Is there anything that Google does not know? When I’m not sure of the spelling of a word, I go on Google and I type something that approaches vaguely. When I forget the Martini vodka recipe, Google helps me out. When I can not remember the lyrics of a song anymore, hop, Google. In all these cases, more and more often I do not even quit the search engine to find what I need to know. Over the years, what was intended to guide users to other sites has openly become the place to find a lot of answers. When the first thing that appears on a Google search page is a super practical martini vodka recipe from any cocktail site, that’s what Google calls a “featured snippet”. Which is the object of the wrath of a whole bunch of other sites.
Including a certain Genius. On Sunday, June 16th, the Wall Street Journal revealed that this site had publicly denounced Google for appropriating the words it had published and posted them on her own search results. To prove it, Genius used a rather clever ploy. The company explained that it used several styles of quotes in its publications — and that it found the same format in the lyrics offered by Google’s search pages.
Consequence, his site is experiencing a decline in attendance. This complaint comes just as the US Department of Justice is preparing an investigation into possible anti-competitive practices of the search engine. Google says it uses another third-party site, LyricFind, to find the lyrics of songs it publishes. He told to the Wall Street Journal that he does not take his lyrics at Genius. But Genius explains that he has placed the different forms of apostrophes of his texts so that it suffices to decode them in dots and dashes so that they write the words “red-handed” in Morse.
Genius is not the only company to complain that Google is pumping his content. In 2017, Yelp filed a complaint with the US government, accusing the search giant of stealing more than 385,000 photos to put on its own listings of companies. In 2012, the Federal Trade Commission discovered that Google was using content from sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor and Amazon and noted that when its competitors asked it to stop, Google threatened to remove them from its search results.
The Wall Street Journal cites data from web analytics firm Jumpshot that reveals that in March, 62% of searches on mobile phones on Google were “no-click” searches, that is to say during which surfer does not visit any other site after his search.
There is a good reason to worry about it, even if it all looks like a simple story of marginal internet traffic. Instead of having an internet where the sites lead to each other, creating a vast global network of information, there is a desire by Google for an ever-increasing volume of the web on its own ground. While it may be convenient to type in what you are looking for on Google and have the answer right under your nose, these results in “zero position” are not always so fantastic (it is not uncommon for the box of Google’s top of the page explains emphatically that someone died while he is not). The engine has the potential to suck all the life of the internet, supposed to be originally the realm of diversity, that mean, a place where anyone can create a site based on their interests or his business idea, and where everyone has the means to find it.
Today, the internet is increasingly limited to Google+Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and a handful of other platforms and businesses that dominate the vast majority of traffic, and in many cases, advertising too. It is very rare to browse on a site that is not a platform without first going through Google. It’s become so common that the search engine even lets you search in other sites from Google.
The furniture seller Wayfair, for example, can be explored from Google.com. Just like Target, Walmart, Craigslist and eBay.
When Google discourages visitors from visiting other sites, it’s not just the diversity of experiences on the internet that we lose; we also renounce everything around. When Google pokes answers to Wikipedia to put in its small boxes, it means that we have less need to go to Wikipedia.
But when we no longer go to Wikipedia, we do not see the quotes that volunteer contributors use to put links to their sources. We also do not see that we can contribute to Wikipedia. Neither the buttons to donate, which the site depends on to continue to live.
The legislators of the two main American parties have begun to notice. In early June, MPs in the House of Representatives launched investigations into Apple, Google, Facebook and Amazon, led by David Cicilline, Democratic Representative of Rhode Island, who chairs the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Anti-Corruption trust, who will probably find out whether or not Google intentionally uses its dominant position in the search domain to keep people on its site and prevent them from visiting others, a relatively anti-competitive practice, to say nicely.
We have learned that representatives appointed by Trump at the Ministry of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission had agreed to share the supervision of the four big companies on the net. Senior White House officials “would support” close surveillance for possible anti-trust action.
In the meantime, Google may decide to backtrack on its own and reduce the use of its featured snippet to avoid close scrutiny. The problem when Google does something on its own is that it is unlikely to really threaten its dominance.
It’s not as if alternative solutions are jostling at the door — I doubt that most users who use Google are preparing to switch to DuckDuckgo or Bing in the short term. In addition, when you type “search engine” on Google, it offers no direct link to any search engine. I wonder why. Optimization problem … probably