Almighty Google, the most popular search engine on our planet, also known in many internet memes as God, might be grifting you. The company promises that it scans the interned and offers up the most accurate and closely related results to whatever you were looking for.
But a group of researchers from Harvard University and Columbia University have conducted a study that suggests the industry giant is changing the results so as to better promote its own products, rather than objectively present users with the most appropriate links. Take the findings with a grain of salt as the project was founded by Yelp, one of Google Inc’s main competitors.
Tim Wu, lead researcher and net neutrality propagator, gave a statement saying that “What the data shows, is in the interest of anti-competitive behavior, maybe they’re hurting consumers along the way. It puts the grist in the mill for an antitrust enforcer”.
He went on to add that the most surprising and shocking realization he’s had while working on the study is that Google Inc is not presenting users with its best product. Instead, he says that the company is presenting users with an incarnation of the product that’s not only degraded, but also intentionally worse for their consumers. Wu stresses that this is the closest Google has ever come to resembling the Microsoft case, as far as he’s seen.
It’s worth mentioning that investigators in Europe have already started looking at Google Inc ever since this past April in an attempt to determine whether or not the search engine distorts and manipulates its search results in order to make a profit. So far, they have not found any evidence of such an approach on Google’s part.
Not only that, but a similar accusation has been made a few years ago as well, with the United States Federal Trade Commission dropping the case back in 2013 due to lack of evidence.
For their own study, Tim Wu and his associates over at Yelp showed 2.690 internet users two (2) different versions of Google. One version displayed search results referring to local businesses the way Google would typically show them, while the other version displayed search results referring to local businesses the way competitors such as Yelp would show them.
The results showed that participants had 45 percent (45%) more of a desire to click on a link if it included Yelp as well as other competitors. What this would seem to suggest is that people prefer to have a lot more diversity in their search results.
The researchers are now calling for the United States Federal Trade Commission to reopen the investigation into Google Inc and wither sanction the company or force it to change its ways.
Industry experts, however, strongly believe that Yelp and Wu are simply trying to discredit Google as they currently have monopoly over the market segment. One working theory is that participants didn’t click on more links when viewing Google’s typical search results simply because they were satisfied with the first few.
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