Good Companies Turning Evil

Amazon and the world’s dominant search engine both pissed me off last week. If you haven’t heard, Amazon pulled a Don Corleone and offered print-on-demand publishing companies an offer they couldn’t refuse: use our in-house printing company or be banned from selling your books through Amazon without lots of extra fees. Yes, it’s a tad more complicated than that, which you can read about in Publisher’s Weekly or Writer’s Weekly, but not much more complicated.

It’s a “We’re powerful, so screw you” move, something we’ve seen too many times from the likes of Microsoft and the mobile phone companies. If you’re 40 or above, remember when people actually liked Microsoft? If this goes through, in a few years we’ll be saying that about Amazon. So much for the long tail—they’d rather have a monopoly.

I still use the world’s biggest search engine and since they deposit money in my bank account each month, we’ll keep hanging out together. But the “do no evil” mantra they announced with their IPO is definitely fading into the background. If you have their toolbar on your browser you see a little page rank indicator at the bottom. It is supposed to indicate how popular a site is, based on how many other legitimate sites link to it.

Only it doesn’t work. It’s broken on purpose. The company has been actively knocking down the ranking of thousands of sites and blogs like this one who have the gall to sell text-based ads on their site that are not from Google. So while this blog added about 20 high-quality inbound links over the past two months (including the likes of Wikipedia, Budget Travel, The Washington Post, and Yahoo News), my visible ranking on the toolbar just declined two notches. The blog is as popular as ever, but they don’t want it to look that way. My hand has been slapped for disrupting an attempted monopoly. Mommy!

Unfortunately, they’re so powerful they can do what they want. And they do. So the conversation turns from positive to negative and we start feeling the same way about them as we do about the other companies letting us down every day.

Fast forward a few years and, “Remember when people used to really like that company?”


[flickr photo from optus]

  1. John Galt

    GOOG has been evil for a long time. They actively work with the Chinese government to oppress Chinese citizens.

    They will become even more evil in the future, when they start selling your browsing history to the highest bidder.

    Yes, I too use them out of habit, but that smarmy “don’t be evil” line is just that..a smokescreen.

  2. Marcus

    Don’t feel bad about the pagerank thing. At the end of last year they also bitchsmacked the sites of Forbes, Washington Post, Engadget, and others the same way. Not exactly spammy underground sites. But like you said, they’ll do whatever they can to dominate the internet ad world, even if it means their own popularity measurement indicator is now as worthless as Alexa’s.

  3. Shawn

    Woah there dude. Try using a nofollow attribute on your outbound links. Blame sites like payforpost (izea) not Goog. They couldn’t have money-hungry bloggers upsetting the algorithm could they?

  4. tim

    Yes, but like many webmasters, I make far more revenue from direct ads and brokers than from Big Brother of the Internet, so as noted on ProBlogger, the best advice is just to ignore pagerank and give people something worth reading and returning to. Another site of mine got a pagerank penalty at the end of ’07 and traffic is up 50 percent since. (And inbound links are way up from where they were before the slapdown.) Point is, it’s now a broken tool that should be ignored.

    Izea just systemized something that is going on all the time directly. The purity of people never having an ulterior financial motive for putting in a link is dreamy utopia.

  5. webmaster will

    Pagerank is a joke. I run two sites that have less than five inbound links between them and they’re PR4, with thin traffic. I have another far more popular site that has at least a hundred inbound links from major media news sites and high-traffic blogs. It’s PR3 (down from 6 last year), apparently because I have code from TLA and Adbrite on there. Who knows–it’s not like they’re going to tell you why you’ve been penalized.

  6. Arvind

    Does PageRank count for anything? I don’t know anyone or any service that actually uses the PageRank.

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