[IRP] [governance] 'search neutrality' to go with net neutrality

Parminder parminder
Tue Dec 29 18:12:09 EET 2009


So you agree with Lauren that urgent regulatory action is needed to 
ensure network neutrality, and that efforts to confuse this issue should 
be resisted. Efforts at confusion like the arguments " that Internet 
content edge-caching (like that used by Akamai, Amazon, Google, and many 
other Web services) somehow violates net neutrality principles -- 
clearly a false assertion." (quoting the article you forwarded.)

That to me is a great improvement on whatever I have ever heard you 
speak on network neutrality on this list :). (And i remember the precise 
'confusing argument' of edge catching got discussed during NN 
discussions on this list.) So congrats to us, we are in a rare agreement.

However, what goes past me is that while i agree that when FCC is 
discussing NN, it is of no avail, and even reprehensible, for the 
implicated parties to point fingers at Google alleging another kind of 
anti-competitive practice, I cant see how Adam Raff's article can be 
criticized on this account. He mentions NN only in the passing in the 
opening para just to show that Google itself is not all smelling of 
roses. Also there is definitely a connection between NN practices and 
allegations about Google, both being anti-competitive activities.

Rest of the article has to be dealt on its own merit, not only in terms 
of muddying waters in the NN debate. That is unfair. Adam clearly 
supports NN regulation, but he has a right to go ahead and make his case 
against Google. And it is not an ordinary article - it is a NYT op-ed, 
and so if Google has something to say or refute it must issue a rejoinder.

 Just addressing one main points of Lauren's blog in defense of Google 
which seems so shallow. It is roughly the assertion, I have often 
earlier also heard, that with one click one can switch search engines.  
A powerful actor telling weaker dependent groups that they always have 
the option to move away is a old trick, and mostly a cruel one. I wont 
expand on this but I think everyone can understand this. Secondly, I 
will move away only if I knew what logic/ algorithm Google used, and so 
I can decide if it works for me or not. So can we at least ask it to 
publish its logic of arranging search results so the consumers can make 
a choice. It is a wrong thing to ask? So what really is Lauren's blog 
trying to do by being so defensive about Google and what exactly you are 
agreeing  with is not clear to me.

"Fundamentally, Google has simply provided better products, that more 
people want to use. And anyone else is free to do the same thing, at 
least as long as ISPs aren't permitted to strangle the Internet playing 
field via their total hold over Internet access to all sites!" (From 
Luaran's blog)

Competitors of Google's other products (other than search engine), Adam 
is alleging, feel similarly strangled by an uneven search playing 
field.... I cant see why this issue is not as important as ISPs making 
connectivity pipes an even playing ground.



