In his Launch blog this morning, Jason Calacanis chided Google for “being naughty”—for straying from its “do no evil” roots, and arbitrarily changing its algorithms. Jason said that despite this, the Government shouldn’t step in.

Let me start by agreeing with Jason: the Government should definitely not get involved; this is none of its business. I also agree that Google should pay content providers—and users—for content that it “borrows” and profits from.

But I disagree, vehemently, with Jason’s other complaints. Google has every right to change its search algorithms whenever it pleases. And, whilst its Feb. 24 Panda update made things slightly better for web users, it didn’t go nearly far enough.

Jason says that Google’s updates are crushing startups and costing jobs. If this is true, that is really sad. Could it be that the people losing their jobs are assigned the wrong jobs; that they are being paid to create spam rather than quality content?

In my New Year’s Day post, which helped set off a firestorm against Google, I explained that we desperately need a new (and better) Google because the web has become a jungle, a tropical paradise for spammers. Web users can’t easily do such searches in Google any more, because every search takes you to websites that want you to click on links that make them money, or to sponsored sites that make Google money. If we continue down this path, the web will eventually become unusable, and far more jobs will be lost. This is like polluters dumping garbage in a lake: it’s tolerable to a point, but after a while, the lake itself dies. All Google has done in changing its algorithms is to defend itself from such pollution.

Jason also argues that Google should create a calendar of algorithm updates and inform the ecosystem of its plans; that it should be transparent about its algorithms. But why? The producers of worthy, quality content have nothing to fear, and they don’t need to plan on how to game the system, and normal users don’t need such information.

The question we need to ask is: who owns the web? I would argue that it is the user. Therefore, all efforts should be made to keep the web clean and pristine. Keep the polluters out.

Jason told me that his company, Mahalo, is now focused on producing very high quality video and other great content. So it is also in Mahalo’s interest to put the large-scale polluters out of business. I applaud Google’s efforts.


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  • gagi

    I don’t get it why is it that spammers  can play google’s algorithm to rank higher, while original, quality content producers can’t! if spammers know the techniques, I am sure original, quality content  producers know them as well.  (at least they ought to be able to learn it, and if they don’t, that’s their fault, and they pay for it) the fact that nonspammers also produce quality content should be enough for their higher ranking as opposed to that of spammers, and this also goes in favor of the idea that google’s algorithm should be open, transparent. otherwise, I completely agree with geofclapp’s argument!

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  • It’s time for Google to update it’s algorithm of PageRank to something else. Because ranking websites based on inter-linking is not fully relevant now. And nobody cares about their PageRank anyway accept for spammy sites. 

  • Anonymous

    “The producers of worthy, quality content have nothing to fear”

    While I agree with the majority of the post, this one sentence struck a cord with me. 

    I think what you mean is “Producers of content that Google deems to be quality” – but that, in the end is the challenge. Google is the de-facto definition of what is quality, and that has a huge effect on the ecosystem. 

     The reality is that Google has the right to behave this way, as a for-profit company – it’s like signing up to get restaurant reviews from Zagat – it’s what Zagat thinks is quality.  Google has some perverse incentives in the ranking process with their own content properties. That alone leaves us wanting  for some transparency in the process, although they owe us nothing. 

    However, to meet your goals of keeping the web clean and pristine, it’s hard when the curator of quality is so dominate that the terms “producers of quality” becomes synonymous with “producers of what Google thinks is quality”, it should at least raise eyebrows in our community. 

    We have a massive problem with spam and low quality content – the lake, as you said, is getting polluted – but I think there has to be a process that is more transparent, more open, and more independent than simply relying on Google. I appreciate them trying to tackle it – but this is the challenge of the internet, and not Google’s burden alone to solve – even if they want to.

    • I agree, if we leave the “cleaning out” to be google’s task, we are in the same situation as we are with S&P and Moody’s when it comes to evaluating firms’ creditworthiness. There are clashing interests.

    • You are right. We need to have a user-controlled, transparent process. Sadly, Google profits from the spam. 

      • Anonymous

        You are right, it’s sad – but I’m not anti-Google; Google is not the only one with the sometimes-perverse profit incentive, and the openness of the internet we all desire is exactly the thing that creates a spam economy. In the internet, we created a world where the fight was not for  publication and production, but of discovery and search.  If we want to keep things open, the future probably has us paying for a certain point of view on the internet, paying (or just subscribing) to a curated point of view that most matches our own worldview, and moving among those “channels” to match our interests, including switching to the uncurated view when necessary. You could argue it’s already that way, and that’s the basis of this discussion. Fun topic!

      • This will leave Google vulnerable in terms competition. I would hate to see the search engines going into a traditional newspaper-like division in which certain search engines promote ideas which are beneficial to them. There will be an issue if we derive from the ‘borderless  access to information’ way of thinking to a system which shapes a little bubble around everyone, it’s hard to say how far up this road we already are.

  • “Jason says that Google’s updates are crushing startups and costing jobs. If this is true, that is really sad. Could it be that the people losing their jobs are assigned the wrong jobs?”
    Excellent point.  I admire your alternate and proactive take on the matter.