back to article Spammers, Cuil, and the rescue from planet Google

Plenty of digital ink has been needlessly spilt this week over the launch of the suicidally-monikered new search engine But the only threat to Google is itself and, in a roundabout way, the legion of spammers and "search engine optimisation" (SEO) consultants that buttress its dominance. These dog days of summer …


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  1. Unlimited


    ...lasts forever

  2. Phil Hare


    "Powerset's founders are betting web users want to ask search engines real grammatical questions"

    Not really; I suspect people would be far more interested in real, context specific grammatical *answers*.

  3. JimC Silver badge

    Is it just me, or is there a flaw in your argument...

    You're saying that as spammers hit the google algorithms harder and harder then starndard sites hit them harder and harder, and so google must dominate...

    It seems to me that Search Engine Optimisation is essentially a parasitic activity in the same territory as spamming anyway: we users don't give a **** about it, we want the most relevant sites in our search results, not the sites that spend most effort on spamming/link optimisation (how much difference is there anyway?)

    So surely it ought to be possible for anotherco to build a moderate market share foir a better mousetrap of a serach engine, provided their algorithms are different enough to evade the various types of spamming and they get better results. Once they achieve enough market share to attarct the various forms of spamming sure they'll get targeted, but if there are two sets of rules to follow then it all gets more difficult for the spammers. If a third competitor got in the game with different techniques yet... well, maybe the whole sorry industry of links spamming/SEO would be significantly reduced, and good riddance.

    In practice of course the challenge of getting the right results with wholly different algorithms may not be possible - perhaps there are only so many ways you can interprest the content of a web page... But good luck to them!

  4. mytest


    Doesn't that mean bum in French?

    Mine's the one with the crack in the back.

  5. Anonymous Coward


    Yeah OK, It really was Not Safe For Work...

  6. Richard Kay


    Considering how long it's taken for anti-trust regulators to get to grips with the consumer operating-systems market, the problem for regulators is going to be trying to make legal processes work as fast as the evolution of the game being regulated. Trying to regulate last year's anti-competitive behaviour is ineffective remedy for this year's crimes. It's true that nothing lasts for ever. It's taken 20 years for Microsoft's near absolute monopoly power to corrupt Microsoft's own products almost absolutely. I don't think we want to wait that long with Google.

    The only solution I can see to either monopoly is legally to force visibility of monopolistic algorithms and the only effective way to do that isn't to demand masses of inaccurate and inconsistent documentation of today's system in a few year's time but to require the offending monopolist to publish source code and test cases as these are developed, on non-discriminatory terms i.e. systems which create monopolies of over a certain size, scale and influence should only legally be tolerated to the extent these are compliant with open-source development methodologies.

  7. Anonymous Coward


    Unfortunately, in order to give you "the most relevant sites in our search results" pretty much any site on the web that actually wants to be found has to go through the distorting field of SEO (or pay for PPC ads, either way, Google's got you by the balls). I'm afraid the analysis in this article is pretty much spot on; try to find a business on the web that doesn't spend a huge percentage of its time and effort "building itself for Google". I'd love a real Google rival (or several) but I think Chris Williams is right; Anti-Trust may be our only hope.

  8. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    Cuil worked for me

    Most of the time, when I search the web I do not want to buy something. Commercial sites optimising themselves away from the top of cuil are doing doing themselves a favour - their advert does not irritate me and there is less chance of me accidently visiting their site and buying nothing.

    If I do want to buy something, I check out manufacturer's web sites and go from there to distributors. Finding a distributor on a sponsored link is not as bad as finding them on a price comparison site - but it is close.

  9. Lyn Ibson

    SEO vs Spammers

    Lumping in SEO consultants with spammers does a terrible disservice to thousands of creative, diligent and ethical web professionals. REAL SEOs DON'T SPAM. And real SEO consultants don't slavishly grovel after the latest tweaks to the Google algorithm.

    Real SEO people help customers develop useful content with rational structures and standards and relevant links that make their websites more useful to visitors. The keyword here is "optimisation." If the content is optimised to be accessible and useful to visitors, the search engines will find it.

    Real SEO people have a name for those others who try to outguess and trick the search engines. They're called "spammers!"

  10. N1AK

    Anti-Trust how

    What I would love to know is if Google become so dominant the goverment feels it has to become involved in limiting it, what exactly will they do.

