What's Rank? Search Engine Policies
PageRank capitalizes on the uniquely democratic
characteristic of the web by using its vast link structure as
an organizational tool. In essence, Google interprets a link
from page A to page B as a vote, by page A, for page B.
Google assesses a page's importance by the votes it
receives. But Google looks at more than sheer volume of
votes, or links; it also analyzes the page that casts the
vote. Votes cast by pages that are themselves "important"
weigh more heavily and help to make other pages
The democratic metaphor is particularly
inapplicable in the description Google makes
of its "patented" PageRank hierarchization
"feature." It equates capital with authority,
since those with the most advertising and venture
capital will undoubtedly generate lots of "votes"
through online promotions and by employing teams
of flunky marketers. Furthermore, it endorses the
power of existing institutions who get a lot of
visits because of they are already powerful in print
or television: they can promote their web presence
through their existing power base and Google
endorses this as a sign of quality.
This is a long way from the nearly democratic
quality of early robotic search engines like Altavista.
That company has now changed its policy in several
ways that make their bias about as bad as Google's.
Altavista and others have begun selling key words.
Realnames.com sells key words for $100 and has a formidable
group of industry allies (investors?), including Microsoft.
Worldsubmit.com has made a business
out of registering sites with all the
search engines. For $89 (the "Best Value package") they'll
submit your URL to 1550 search engines and Yahoo! -- 6 times.
The submissions are spaced once each month for 6 months to
protect your site from "the increasing risk of being accidentally
dropped by the search engines due to
Internet traffic doubling every 100 days!"
They claim to include Alta Vista, AOL Netfind, Excite, HotBot,
Infoseek, Lycos, Netscape, Northern Light and WebCrawler.
It is interesting to note, however, that of these search engines,
many are using the same underlying databases. Netsacpe, Alta Vista, and
Lycos all make use of the Open Directory Project, a database maintained
by a volunteer labor force. While Infoseek and go.com are both using the same Disney
search database; HotBot and AOL Netfind use Inktomi's search services.
Likewise WebCrawler doesn't maintain their own database, relying on
the others mentioned. So the trend is clearly toward consolidation
of power and exclusivity of access. The corporate portals continue
on a path toward more exclusive pay-submission search databases
(eg. www.mamma.com - the "mother of all search engines") to which
the public cannot freely submit URLs.
LookSmart's quality navigation products, its advertising platform of
desirable differentiated audiences, and the scale and flexibility of its
distribution platform and deep content targeting capabilities combine to create
a superior advertising infrastructure.
Last modified December 1999.