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Searching for Trust

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Blake Ross of Mozilla chides Google for giving preferential placement to their own apps as “Tips” in search results.

The tips are different-and bad for users-because the services they recommend are not the best in their class. If Google wants to make it faster and easier for users to manage events, create a blog or share photos, it could do what it does when you search GOOG: link to the best services. To prevent Google from being the gatekeeper, the company could identify the services algorithmically.

If you guess where I am going with this, you are probably wrong.

Blake’s argument is right, in that Tips subvert Google’s mission statement, is a breach of trust, degrades the relevance of search, is outside being a customer of their own advertising and amounts to a new age of bundling with the deception of choice.

But wait, there is more. This could be seen as a commercial interest defining a default. As much as it pains me to point it out, doesn’t the Firefox browser offer the Google browser as the default due to revenue incentives?

TIP: the answer to the above question is provided in comments

I believe search and access to search should be a democratic function. Whenever market markets are left to their own devices to determine access to information, the result is arbitrage conditions that hamper innovation, yield profit to the few and stunt principles as core as freedom of speech and assembly. Such freedoms are not to be trees in a walled wood. You have a right to make what you say and the group you form accessible and discoverable.

Search today is not democratic. Anchor text is a tool of anchor tenants. PageRank is in the hands of a growing few. PigeonRank is a minority species, of similar size to algorithm inclines. Social search is not yet a function of using search. In search relevance will always be representative. But we are still playing by electoral college rules.

Wikiasari was launched before fueling, but over time it represents a more democratic web. Social search, with a full feedback look between results and the ability for a user to be resultant, has yet to be fulfilled.

We will have a search engine powered by they very users it employs, and empowers. When spam like Tips are advocated by a spending empowered minority, the larger body will be empowered to correct. Even the default of accessing it.

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Ross Mayfield is CEO and co-founder of Socialtext, an emerging provider of Enterprise Social Software that dramatically increases group productivity and develops a group memory.

He also writes Ross Mayfield’s Weblog which focuses on markets, technology and musings.

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