keeps a very nice weblog that covers an interesting mix of tech and personal stuff (house buying and such). Last night though, he tried, in vain, to defend paid inclusion (aka Yahoo’s ‘Content Acquisition Program, or CAP) in the face of criticism from Dan Gillmor. Gillmor noted a couple of stories (from the WSJ and the Times) that have reported that the new Yahoo search privileges firms that pay for inclusion. Not ranking, to be fair, but inclusion and hence, in a way, coverage by the new, much-lauded search engine.
Too bad Jeremy misses the point entirely. He writes, “Anyway, as a user, do I really care if the company paid or not? If it was ‘paid rank’ I might, but it’s not.” Then, at the end, “Welcome to capitalism.”
This totally misses the objection though. People aren’t suggesting that Yahoo is evil for taking money – rather, they’re suggesting that doing so likely weakens Yahoo as a competitor for Google and thus makes the whole endeavour less important and ultimately less significant. There seems to be a sense of disappointment, in the sense that people really wanted a legitimate competitor to Google and they feel they might not be getting that.
What’s more – the critics are right. Google set the bar very high in terms of credibility. There is a sense, rightly or wrongly, that the results Google returns are the correct results. Google’s results are canonical. Anyone who wishes to compete with Google must therefore not just return decent results to a particular search, but must do so in a way that isn’t perceived as being even a little bit influenced by the almighty dollar. Now, with paid inclusion, no one will ever know if that’s the case or not, and Google proved that to be the downfall of any search service.