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Google Is "A Very Different Model"  (View post)

Ionut Alex. Chitu [PersonRank 10]

Sunday, December 31, 2006
11 years ago7,304 views

Somebody told me that is still available in China. So users have 2 options:

- go to and see results they can't access
- go to and see only the results they can access

I think this changes things a lot. Google doesn't censor results, they just remove "inaccessible links" ("dead links" in China).

Sohil [PersonRank 10]

11 years ago #

Ionut, I hear in China is incredibly slow too.

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

11 years ago #

Ionut, from reports I heard, in China is often blocked these days. (According to Google, it was down 10% of the time [ ...] before Google moved into China; recent reports make it sound like the downtime increased, though I don't have any numbers on this.) Also, I don't know if every site Google censors is really always inaccessible: from reports I heard, a site that's censored in one place in China may well be available in another. And in Germany, for example, Google decides to self-censor sites from results which I can otherwise access normally.

Whatever may be the case, I consider what Google is doing with self-censorship of search results – you can't pass on the responsibility for your own actions. A company decides to work together with the Chinese government in the gov't's censorship actions or they don't – in this case, Google's responsibility is to neutrally show a title, a URL and a snippet, and they decided to voluntarily give up this neutrality in favor of sites the Chinese gov't deems dangerous, e.g. human rights watch sites. Whether or not this censorship helps Chinese users in the end, or whether it's more intended to help Google – Chinese users already had censored search engines to choose from before Google gave them – is yet another discussion. It's still censorship.

Ionut Alex. Chitu [PersonRank 10]

11 years ago #

I think it's just another option. They still have like before, but there's a new search engine optimized for China ( You can use the one you like.

It's like Gmail. If I have Firefox, I can use all the features, if I have Lynx, I'll use the HTML version where I can't access settings or get a rich-text editor.

Ionut Alex. Chitu [PersonRank 10]

11 years ago #

Oh, and something else. I was wondering if other search engines (Yahoo, MSN) have a working "uncensored" version in China.

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

11 years ago #

> It's like Gmail. If I have Firefox, I can use all the
> features, if I have Lynx, I'll use the HTML version
> where I can't access settings or get a
> rich-text editor.

I don't think censoring a human rights watch group is a simple lack of a cool feature due to technical problems... I believe it's a very active removal due to political pressure. That's why I think you can't compare the two, though I understand your line of thinking goes along with part of Google's defense on this issue. Google argues "Leaving aside the politics, that [dead links in Google News] presents us with a serious user experience problem." ...

"Leaving aside the politics" is the major problem of technology and technology makers in the 20th century, and the problem won't disappear in the 21st. As an example of the problem – not as a comparison to Google Inc, because this is incomparable on many levels – "leaving aside the politics" is what IBM's Watson was trying to do when he tailored his machines to suit the Nazi empire, speeding up the deportation and killing of Jewish people*. "Leaving aside the politics" is what many technology companies trying to increase revenues would just love to do, but people should make every move of the companies transparent so they can't.

* ...

> Oh, and something else. I was wondering if
> other search engines (Yahoo, MSN) have a
> working "uncensored" version in China.

Same here. I'd like to know how exactly Google, MSN, Ask and Yahoo work from within different parts in China. Which of these automatically redirect to the Chinese version of the site? Which disallow browsing of the international version? Which censor more than pages which are inaccessible in the country? What do they discuss with the Chinese government? Are they all using similar URL blacklist? How are blacklists transmitted? Do some use word lists? How does censorship of local search engines like Baidu compare? And how exactly do proxies handle the censorship?

Tom [PersonRank 0]

11 years ago #

<I>Today, Google offers a way to get horoscopes through gadgets available for the Google personalized homepage, and they also have a site focusing on stocks. However, while Google has dozens of new services, I do not see them lose focus on search.</i>

Right. And I think it's necessary to keep in mind that providing information as a result on a search page UI isn't necessarily the most efficient way to "Organize the worlds information and make universall accessible."

Does it make sense that, even though I can enter "GOOG" or "YHOO" into the Google search engine and get the appropriate stock quote back in the search results page that I should then have to make another search with Google search engine for SEC Filings on GOOG? And another search for Analyst Research on GOOG?

Of course not. And some point it makes more sense to "Organize..." this type of information and make it "accessible.." in a defferent UI and more related contextual framework such as Google Finance.

Google Finance viewed in this context is no more an attempt to create a portal than Maps or Patent or Books or News. At some point it becomes more efficient from user standpoint to be able to go to or within an contextual "area" of certain clases of information than doing everything from a blank search box.

Anonymous [PersonRank 0]

11 years ago #

It is possible that Google is editing the search results to show their products because they fear that competitors may GoogleBomb search results to show their product. I don't think that this is likely, but I think that it is a possibility. Everybody likes their idea slightly better. It is hard to be completely fair when you have such massive power.

