problem was Google indexing your work or a blogger pirating your work?

          My guess is someone ripped his photo off (probably from Google image search), and then he realised, ironically enough, it by Googling it himself.

          I think the general rule is and has always been: If you don't want it copied/stolen/abused, don't put it online.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Agenda...

      You seem to misunderstand free open source, if you don't want anyone to come along and use your work, don't make it free and open source. If you want some but not others to use your work, select an appropriate license. No-one can complain that they've contributed to the Free BSD project and that someone else is using their code and - shock - making money from it, because that's the whole point of Free BSD.

      Likewise, photographers want their sites indexed, but unlike FOSS code authors they don't want their content given away for free, so it gets put behind a paywall, or watermarked, but people who legitimately use content provided by a photographer aren't going to want to slap a watermark across it. This is hardly the fault of the photographer.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Agenda...

        "You seem to misunderstand free open source"

        And you didnt read carefully the first part of my post. *Any* corporation would ride upon your work, not just Google, if its good and free without giving anything back and more than often infringing the license.

        "Likewise, photographers want their sites indexed, but unlike FOSS code authors they don't want their content given away for free, so it gets put behind a paywall, or watermarked, but people who legitimately use content provided by a photographer aren't going to want to slap a watermark across it. This is hardly the fault of the photographer."

        Likewise public libraries who pay for the books and people make illegal copies, or ebooks that are stripped from the copy protection. Have to that movies, songs...photographers are the only ones that that get their work misappropriated.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Agenda...

          "if its good and free without giving anything back and more than often infringing the license."

          Not if it's BSD, which was your example.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Stop

            Re: Agenda...

            My example was not about the license...but free rides upon others work. BSD demands for copyright notice, do you think nobody breach BSD license because of it's nature? Look ma, WWF thinks our BSD code its their IP... http://sourceforge.net/mailarchive/message.php?msg_id=26744588

            Anyway, Me and everyone else can do whatever we want with our work, being licensed with GPL or BSD, but if I was you I would read again about the BSD license before saying that no one breaches a license because of the use of BSD code...

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Agenda...

          "photographers are the only ones that that get their work misappropriated."

          are *not* the only ones, that was what I intended to say

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