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Search neutrality

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Background and Definition of Search Neutrality
– Search neutrality was mentioned in an academic paper by Andrew Odlyzko in March 2009.
– The term gained public attention after an opinion letter by Adam Raff in December 2009.
– Adam and Shivaun Raff launched to promote investigations against Google.
– The concept of search neutrality lacks consensus compared to net neutrality.
– Search engines are designed to collect, filter, and rank results based on relevance, making neutrality difficult to define and implement.

Vertical Search Spam Penalties
– Users rely on search engines to access information on the web.
– Foundem, a vertical search service, experienced a significant drop in traffic and business.
– Foundem claimed that Google deliberately applied penalties to vertical search engines as competition.
– The use of iframe HTML tags and javascript loading were cited as potential reasons for the penalties.
– Foundem is supported by the Initiative for Competitive Online Marketplace, a Microsoft proxy group.

Other Cases and Investigations
Google’s dominant market share has made it a target for search neutrality litigation.
– Other companies, such as and Microsoft’s Ciao!, joined Foundem in claiming unfair penalties by Google.
Google expressed concern for fair competition in a blog article in February 2010.
– Antitrust laws have been used to investigate search neutrality allegations against Google.
– The FTC ended its antitrust investigation into Google without filing a formal complaint.

Arguments for and against Search Neutrality
Arguments for Search Neutrality:
– Results would not be biased towards sites with more advertising, but towards sites most relevant to the user.
– Encourages sites to have more quality content rather than pay to rank higher on organic results.
– Restrains search engines from only supporting their best advertisers.
– Allows for organized, logical manipulation of search results by an objective, automatic algorithm.
– Personalized search results might suppress information that disagrees with users’ worldviews, isolating them in their own cultural or ideological filter bubbles.

Arguments against Search Neutrality:
– Forcing search engines to treat all websites equally would remove the biased view of the Internet that search users are seeking.
– Search neutrality could cause search engines to become stagnant and limit their ability to adjust rankings based on popularity, relevance, or quality content.
– Requiring transparent algorithms could expose search engines’ private intellectual property and allow spammers to exploit and target the algorithm.
– Removing a search engine’s ability to directly manipulate rankings limits their ability to penalize dishonest websites that use black hat techniques.
– Search engines like Google and Bing have different levels of bias, with Google being less biased than its principal competitor.

Impact of Search Neutrality on Websites
Google’s Universal Search system has been criticized for using the least neutral search engine practices, leading to a decline in web traffic for external websites.
– Search neutrality could potentially affect the ranking of websites and their visibility on search engine results pages (SERPs).
– The case against Google brought by the owners of Foundem highlights the impact of search neutrality on website rankings.
– Search engines’ ability to directly manipulate rankings can influence the success or failure of websites.
– Search neutrality could limit search engines’ ability to link to their own services, potentially affecting web traffic for external websites.

Search neutrality (Wikipedia)

Search neutrality is a principle that search engines should have no editorial policies other than that their results be comprehensive, impartial and based solely on relevance. This means that when a user types in a search engine query, the engine should return the most relevant results found in the provider's domain (those sites which the engine has knowledge of), without manipulating the order of the results (except to rank them by relevance), excluding results, or in any other way manipulating the results to a certain bias.

Search neutrality is related to network neutrality in that they both aim to keep any one organization from limiting or altering a user's access to services on the Internet. Search neutrality aims to keep the organic search results (results returned because of their relevance to the search terms, as opposed to results sponsored by advertising) of a search engine free from any manipulation, while network neutrality aims to keep those who provide and govern access to the Internet from limiting the availability of resources to access any given content.

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