Even though this is over a month old, this is a story I really wanted to discuss.
Techcrunch covered a story in 2010 December about Google and its increasing tendency to serve up links to its own properties in search results, which is particularly noticeable in regards to searches for local businesses (such as the example search for “ny chiropractor”).
And then Google responds with a post entitled “Local Search: It’s all about the best answers for users.” What nerve! The title of the TechCrunch article sums it up rather nicely: “Google, These Aren’t Really The Best Answers For Users. They Are The Best Answers For You.”
Honestly, if this is the future of web search, then it’s time for someone to set up a company with the same role as Google, but structured as a non-profit. It’s obvious to me that with self-favoritism such as this, the desire to make a profit off of its own properties is getting in the way of Google’s nominal mission of access to information. Remember “Don’t be evil?” Profit at the expense of delivering the best user experience qualifies as evil in my book.
The companies behind sites like Citysearch, Yelp, TripAdvisor, etc are outraged at this. And rightfully so. Google is dangerously close to acting like a monopoly–and we know what the law says about monopolies. In fact, I would not be surprised, were this to continue, if it resulted in a Department of Justice investigation.
If one happened, it wouldn’t come a moment too soon.