Searching the Microsoft Way

If you were a company with a variety of interests, and you controlled a search engine, wouldn't you be tempted to tweak the results so that things went your way? Well, some people noticed that searching for Linux on MSN and Google gave vastly different results, and some people dug a little more.

The upshot is this: MSN seems to present the user a lot of paid-for-results without making it clear which is which. Google actually had been criticised for this in the past, resulting in the layout now where the paid-for results lie on the right-hand side in small boxes, and the search-engine results take up the main proportion on the left.

The paradox is that while the Internet has made it easy for an individual to have their say, it's also made it easier for large organizations with sway to dominate the landscape with their messages. Just imagine if the integrity of Google as a search engine was compromised and all you saw was one side of the story for an issue like abortion and (most critically) this was done without the user realising it.

I guess the solution for this is the same as with other mass-media outlets: variety. Do try to see as much as you can out there in the Internet. Try not to stick to the same sources, and dip from time to time from competing sites, even if you disagree with them. It's not the technology which stifles, but how we use it.
posted on Tuesday, November 18, 2003 - permalink
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