Alan Cohen is a senior vice president at a company that specializes in wireless Internet services. He told New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman that when it is possible to access the Web search engine Google by a wireless connection to the Internet, Google will turn into a kind of God. "God is wireless, God is everywhere, God sees and knows everything," he said, and isn't that a little like Google?
Google has already become a kind of supreme power. The Internet is loaded with billions of pages containing information of every sort, and only Google appears capable of putting them in any order. A person clicks into Google, asks a question and in an absolute majority of cases, is directed precisely to the place where the answer can be found. But there's a price to be paid for the world's growing dependence on search engines.
Another company called Search King, claims that Google distorts results to keep users from finding it (www.searchking.com). According to the company's lawyers, Google is so powerful that it seems anyone who doesn't appear in its results doesn't exist. A court rebuffed Search King, but the question remains in the air.
When a sophisticated reader scans one of the daily newspapers, he or she is quite aware there are owners with commercial interests behind the newspaper. Many users believe that search engines are different - they are objective. All a search engine does is create a huge data base with a smart algorithm, providing innocent users with the best answers to their questions.
And why does the search engine do it? The companies operating the search engines believe that if the user is pleased with the results, the users will come back and that way the engine becomes more popular, enabling it to sell more advertising. But that's only part of the picture.
Here's a test. Go to msn.com and type in the word Linux. The top result is strange - a link to amazon.com where you can buy books about the Linux operating system. The second result is essentially financial - a link to MSN's technology channel offering to sell Linux packages (for each sale, MSN gets a commission). The third result is completely ridiculous. MSN sends users to Microsoft where the company offers software that replace applications based on - what else - Linux.
No surprises here - MSN is a subsidiary of Microsoft, which is fighting Linux, the open source system. MSN and Microsoft have a clear interest in hiding Linux from users. MSN Israel's search engine is not much better.
Typing in "Oracle," the name of one of Microsoft's biggest competitors, yields bizarre links. The first result is a link to a site that recommends books. It takes a very fertile imagination to find the link between that site and Oracle, which produces database software that competes with Microsoft.
Try finding a direct connection to MSN from the Walla search engine. After a few desperate tries, it turns out that Walla doesn't recognize its biggest competitor, which draws 1.5 million Israeli users every month. An attempt to find "communities" in the Tapuz engine will not yield a single link to the blossoming communities at Walla, Nana, Ynet and others.
Nana has a joint venture with the sports site One. Is it possible that's why the links to the Sports Channel, its competitor, shows up in 59th place on its list of Nana's results?
If a user is looking for legal information from the trial of Ofer Nimrodi, the owner of Ma'ariv, they should try the Ynet site, owned by Yedioth Ahronoth.
The site provides five links to sites and articles that offered special coverage of the trial, including the full transcript, an article in the Seventh Eye, a magazine about journalism, special coverage from Walla and Haaretz, and more. Ma'ariv's site has a deal to use the Tapuz engine. Typing in Nimrodi at Tapuz yields only one link - accident, apparently.
It's inevitable that users are being enslaved by search engines. The reason that Google is perceived by so many users as the Internet's divine being is apparently because it is a god that still tries to be objective. Users who are not monotheistic are invited to remember that the other gods want us to worship mostly their own interests.
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