New York Times editorializes about the Google search ranking algorithm

July 15th, 2010

In what may be a first, today’s New York Times has an editorial about an algorithm. No, they haven’t waded into the P=NP issue, but commented on Google’s algorithm for ranking search results and accusations that Google unfairly biases it for its own self interest.

“In the past few months, Google has come under investigation by antitrust regulators in Europe. Rivals have accused Google of placing the Web sites of affiliates like Google Maps or YouTube at the top of Internet searches and relegating competitors to obscurity down the list. In the United States, Google said it expects antitrust regulators to scrutinize its $700 million purchase of the flight information software firm ITA, with which it plans to enter the online travel search market occupied by Expedia, Orbitz, Bing and others.”

This issue will become more important as the companies dominating Web search (Google, Microsoft and Yahoo) continue to increase their importance and also broaden their acquisition of companies offering web services.

The NYT’s position is moderate, recommending:

Google provides an incredibly valuable service, and the government must be careful not to stifle its ability to innovate. Forcing it to publish the algorithm or the method it uses to evaluate it would allow every Web site to game the rules in order to climb up the rankings — destroying its value as a search engine. Requiring each algorithm tweak to be approved by regulators could drastically slow down its improvements. Forbidding Google to favor its own services — such as when it offers a Google Map to queries about addresses — might reduce the value of its searches. With these caveats in mind, if Google is to continue to be the main map to the information highway, it concerns us all that it leads us fairly to where we want to go.