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Who’s Afraid of the Big, Bad Algorithm

August 25, 2004

The trouble with Op-Ed pieces is that by definition they are one-sided. This week, Matthew Hindman and Kenneth Cukier, whose bylines indicate that they are Harvard fellows – Cukier is also a writer for The Economist – have authored a cautionary piece for the New York Times Op-Ed pages about the danger of Google’s power. The authors are not so much critiquing Google’s power as they are the search algorithms that Google invented and that others are copying, which brings the most popular sites to the top of search results. Hindman and Cukier don’t provide much in the way of examples to show why these algorithms are bad for us. They merely suggest that the practice makes Google and Yahoo too powerful – and centralized power is never a good thing.
Times Readers: Don’t be Afraid
We suspect that Hindman and Cukier are actually not that concerned about Google’s power, but that this was simply a nice way to get on to the Times’ Op-Ed pages. In fact, Google’s algorithm is under pressure from a growing number of competitors. Google does not do a good job of searching personal sites and blogs so Technorati and a host of blog search engines have sprung up. The clumsiness of Google News has prompted other free news aggregation sites, like, to launch compelling news engines. Moreover, the wildly popular concept of blogging poses its own threat to Google search – blogging puts human editors in charge of finding information. From images, to shopping, to groups, and so on, Google is under attack from competitors who in many cases are building better mousetraps. We don’t fear Google, but fear for them.
Read – More is Not Necessarily Better [NY Times]


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