It will be interesting to see whether there’s any kind of official response from Google (apart from Matt Cutts’ post) to the recent kerfuffle (or perhaps it’s more of a brouhaha) over the “tips” that have started appearing at the top of its search pages — the ones that direct people to download Picasa, or use Blogger. Blake Ross, a co-founder of Firefox, wrote a critical post about it recently, which Mike Arrington then responded to.

Blake’s point seemed to be that by promoting its own services on result pages, Google is unfairly using its search platform to hawk its own products, and that a company whose entire existence is based on the idea of search results and PageRank as a meritocracy — in other words, a process that drives the best results to the top over time — should have faith in that process and allow its own services to appear wherever they appear in the search rankings.

arrogance.jpg

Mike’s post expanded on this point, arguing that Google’s recent behaviour in that and other areas is a sign of Microsoft-like arrogance from the company, a criticism that my friend Mark Evans and others think is a little over the top. What is clear is that Google has grown to such a size that things people would previously have seen seen as innocuous — like small text links promoting the company’s products — all of a sudden seem like a huge deal.

I have a lot of respect for Blake’s position on the subject, and there are some excellent arguments back and forth in the comments section of his post (which the last time I looked contained more than 215 comments). But I think he and others — including Allen Stern at Center Networks — are being overly sensitive about Google’s tips. I think they are clearly set apart from the search results, and therefore are nothing but a harmless promo link (Danny Sullivan agrees with me).

It’s interesting to see how Google is being held to a much higher standard than another company likely would be, in part because it is so large now, and also because of its famous “Don’t be evil” motto — which is clearly causing way more trouble than it’s worth.

About the author

Mathew 2414 posts

I'm a Toronto-based former senior writer with Gigaom and my favorite things to write about are social technology, media and the evolution of online behavior

5 Responses to “When does a whisper become a shout?”
  1. viewpoints – some of which are bound to be moronic “you’re an idiot” kind of comments, but some of which are occasionally going to add huge value. For example, I found the back-and-forth between Blake Ross and his critics on the Google issue (see my recent post) of even more value than the original post. Yes, I know that other bloggers are free to respond on their own blogs, but that’s hard to follow unless you work at it – having comments on a post is like a mini-aggregator of differing opinion. And if you

  2. […] Matthew Ingram is more reasonable, pointing out that: Google is being held to a much higher standard than another company likely would be, in part because it is so large now, and also because of its famous “Don’t be evil” motto — which is clearly causing way more trouble than it’s worth. […]

  3. It does all seem a bit of a storm in a tea cup. I certainly thought the eulogy that Mike Arrington wrote was a little premature.

  4. The (broadcast) TV networks use public airwaves, and in return must present programming and news that serves the public. That doesn’t stop them from running house ads, which is essentially what the Google tips are.

    Methinks the critics protest too much. Still, there’s nothing wrong with keeping an eye on Google and trying to prevent them from using unfair tactics to freeze out competitors. I just don’t think this is a good example of such anti-competitive behaviour.

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