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MIT Technology Review: Keeping an Eye on Google

Feb 19, 2004, 11:30 (8 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Wade Roush)

"Wal-Mart, McDonald's, Microsoft: a handful of companies are so dominant in their markets that almost everything they do is condemned by someone as an abuse of power. Now Google has joined that exclusive club. As the proprietor of the Internet's most popular search engine, Google has become the de facto gatekeeper of the Web--with the ability to make or break a site simply by moving it up or down a few notches in its search rankings. And while that hasn't affected Google's pristine brand image among hundreds of millions of Internet users, it has some programmers and Web publishers thoroughly riled. 'Search engines are an essential part of the Internet now, and yet they're all controlled by private organizations, and their mechanisms are secret,' says Doug Cutting, an independent software consultant based in Petaluma, CA. 'There's a lot of room for these companies to manipulate their services for commercial gain. It's an unhealthy situation.'

"Cutting's remedy is an open-source search engine, called Nutch, that uses ranking algorithms similar to Google's, but with a twist: each search result is accompanied by a link labeled 'Explain' that produces a detailed accounting of the various scores and weights that gave the result its rank..."

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