Does Google Need Regulation?

Month after month, we see reports from comScore documenting Google’s supremacy in the search engine world. It handles about two-thirds of all search engine queries, accounting for billions upon billions of searches each year.

recent editorial in the New York Times suggests that as Google continues to dominate, government regulation may be in order to protect consumers and businesses from dishonest and potentially business-ruining practices.

Has Google taken to using dishonest and potentially ruinous behavior though? There is no indication of that. Instead, the New York Times piece talks about what could happen, what Google could do with its tremendous power. “When Google was a pure research engine, it was easy to appear agnostic about search results, with no reason to play favorites with one Web site or another.  But as Google has branched out into online services from maps and videos to comparison shopping, it has acquired pecuniary incentives to favor its own over rivals.”  The editor sites complaints from European countries that say Google shows preferences for its own applications, like Google Maps or YouTube, while “relegating competitors to obscurity down the list.”

Adam Raff, co-founder of Foundem, a comparison shopping search engine, alleges that Google used their position as the world’s most popular search engine to impose “covert ‘penalties’ that can strike legitimate and useful Web sites, removing them entirely from its search results or placing them so far down the rankings that they will in all likelihood never be found.  For three years, my company’s vertical search and price-comparison site, Foundem, was effectively “disappeared” from the Internet in this way.”

Despite Google’s defense that they use a sophisticated – though secret – algorithm and do not place their applications first when it is not warranted, the editor says that its “potential impact” on the economy is such that regulation ought to be at least considered. This editorial has drawn some fire, or ire, at least, from the computer community. As Computer World blogger Mitch Wagner points out, why shouldn’t the government regulate Google? After, all it worked so well with BP.

Governmental regulation is not in the picture at present; many dispute that Google has a stronghold on the search market, citing gains from Bing and Yahoo, as well as the alpha-phase testing of Blekko. So why are sites like Foundem floundering and getting buried in the search results? Maybe it’s less a problem with Google and more of an urgent call to incorporate strong SEO methods into any site.

Leave a Comment