    In the case of Microsoft they limited their ability to combine products, and in some cases to force computer manufacturers to only sell windows by offering sizeable price discounts. They have also asked that they make information available to link other systems in with their own.

    Exactly what do you do about Google? Googles practices, regardless of any other faults haven't been anti-competitive.

    Google aren't offering people better page rank because they use Google Adware etc, they don't require you to use Google Desktop to use their search and they aren't forcing sites like Scroogle that are of no direct benefit to their bottom line to close.

    My Google homepage shows my AIM email, my Facebook news and my Flikr photos. I also have it setup to show my Google Docs and Google Reader feeds. I can publish apps, and choose apps freely.

    I'm not trying to say Google are perfect, or even nearly so, but short of intentionally nerfing Googles services for the sake of it, their is not much the goverment can do to stop people choosing it.

  11. Justin Case
    Paris Hilton

    We're all spammers now

    It's a sad fact. But if you want a site to do well you have to play Google's game. Keyword density and inbound links. It's not different than any other situation - women love flowers, Google loves inbound links - if you want to get anywhere with the object of your desire you just have to give it what it wants.

    Paris - because...

  12. Mike Richards

    @Richard Kay

    There's a common misconception that the US legal system outlaws monopolies, in fact it only outlaws abuse of a monopoly position. Microsoft were found to be abusing their 90%+ share of the OS market and fell foul of anti-trust legislation.

    For Google to face a monopoly investigation there must first be substantive evidence that their actions are affecting the consumer.

  13. Dale

    All I want... a search engine that, when I ask for a manual for a photocopier I am trying to use, returns a link to the manual for the photocopier and not the 100000 other pages that want to sell me the photocopier.

  14. RW
    Paris Hilton


    G. pisses me off because I can't (or won't) access many of the results it returns: pay-to-view articles in scholarly journals; limited access e-books; newspapers requiring registration; etc.

    Non-html files are dubious: pdf, wurd, excel, etc.

    Time for google to retrench and focus on returning *accessible* *web* *pages* in *html* as the default. All very well to index other types of information, but only when specifically asked to do so.

    Further moan/groan/grumble/bitch/complain: returning Wikipedia articles is pointless: I am fully capable of searching wikipedia on my own, and if its built-in search doesn't work, I can always use Google to search the wikipedia domain.

    Paris, because she has the questioning look and so do I: what is the answer to my question?

  15. seb

    Google and SEO: who knows what they are talking about?

    Lots of SEO consultants or SEO services are dishonnest, but that's got nothing to do with Google. Google's SEO guidelines are:

    Relevant, original content

    Well formed semantic markup

    links from and to sites that relate to your site.

    Nothing else is necessary, and certainly NOT to pay for search engines submissions (which is 100% useless because it happens automatically), or for SEO in general in any way other than hiring a designer/programmer who knows what well-formed semantic markup means.

    Keywords density is just a term that means your text content must actually talk about the things you expect users to look for if they find your site via google.

    There is nothing mysterious to that.

    A site does not attain high traffic by playing google's game. A site reaches high traffic by being relevant (which is playing google's game), AND being talked about in blogs, listed in social mashups, and talked about by a larger and larger user base. Inbound links come as a result of that.

    It all makes perfect sense in my opinion. It's all very logical, and very "objective". If Google is playing a game, it's one of common sense and logic.

  16. Anonymous Coward

    Shirley everyone knows it's spelt kewl anyway?

    As has been pointed put, nothing lasts forever. AltaVista? What's that?

    Nah, it's all going to be overtaken by this Web 3.0 "Symantec web" stuff that Grahamanfromarse keeps spamming about... isn't it?

    Or how about "The internet's first information governance platform that automates real-time policy management based on forming a conceptual and contextual understanding of all internet information.

    The internet's first pan-enterprise search platform for legal eDiscovery and information access, enabling search across all sources of electronically stored information, finding relevant information for litigation with auditable and repeatable results, and applying a litigation hold function to preserve data from normally scheduled or ad hoc deletion" (with apologies to Autonomy).

    You choose, dear reader, Grahamanfromarse or Autonomy - which one offers more BS for your dollar?

  17. Rob Dobs

    Google on the path to Hell

    Google has bought up a lot of competition, and they are leveraging dominace in one marketplace to gain dominance in another - two default monopoly behaviours.

