Does Google Favor Its Own Services?

Seems so. I've written about this a lot, so much that I won't bother to link to all the stuff I've posted. It was the basis of a chapter in the book, where I pointed out that (at the time) Google claimed algorithmic innocence, and Yahoo, on the other hand,…

Seems so. I’ve written about this a lot, so much that I won’t bother to link to all the stuff I’ve posted. It was the basis of a chapter in the book, where I pointed out that (at the time) Google claimed algorithmic innocence, and Yahoo, on the other hand, was cheerful in its presumption that Yahoo services were the best answer to certain high value searches (like “mail”).

Now comes this study, from Harvard professors no less, which pretty much states the obvious. Check this graph:

search favorites 1.png

It’s clear that in some cases, one might argue that Google services should win (maps, for example). But for “chat”? Or for “mail”? A stretch.

Here’s the paper’s authors general conclusion: “Google typically claims that its results are “algorithmically-generated”, “objective”, and “never manipulated.” Google asks the public to believe that algorithms rule, and that no bias results from its partnerships, growth aspirations, or related services. We are skeptical.”

So am I.

Update: Danny has, as always, a more nuanced point of view. Thanks, my always smarter commentators.

Author: John Battelle

A founder of NewCo (current CEO), sovrn (Chair), Federated Media, Web 2 Summit, The Industry Standard, Wired. Author, investor, board member (Acxiom, Sovrn, NewCo), bike rider, yoga practitioner.

18 thoughts on “Does Google Favor Its Own Services?”

  1. Maybe I’m missing something but your analysis looks incomplete.
    Yahoo results show yahoo services first in every search but they are not biased, google is?
    Also, why should results for “mail” be a “stretch”? According to most web analyzers, it is the third largest email service in world but more importantly the one with most growth rate (approx 25% last year) while the other top two are losing users (approx 5% and 15% for hotmail and yahoo respectively) which would mean that gmail is being talked about more on the web.
    Did you factor in these things?

  2. Maybe I’m missing something but your analysis looks incomplete.
    Yahoo results show yahoo services first in every search but they are not biased, google is?
    Also, why should results for “mail” be a “stretch”? According to most web analyzers, it is the third largest email service in world but more importantly the one with most growth rate (approx 25% last year) while the other top two are losing users (approx 5% and 15% for hotmail and yahoo respectively) which would mean that gmail is being talked about more on the web.
    Did you factor in these things?

  3. The actual results you get will of course vary by the person doing the searching.

    For example, I get Google calendar first in the results if I search for calendar. I don’t think that’s bias, I think it is Google adapting to the fact that to get to Google calendar I usually just type the word calendar into a search box or the address bar depending on what’s nearest.

    It wouldn’t surprise me at all if the reason that GMail comes up first for a search on mail is because a lot of people who are Google users get to their mail by typing the word mail into a Google search box and then selecting GMail as the result they wanted.

  4. The actual results you get will of course vary by the person doing the searching.

    For example, I get Google calendar first in the results if I search for calendar. I don’t think that’s bias, I think it is Google adapting to the fact that to get to Google calendar I usually just type the word calendar into a search box or the address bar depending on what’s nearest.

    It wouldn’t surprise me at all if the reason that GMail comes up first for a search on mail is because a lot of people who are Google users get to their mail by typing the word mail into a Google search box and then selecting GMail as the result they wanted.

  5. So this is what passes for research at Harvard these. If my kids were going there I’d demand a refund.

    No need for further comment, Danny hits it out of the park.

  6. So this is what passes for research at Harvard these. If my kids were going there I’d demand a refund.

    No need for further comment, Danny hits it out of the park.

  7. My assumption has always been that smart search engines look at which result users click on first as one factor in ranking order.

    Brand loyalty may mean that Google users searching for “mail” mostly want Gmail, and Yahoo! users searching for “mail” mostly want Yahoo! mail. It may be the users that are biased, rather than the algorithm.

  8. My assumption has always been that smart search engines look at which result users click on first as one factor in ranking order.

    Brand loyalty may mean that Google users searching for “mail” mostly want Gmail, and Yahoo! users searching for “mail” mostly want Yahoo! mail. It may be the users that are biased, rather than the algorithm.

  9. The google algo are always changes and I think it is Google adapting to the fact that to get to Google calendar I usually just type the word calendar into a search box

  10. The google algo are always changes and I think it is Google adapting to the fact that to get to Google calendar I usually just type the word calendar into a search box

  11. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if the reason that GMail comes up first for a search on mail is because a lot of people who are Google users get to their mail by typing the word mail into a Google search box and then selecting GMail as the result they wanted.

  12. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if the reason that GMail comes up first for a search on mail is because a lot of people who are Google users get to their mail by typing the word mail into a Google search box and then selecting GMail as the result they wanted.

  13. Brand loyalty may mean that Google users searching for “mail” mostly want Gmail, and Yahoo! users searching for “mail” mostly want Yahoo! mail. It may be the users that are biased, rather than the algorithm.

  14. Brand loyalty may mean that Google users searching for “mail” mostly want Gmail, and Yahoo! users searching for “mail” mostly want Yahoo! mail. It may be the users that are biased, rather than the algorithm.

Leave a Reply