McTim wrote:
> see below for a different perspective, one which I agree with for the 
> most part:
>                 "Search Neutrality" and Propaganda Deluxe"
>                http://lauren.vortex.com/archive/000658.html
> -- 
> Cheers,
> McTim
> "A name indicates what we seek. An address indicates where it is. A 
> route indicates how we get there."  Jon Postel
> On Tue, Dec 29, 2009 at 12:32 AM, Parminder <parminder at itforchange.net 
> <mailto:parminder at itforchange.net>> wrote:
>     See below an interesting article on how the company that seeks to
>     'organise the world's knowledge' really may be doing it. It is
>     time we called for complete disclosure in public interest of
>     search logics of Google and other search engine, which truly are
>     now a (the?) principal source of information and knowledge
>     globally. Also a point to ponder for those who think everything,
>     including controlling excesses of market power, can be done
>     bottom-up and may not need policy regimes.
>     Parminder
>     http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/28/opinion/28raff.html
>       Search, but You May Not Find
>     By ADAM RAFF
>     Published: December 27, 2009
>     AS we become increasingly dependent on the Internet, we need to be
>     increasingly concerned about how it is regulated. The Federal
>     Communications Commission has proposed "network neutrality" rules,
>     which would prohibit Internet service providers from
>     discriminating against or charging premiums for certain services
>     or applications on the Web. The commission is correct that
>     ensuring equal access to the infrastructure of the Internet is
>     vital, but it errs in directing its regulations only at service
>     providers like AT&T and Comcast.
>     Today, search engines like Google, Yahoo and Microsoft's new Bing
>     have become the Internet's gatekeepers, and the crucial role they
>     play in directing users to Web sites means they are now as
>     essential a component of its infrastructure as the physical
>     network itself. The F.C.C. needs to look beyond network neutrality
>     and include "search neutrality": the principle that search engines
>     should have no editorial policies other than that their results be
>     comprehensive, impartial and based solely on relevance.
>     The need for search neutrality is particularly pressing because so
>     much market power lies in the hands of one company: Google. With
>     71 percent of the United States search market (and 90 percent in
>     Britain), Google's dominance of both search and search advertising
>     gives it overwhelming control. Google's revenues exceeded $21
>     billion last year, but this pales next to the hundreds of billions
>     of dollars of other companies' revenues that Google controls
>     indirectly through its search results and sponsored links.
>     One way that Google exploits this control is by imposing covert
>     "penalties" that can strike legitimate and useful Web sites,
>     removing them entirely from its search results or placing them so
>     far down the rankings that they will in all likelihood never be
>     found. For three years, my company's vertical search and
>     price-comparison site, Foundem, was effectively "disappeared" from
>     the Internet in this way.
>     Another way that Google exploits its control is through
>     preferential placement. With the introduction in 2007 of what it
>     calls "universal search," Google began promoting its own services
>     at or near the top of its search results, bypassing the algorithms
>     it uses to rank the services of others. Google now favors its own
>     price-comparison results for product queries, its own map results
>     for geographic queries, its own news results for topical queries,
>     and its own YouTube results for video queries. And Google's stated
>     plans for universal search make it clear that this is only the
>     beginning.
>     Because of its domination of the global search market and ability
>     to penalize competitors while placing its own services at the top
>     of its search results, Google has a virtually unassailable
>     competitive advantage. And Google can deploy this advantage well
>     beyond the confines of search to any service it chooses. Wherever
>     it does so, incumbents are toppled, new entrants are suppressed
>     and innovation is imperiled.
>     Google's treatment of Foundem stifled our growth and constrained
>     the development of our innovative search technology. The
>     preferential placement of Google Maps helped it unseat MapQuest
>     from its position as America's leading online mapping service
>     virtually overnight. The share price of TomTom, a maker of
>     navigation systems, has fallen by some 40 percent in the weeks
>     since the announcement of Google's free turn-by-turn satellite
>     navigation service. And RightMove, Britain's leading real-estate
>     portal, lost 10 percent of its market value this month on the mere
>     rumor that Google planned a real-estate search service here.
>     Without search neutrality rules to constrain Google's competitive
>     advantage, we may be heading toward a bleakly uniform world of
>     Google Everything --- Google Travel, Google Finance, Google
>     Insurance, Google Real Estate, Google Telecoms and, of course,
>     Google Books.
>     Some will argue that Google is itself so innovative that we
>     needn't worry. But the company isn't as innovative as it is
>     regularly given credit for. Google Maps, Google Earth, Google
>     Groups, Google Docs, Google Analytics, Android and many other
>     Google products are all based on technology that Google has
>     acquired rather than invented.
>     Even AdWords and AdSense, the phenomenally efficient economic
>     engines behind Google's meteoric success, are essentially borrowed
>     inventions: Google acquired AdSense by purchasing Applied
>     Semantics in 2003; and AdWords, though developed by Google, is
>     used under license from its inventors, Overture.
>     Google was quick to recognize the threat to openness and
>     innovation posed by the market power of Internet service
>     providers, and has long been a leading proponent of net
>     neutrality. But it now faces a difficult choice. Will it embrace
>     search neutrality as the logical extension to net neutrality that
>     truly protects equal access to the Internet? Or will it try to
>     argue that discriminatory market power is somehow dangerous in the
>     hands of a cable or telecommunications company but harmless in the
>     hands of an overwhelmingly dominant search engine?
>     The F.C.C. is now inviting public comment on its proposed network
>     neutrality rules, so there is still time to persuade the
>     commission to expand the scope of the regulations. In particular,
>     it should ensure that the principles of transparency and
>     nondiscrimination apply to search engines as well as to service
>     providers. The alternative is an Internet in which innovation can
>     be squashed at will by an all-powerful search engine.
>     /Adam Raff is a co-founder of Foundem, an Internet technology firm./
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