Martin @ Blog

software development and life.


Paper about Google with interesting quote

Today, I read a paper (PDF) written by the founders of Google about the first versions of their search engines. Probably, this is already noted by a large number of other webloggers, but I came across the following quote about ‘other commercial search engines’:

Currently, the predominant business model for commercial search engines is advertising. The goals of
the advertising business model do not always correspond to providing quality search to users. For
example, in our prototype search engine one of the top results for cellular phone is “The Effect of
Cellular Phone Use Upon Driver Attention”, a study which explains in great detail the distractions and
risk associated with conversing on a cell phone while driving. This search result came up first because
of its high importance as judged by the PageRank algorithm, an approximation of citation importance on
the web [Page, 98]. It is clear that a search engine which was taking money for showing cellular phone
ads would have difficulty justifying the page that our system returned to its paying advertisers. For this
type of reason and historical experience with other media [Bagdikian 83], we expect that advertising
funded search engines will be inherently biased towards the advertisers and away from the needs of the

Considering the fact that Google generates most of its revenues by putting advertisements in its search results, it makes one wonder whether Google did not made the same mistakes as its predecessors. In the current version of Google, a search on Cellular phone does return only information about where one can buy the cheapest cell phones, but no results about a study on the dangers of using cell phones while driving a car. I think it is at least interesting, and maybe even an example of the risk of ‘allowing’ advertisements everywhere (of course, Google may decide for itself if it put advertisements in its search results). I also wonder how Page and Brin (the authors of the paper, but also the fouders of Google and now both billionairs) currently think about this topic. I guess they have a different vision on it now, then they had nine years ago…

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