Chim [PersonRank 0]

11 years ago #

You said that "However, while Google has dozens of new services, I do not see them lose focus on search." I really think they are losing focus on search. Yahoo's image results are better than Google though all image searches currently suck. Google's normal search results are not always the best. I noticed that recently Windows live search gives better results for some keywords. My argument here is not based on statistics but on experience. I am sure someone will come up with some search comparison stats soon.

Martin [PersonRank 0]

11 years ago #

"Most portals show their own content above content elsewhere on the web. We feel that’s a conflict of interest, analogous to taking money for search results."

Must have changed, as they take money for search results in the form of paid ads on above the organic results.

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

11 years ago #

Chim, one thing to consider: the search engine that happens to be the most popular will always be the most abused – simply because optimizers have more incentive to target its specific algorithms. For a similar reason, Firefox is more secure than Internet Explorer, I think.

As a completely hypothetical example, let's assume Google has an "anti-spam" quality of 9 out of 10, and is abused by 100 people, whereas Windows Live search scores a 5 out of 10 and is abused by 10 people; this results in 10 spam pages appearing in Google and only 5 appearing in Windows Live search. So even when, in this hypothetical example, Google is nearly twice as good in their anti-spam measures, they'd still have twice as much spam in their results.

That being said, following this theory, there still is incentive for *users* to switch to Firefox, independent of whether or not it's secure for the right reasons – and if Windows Live results would be better, there'd be incentive for expert searchers to switch to it. We'd have to do some extensive testing to come up with a quality score for results to know where Google really stands compared to other search engines, but determining just what is a good result is a tough problem. Consider doing an opinion poll by confronting testers with search results: if they consider the result "good", what happens if the result was a "pleasing lie" instead of a factually correct, but emotionally disappointing result? Is this a high-quality result or not?

There is another factor at play here, and this one skewing "perceived quality" in *favor* of the most popular search engine (today, that's Google): subconsciously or consciously, you'll adjust your searching patterns to what works best in a specific search engine. For example, you can often omit phrase search queries like ["this is a test"] and simply search for [this is a test]. This kind of laziness may not work on other search engines. So if you put a typical Google-searcher in front of Windows Live and then ask them to compare quality scores, you'd get lower scores for Windows Live for this reason – because you're intuitively approaching the competitor's search with whatever happens to work in Google.

Of course, Google has their own quality testing for their search results, and that of the competition. According to Google, by those quality scores Google leads the game (that was some time ago, things might have changed), but there's a lot that might favor their own approaches when the same company builds the search engine as well as the testing approaches. I got a feeling though that Google is indeed mostly focusing on web search when they spend time optimizing speed and quality. As an example: the query [] returns over 700 results in Google's web search, but 0 results in Google's image search. I released in October this year, and yet Google image search doesn't show its many images yet.

Hong Xiaowan [PersonRank 10]

11 years ago #

I am in China now.

After the Taiwan Earthquake broke the American-China Cables, we, chinese in china found how powerful for google again. We can still use Google Services. In this time, even some web inside china can not be visited, too busy.

Many white collars busying at Register Gmail cause they do not know use their MSN name or YM also can use Gtalk.

Gmail become safe tool for business.

And Reader help people get the information that can not visited on the website. And help perple to post their article to theire own hosting out of china.

Anyway, Google sometimes was banned for the known reason. This reason is not related Google Tech.

Hashim [PersonRank 10]

11 years ago #

Thanks for this comparison Philip. It does seem like Google has let slip some of their core philosophies.

Sébastien Billard [PersonRank 1]

11 years ago #

Nice post Philip, interesting how things change (or were they so different before ? isn't only hype ?)

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

11 years ago #

> isn't only hype

We'll be able to tell in a couple of years if those original promises were hyped, I guess... I think Google is innocent until proven guilty, though you might argue they've been proven guilty when they moved into China with self-censorship in 2006.

Bill Kelm - Brokerblogger [PersonRank 0]

11 years ago #

Phillip, here is an example of Google not conflicting with their original core beliefs. I blogged about Google's "Advertising and Mixed Motives" which said: "Sergey and Larry say (in their "The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine"): "Currently, the predominant business model for commercial search engines is advertising. The goals of the advertising business model do not always correspond to providing quality search to users." They go on to say: "..we expect that advertising funded search engines will be inherently biased towards the advertisers and away from the needs of the consumers."

The Google founders then do conflict by saying: "In general, it could be argued from the consumer point of view that the better the search engine is, the fewer advertisements will be needed for the consumer to find what they want." So, why have they increased the number of PPC ads at the top of the SERP from two to three over time? ...

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