Google's AOL Deal Undermines Its Principles - InformationWeek

InformationWeek is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

IoT
IoT
Mobile // Mobile Applications
Commentary
12/19/2005
02:17 PM
Thomas Claburn
Thomas Claburn
Commentary
Connect Directly
Google+
LinkedIn
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Google's AOL Deal Undermines Its Principles

According to reports over the weekend in The New York Times and elsewhere, Time Warner is expected to announce tomorrow that it will renew its partnership with Google, which will make a $1 billion investment in AOL in exchange for a 5% stake in the company. While the actual terms have yet to be disclosed, one aspect of the deal is troubling. The Times reports, "Google, which pride

According to reports over the weekend in The New York Times and elsewhere, Time Warner is expected to announce tomorrow that it will renew its partnership with Google, which will make a $1 billion investment in AOL in exchange for a 5% stake in the company.

While the actual terms have yet to be disclosed, one aspect of the deal is troubling. The Times reports, "Google, which prides itself on the purity of its search results, agreed to give favored placement to content from AOL throughout its site, something it has never done before."

Google has gone to great pains to assure users and advertisers that it provides fair and balanced search results. "We believe you should know when someone has paid to put a message in front of you, so we always distinguish ads from the search results or other content on a page," the company says in its corporate overview. "We don't sell placement in the search results themselves, or allow people to pay for a higher ranking there."

Now, it seems that claim is open to question.As part of the deal, Google reportedly will feature links to AOL videos on its video search page without letting the user know that those links are effectively paid messages.

AOL will also reportedly get special links leading to its content on the lower righthand portion of Google search results pages, along with its logo. Technically, AOL will pay for these links, though it will do so with credits given by Google as part of the deal.

As Google watcher and author John Battelle told The Times, "What they are giving away is the perception in the marketplace that Google isn't for sale."

This is not to say that Google will compromise the integrity of its search results for AOL. But it does seem as if it will compromise the integrity of the Web page on which those search results appear.

This begs the question: For search engines, is bias bad?

Surprisingly, law professor Eric Goldman argues that it is not. "In practice, search engines are just like every other medium-heavily reliant on editorial control and susceptible to human biases," he writes. "[S]earch engines naturally will continue to evolve their ranking algorithms and improve search result relevancy-a process that will cause the most problematic aspects of search engine bias to largely disappear."

Somehow that's not very comforting.

We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Slideshows
Reflections on Tech in 2019
James M. Connolly, Editorial Director, InformationWeek and Network Computing,  12/9/2019
Slideshows
What Digital Transformation Is (And Isn't)
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek,  12/4/2019
Commentary
Watch Out for New Barriers to Faster Software Development
Lisa Morgan, Freelance Writer,  12/3/2019
White Papers
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
Video
Current Issue
The Cloud Gets Ready for the 20's
This IT Trend Report explores how cloud computing is being shaped for the next phase in its maturation. It will help enterprise IT decision makers and business leaders understand some of the key trends reflected emerging cloud concepts and technologies, and in enterprise cloud usage patterns. Get it today!
Slideshows
Flash Poll