    Google does not return near as good as results as it used to. I find myself using Yahoo more and more often and the crap and viruses just are there as much.

    It was very very breif time that Northern Light (remember that one anyone) had trumped everyone in the market - they had an Index like 5-10 times larger than Inktomi (remember that one anyone?) and There results were instant fast and relevant. I have yet to see google results that rivaled norther light -- What happened? I'll tell you.

    DoubleClick, and a bunch of other advertisers were convinced by Googles get on the bandwagon or get run over it philosophy (they become more and more like M$ every day it seems). Google leveraged ad revenue to build a really powerful database of links that was just plain larger (and did at first work a lot better) than any other search engine.

    They search engine is really mediocre, and leaves lots of room for improved results. What the did fantastically was realize that who ever owns the index owns the web, and were willing to loose lots of money at first to gain control. Again a lot of their competition was simply purchased by Google and rolled under. Buying a competitor should be MUCH harder to do in this country, as it is inheirently a very anti-competitive thing for a company to do. Once The Worst Human Being Ever To Live is out of office, maybe the SEC will grow some balls and start doing their job again. Hey wasn't M$ legally ordered into 3 separate companies....oh yeah DOJ and Worst Human Ever at work again!!!


  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    YouTube - Achillies Heel

    Their purchase of you tube may prove to be a very bad mistake.

    Nobody likes to see a giant corporation get rich while offering up other peoples content - least of all the content holders. A lawsuit by the MPAA and RIAA will probably help slow down their growth eventually

  19. Dave


    I agree, it's annoying to put a search term for information into Google and find that the first page of results is basically people trying to sell you something, or links that turn out to be other people's search pages or price comparison sites. There are some things it is just impossible to search for.

    I can see there's something here that Google could exploit (carefully, or they'll get flamed like AVG) to fetch sample pages with a standard browser header and compare it with what they got from the spider that advertises itself as the googlebot. I bet that would sort out a bit more of the crap.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Northernlight - may be forgotten but not gone yet (unlike AltaVista) - still searching, but not like the rest. And although their generic web search is no longer available to Joe Public, they still offer a publically accessible "business news" search, at

    In the days when their public web search engines included "you pay for these" results as well as "you get these free" results, they had the unusual distinction of running major parts of their search engines on VMS. Not a lot of people knew that.

  21. Jeff

    @Lyn Ibson

    > Lumping in SEO consultants with spammers does a terrible disservice to thousands of creative, diligent and ethical web professionals.

    The article didn't say SEO consultants were spammers, but more that the proliferation of junk websites creates the need for SEO consultants.

    However, I've never used SEO, and my website is number 1 for a number of keywords- it's a hobby site (a particular form of photography) and is very solidly focused on just that. On topic, relevant, with a decent set of links to and from related sites. Plain and simple, and it works. And I have a lot of material I created myself on the site. Google, with no effort on my part, has listed the site at #1 for nearly a decade.

  22. Don Mitchell


    Does anyone remember when was the first big web search engine? They really started the revolution, but then google just worked so much better, I never went back. Does anyone remember terraserver? The first satellite Earth viewer. Similar story, the KeyHole software that google bought is better, but someone else was the innovator. seems pretty good. Cuil seemed to sort of suck. But nothing I've tried really beats google. I'm glad to see there is a lot of healthy competion being stimulated, just nobody better has come along...yet.

  23. Antoinette Lacroix

    Time to learn a proper language ?

    Cuil works like a charm - if you don't search in English.

    Try German, French or Italian . ..

  24. charles platt

    More Reg Reflexive Anti-Google Nonsense

    Microsoft achieved dominance by buying out or copying others, much as the old Soviet Union achieved dominance by invading and acquiring neighboring nations--till they had that spot of bother in Afghanistan, much as Microsoft ran aground on Yahoo.

    Google achieved dominance simply by doing a better job than its competitors. First, its search wiped out competitors in an honest contest based on utility. And then--

    One look at Google Maps, and you knew that MapQuest was in deep shit. One look at Google Docs, and the writing was on the wall for Microsoft. One look at Google Knol, and you see that Wikipedia has a problem.

    Anyone who wants to "protect" me from this kind of monopoly has to explain how they plan to force consumers to use alternatives that are inferior. And Register has to explain just why it is so Googlephobic. As a former British person, I know there is something about a big American success that the British find indigestible. Is that really what's going on here?

