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Search engine censorship

Apparently Microsoft's search tools find several orders of magnitude less hits than google. http://www.theinquirer.net/?article=12603

Mike
Sunday, November 16, 2003

Apparently, people use the word "censorship" without understanding its meaning. Maybe you should Google for it. :)

(Censorship is state sponsored. Private parties voluntarily limiting their own speech is NOT censorship.)

Brad Wilson (dotnetguy.techieswithcats.com)
Sunday, November 16, 2003


Believe it or not, it's not censorship - it's a combination of a) a lame search algorithm and b) the fact that the first page or so of results is always the sponsored links. If you click through one or two pages of results, you'll eventually get to the real (non-sponsored) results.

So, MSN search isn't really evil... it just sucks.

Dan J
Sunday, November 16, 2003

Ugh. You know what he meant - it's a public-facing search engine that fails to make it obvious that the results are biased. Be careful, Brad, or we'll turn the Spelling and Grammar Police on all of your future posts!

Dan J
Sunday, November 16, 2003

It is certainly odd that the first page states:

Results 1-15 of about 16 containing "Linux Windows"

while the second (after clicking Next) states:

Results 16-30 of about 8900562 containing "Linux Windows"

Seeya

Matthew
Sunday, November 16, 2003

So perhaps the topic should be:
"Large monopolist's search results seem self benefitting"
"Linux?  Linux who?  We don't know any Linux."
"Our selective results save you time"

My point was that people view a search engine as a tool that gives them an unbiased result set based on what they queried for rather than something that might give you self preserving results.

Mike
Sunday, November 16, 2003

"Be careful, Brad, or we'll turn the Spelling and Grammar Police on all of your future posts!"

This wasn't a mis-spelling, it was a willful misuse of a word in order to drum up an emotional -- rather than rational -- evaluation of the situation.

Brad Wilson (dotnetguy.techieswithcats.com)
Sunday, November 16, 2003

"My point was that people view a search engine as a tool that gives them an unbiased result set based on what they queried for rather than something that might give you self preserving results."

If Sun had a search engine, and you asked it about "Windows", and it returned a bunch of X-Windows and Gnome links before it returned Windows XP, you wouldn't be crowing about it. Because, let's face it: the whine you made was pretty lame. You expected unbiased search results from Microsoft when asking about competitive products! How stupid was that?

Brad Wilson (dotnetguy.techieswithcats.com)
Sunday, November 16, 2003

"MSN Search Engine manipulates results" would convey the same sense of betrayal while being far more accurate.

Philo

Philo.
Sunday, November 16, 2003

I just did a search for 'linux' at msn.  The links on the right are labeled "SPONSORED SITES", which we all know means advertisements.  The links on the left, at least for the first page, are labeled "FEATURED SITES".  I first interpreted this to mean the real results of the search.  I then click "NEXT" and found the links labeled as  "WEB DIRECTORY SITES". 

So what is "FEATURED SITES", and how does it differ from "WEB DIRECTORY SITES" and "SPONSORED SITES?  MSN has a definitions link: "Featured Sites are links that MSN Search editors believe are likely to be particularly relevant and useful. These sites are chosen from ones published by MSN affiliates, partners, sponsors, and advertisers, as well as other sites proven to be especially popular among our users."

So basically, FEATURED SITES is another form advertisements, although in this case the highest bidder may not get the space.  To get to the real search results, you must click "NEXT" to get past the "FEATURED SITES" link.

I have two complaints:
- I think MSN is misleading users in that it appears the advertising is on the right, and the content is on the left, when in actuality, the advertising is on the left and right.

- I think the author of the Inquirer should have stated that the skewed results were part of the advertisements page.  He made it appear that the MSN results of a skewed WEB DIRECTORY LISTINGs page.

josReader
Sunday, November 16, 2003

I think that most people are not expecting 'unbiased'  but 'useful' results from a search engine. That is, results that respond to the question the user had in mind. Results will only be biased according to any preconceptions users have of what the set of results should contain. Expecting that *any* search engine will provide high ranking to the competition is naive, to say the least.

Incidentally, censorship refers to the process of censoring, which means to examine and expurgate ( http://www.yourdictionary.com/ahd/c/c0195700.html ). This not necessarily means that is an action restricted to governments.

uncronopio
Sunday, November 16, 2003

"I think that most people are not expecting 'unbiased'  but 'useful' results from a search engine."

