MIT Technology Review: Keeping an Eye on Google

“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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