  25. Rich

    Capable of improvement

    Like Dave says, I think the world of search is very capable of improvement. If I google "uj-862 specification", that's what I want, not people auctioning a UJ682 drive, price comparison sites, etc.

  26. Anonymous Coward

    @charles platt

    "As a former British person, I know there is something about a big American success that the British find indigestible. Is that really what's going on here?"

    Indigestible? Why does it seem that American success always seems to involve knowing the ins and outs of a cats arse regarding personal information?

    There really should be a pause for a commercial break in the US National Anthem.

    Glad you got your coat and left.

  27. Trix Bronze badge
    Black Helicopters

    Tend to disagree

    Yes, the spammers and SEOs try to game the Google system, rendering "$object price" or "$object review" searches useless. But that gets them to the top of the *Google* rankings. I don't see how a rival search service gets affected by Google gaming if they use sensible algorithms to build their own rankings. Unfortunately, Cuil doesn't - as far as I can tell, their results are completely driven by link aggregation sites and fake Wikipedias already - in other words, they haven't evolved the workarounds to the gaming methods that Google has.

    So perhaps Google has an advantage in that they're a few steps ahead in terms of knowing the link gamers' methods, and any other competitor has to engage in a massive amount of catch-up - although I would have assumed that these ex-Google alumni would already have had some of that advantage. Perhaps they do in their search methods (although not according to those who've already blocked Cuil's irritating spider in their robots.txt), but they obviously didn't poach any of the filtering people, who are certainly the most useful these days.

  28. Daniel B.

    Re: Altavista!

    "Does anyone remember when was the first big web search engine?"

    True AltaVista pioneers would remember that the actual site was and it actually ran on DEC equipment. ;)

    Damn, I basically kept on using AltaVista even after Google started dominating the game. I did the google-switch sometime around 2001.

  29. Anonymous Coward

    RE: More Reg Reflexive Anti-Google Nonsense

    >>Anyone who wants to "protect" me from this kind of monopoly has to explain how they plan to force consumers to use alternatives that are inferior. And Register has to explain just why it is so Googlephobic.

    Probably because the search results are crap. Call me fussy, but when I search for something it can be a bit of a pain to get 100,000 results you don't want, and a handful of results you do. Maybe there should be a tickbox on google that says "I know what it is I'm looking for, please don't return hundreds of thousands of tenuously related pages of rubbish."

    I've yet to see google do anything original, so far they've just been lucky in jumping on bandwagons just before they take off. As for google maps... Well, it is, sadly, utter shite if you're looking anywhere outside the US. (3+ year old images, postcode zones MILES out, and the names of my home street, my work street, and my parent's street all dead wrong). And the wiki model is just plain flawed, for obvious reasons, and I doubt Knol will overcome those flaws.

  30. Dan Keating

    Sadly .. Google now IS the web

    This article hits the nail on the head. Google has become the web. Content is now marginalised and squeezed in around the Google Ads which take up more and more space in order to improve ranking.

    Quite sad really.

  31. Mark Burton

    @ mytest

    Bugger! you beat me to it. Calling your search engine "arse" (cul) in French is right up there with the MR2!

    I was impressed that when I searched for myself I got an article I did write with a photo of someone else. At least they weren't masturbating... ;)

  32. Phil Standen
    Paris Hilton

    The same argument is used for Internet Explorer's dominance...

    ...and this is being broken down a little. This is based on the argument that IE has poor security (among others), Now, perhaps the argument that Google promotes poor grammar, excessive internal linkage etc.. would work, but I suspect that the argument that your data is not secure with google is more likely to be their down fall. Which is the angle that has attacked.

    However this is only viable when google stop innovating, it is NOT just the search engine you have to compete with; Maps, Docs and (especially) email are more than enough to keep them up there.

    Paris: she keeps it up there.

  33. Andrew Thomas

    Yeah, there's a flaw in the argument

    Jim C says: "Is it just me, or is there a flaw in your argument"

    Yeah, I thought the same thing. A new search engine based on different principles to Google would not be fooled by all the spam sites which have been optimised to appear high on Google listings. Instead, the everyday sites with useful information (but no spam links or other tricks) would appear higher.

  34. Anonymous Coward

    And since when exactly

    has it been a human right to have a free search engine for the Internet?

    Some people are just never satisfied, however much you give them.

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