Please define "useful". To whom? For what purpose? Since what we're talking about here are ads, how useful do the ads have to be?

"Incidentally, censorship refers to the process of censoring, which means to examine and expurgate. This not necessarily means that is an action restricted to governments."

In a society in which speech is free, then censorship must then mean any expurgation that is done by force. A "self-censoring" is not censorship in the common use of the word. It's being selective in what you say. And despite what others here may think about MSN's search results, they are free speech. You cannot force MSN to mirror Google's results. You can simply evaluate whether they provide value -- for you -- and then choose to use the service or not.

Personally, I only use Google.

Brad Wilson (dotnetguy.techieswithcats.com)
Sunday, November 16, 2003

Hey Brad, speaking of googling:

http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=censor

Hint:  Censorship does not necessarily have to be state sponsored.

Hope this helps.

ted
Sunday, November 16, 2003

nobody gives a crap what SUN does - they aren't a monopoly.

ted
Sunday, November 16, 2003

If SUNW did something as lame as MSN, then it too would be lame.  I'll bet 100 shares of MSFT stock that AOL is just as poor as MSN.

However, MSFT is interested in buying Google.  And though wild speculation abounds as to what that might mean, a person is wholly justifed in estimating that they would destroy it.

MSFT has a search engine, and employs people to build a consumer portal.  Here's an idea:  why doesn't MSFT take the billions invested in MSN and actually do something useful with it - rather than popping up pictures of Brittany Spears and boy bands in every corner of every page.

There are a few things I always caution myself about taking a reality check against:
1. Never underestimate the power of money.
2. Never underestimate the power of merely muddling through. Poor to mediocre will often suffice in the face of #1.

Even then, however, I still think MSFT is losing their grip - perhaps even their sanity.

hoser
Sunday, November 16, 2003

Oh, in my foaming at the mouth rant - I srt of skipped that part where I meant to say something "so SUNW is lame, is that some sort of excuse?"

Should probably also have added something bout the fortress under seige mentality exhibited by MSFT.  Perhaps Balmer is thinking of taking up the violin?

hoser
Sunday, November 16, 2003

"nobody gives a crap what SUN does - they aren't a monopoly."

Can we call this the equivalent of Godwin's Law for IT debates?

Philo

Philo.
Sunday, November 16, 2003

>> I'll bet 100 shares of MSFT stock that AOL is just as poor as MSN. <<

AOL uses Google for searches (with a few brightly labelled "Sponsored Links" at the top).  I found this out by entering "aol.com" in the address bar and then trying a search. 

SomeBody
Sunday, November 16, 2003

A few points:
1. Microsoft is not a monopoly, it might be an oligopoly.
2. I already defined useful on terms of "results that respond to the question the user had in mind". If you are looking for Linux information in a site owned by Microsoft, it might be a good assumption that you are thinking on switching over to Microsoft.
3. *All* search engines are biased. Google's algorithm guarantees -and reinforces- a bias towards the most popular sites.
4. End users have plenty of choice for search engines, only limited by their ability to know about their existence. Who hasn't heard of Google?
4. Censorship is not limited to the state, even in societies enjoying free speech. Examples:
a. Parents censoring TV programs their kids are watching.
b. Companies blocking web sites accessible by their employees.
c. Schools (both public and private) limiting internet access and books available in their libraries.

uncronopio
Monday, November 17, 2003

"Censorship is state sponsored. Private parties voluntarily limiting their own speech is NOT censorship"

You use a very strange dictionary.


Monday, November 17, 2003

Brad, I understand your point, but we're not talking about US legal censorship, we're talking about a practical kind that affects many people who depend on good results.  There are pragmatic forms of censorship that impact people.

Of course, I agree this is more about a search engine that's so low-quality, it would have died if Mr. Moneybags weren't funding it.

anonymous
Monday, November 17, 2003

The courts found that under the US legal definition, Microsoft IS a monopoly. 

There's nothing inherently illegal about being a monopoly in the US. 

ted
Monday, November 17, 2003

Sure we want useful results from a search engine ...

I'm just wondering who the bozo is who thinks that returning the same three links for every search (amazon, ebay, msn) is "useful" in any real sense of the word.

Alyosha`
Monday, November 17, 2003

The guy who signed deals with those companies.

hoser
Monday, November 17, 2003

Our Father,
Please do not let Microsoft buy Goolge.
Amen

Marx
Saturday, November 22, 2003

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