Search is basic to the Internet and to be considered a utility function (i.e. a designated vital service). Without „search” no find. “Degraded links” are hurting society as a whole and should be banned.

In my previous article I expressed my worries about companies like Google, Facebook c.s. throttling their services deliberately:

„Am I commercially punished by Google for not accepting their services offer? Am I censored by Google? Or do I see ghosts and am I just a victim of my human urge to see(k) causality and conspiracies?”

The emphasis of the article was to highlight our human nature to seek causality and to presume conspiracies, often with ourselves being either actively part of it or at least being targeted personally as victims. NB Which of coarse is pretty much always totally unsubstantiated.

An other point was raised as well:

„how are we to deal with large multinational companies manipulating their content and service offerings from a social point of view?”

I see 3 different types of manipulation with far reaching consequences: (1) censoring content, (2) Personalization and (3) Commercial Throttling:

1) Censoring content

Censoring content has several angles:

  • Companies obey censorship rules and laws from countries they operate in. Even when this could be seen as national interests it has cross border implications.
  • Companies do not obey censorship rules and laws from countries they operate in (i.e. Google enabling mainland Chinese citizens to search for „Tiananmen Square”); hoops this article will not be read in China…)
  • Companies obey laws from country A and take this as reference for country B: example Apple’s take on bitcoin wallets: see : „Apple bigger threat to Bitcoin then Russia, China and India?”
  • Companies censoring content which is not supportive to their interests or world views. This is one of the two fears I expressed in the article. Googles abilities are developed enough to block individual posts or websites based in content.

2) Personalization

From RPD article „The commercial Internet has far-reaching social consequences” published feb 2013:

Michael Fertik CEO of has written a brief article in Scientific American U.S. / Uk edition of February 2013: “A tale of two internets” (Note the link at the time of posting is not available). He shows herein how “personalization” – by using the data that is widely collected at user-level – enables providers of information and services to target a person specifically with their marketing, service offerings, pricing, and suggestions for links, people and topics of interest.

As a result, 99 percent of us live on the wrong side of a one way mirror, in which the other 1 percent manipulates our experiences. Some laud this trend as “personalisation” – which sounds innocuous and fun, evoking the notion that the ads we see might appear in our favorite color schemes. What we are talking about, however is much deeper and significantly more consequential. Google’s ever increasing capabilities could start to hurt society from a „antitrust” point of view.

Personalization seems harmless for it will improve the relevance of what people are looking for on the net. But if you reconsider this personalization more closely it could proof to be a wolf in a sheepskin.

Read also: Different Customers, Different Prices, Thanks To Big Data looks harmless as well but should be read in conjunction with Fertik’s article.

3) Throttling Commercial Services

In my article I expressed two fears: (1) either being censored to express my doubts on the impact Google – in this particular case, for it holds for other companies generically – has on society and (2) that just a plain commercial play is going on as to punish me for not accepting a paid service offering.

Via New York Times “Is Facebook Too Big to Care?” (emphasis added by RPD)

In a long, funny “breakup letter to Facebook,” Eat24 recounted all the reasons that brands are unhappy with Facebook. The biggest complaint: Facebook has changed its algorithms over the last couple of years to highlight more posts by individuals and bury posts from brands — unless, of course, a brand wants to pay for ads to promote its posts.

Eat24’s complained is exactly about what my fear was about. my page rankings are „buried” for I did not want to pay for „sponsored links”. Which I cannot substantiate other then with my „feel” and  reasoning.

Google Search is a utility and should be treated as such

You might think:

“All companies throttle their services, why is this different?”

Facebook and Google Search bring two different things to the internet.

If you want to look at it positively Facebook is about inclusion and democratization of the web by lowering the barriers for people to interact and exchange. It does so by creating a sticky environment becoming so omnipresent that others outside – both people and companies – get the feeling they have to be part of this. Hence all these companies putting Facebook before their own brand names on the net.

For many Facebook IS the internet but I still see it as a provider of a platform for people and companies to engage based on an ad based business model. Even Facebook will not be able to encapsulate the internet.

Facebook does not appeal to me at all – never has – so maybe I am underestimating their omnipresence and impact on the practical use of the internet by 1,2 billion people worldwide? Facebook has come a long way, where al other its predecessors based on closed communities have lost their aura.

In a sense what Facebook does with EAT24 is a type of commercial extortion. It creates 3 types of links and likes:

1) Sponsered links/likes, 2) normal search links/likes and 3) degraded search links/like

Search though is basic to the internet and could be considered a utility (vital) function of the internet. Without „search” no find… Google has some competition, but its search market share can be seen as monopolistic, in the EU at least.

If citizens and companies cannot realistically find you, your content or your business because of the private commercial interest of the search provider this has a very negative social consequence.  The effective reach of the network will be reduced and apart from the harm done to the individuals involved will reduce collaborability our potential to collaborate (i.e. creating externalities).

Let’s turn the question around: What would you think when Google would not visually distinguish the sponsored links any more from the „normal search results”? Why would we except then that links which are for one reason or an other not in the commercial line of Google and Facebook be pushed out of sight?

Search is basic to the Internet and to be considered a utility function. Without „search” no find. “Degraded links” are hurting society as a whole and should be banned.

Update 2 November 2014
via cnbc Google break-up plan emerges from Brussels.