Jan 272006

In order to be a part of the Chinese search market, Google will need to censor certain results from the eyes of the searchers. This is according to Google co-founder, Sergey Brin. At the World Economic Forum in DAVOS, Switzerland, Brin said that Google has had a change of heart and will now censor some politically sensitive words from its search results.

According to Brin about the government imposed censorship, “Essentially the great firewall is sophisticated enough that it would block connections based on sensitive queries. The end result was that we weren’t available to about 50 percent of the users. Universities can’t afford the international bandwidth, so for example students at Tsinghua University – and I saw this myself – had to pay in order to use Google, and I mean pay a lot, even 25 cents a megabyte, which would be unaffordable even by American standards.”

Brin goes onto say, “The practical matter is that over the last couple of years Google in China was censored – not by us but by the government, via the ‘Great Firewall,'” said Brin. “It’s not something I enjoy but I think it was a reasonable decision.”

According to Brin, this type of censorship is already going on in the U. S. and Germany as well. In the U. S., Google is obligated to filter out child porn sites and in Germany, Nazi-related sites are also filtered out. Each market has its ‘culturally sensitive’ words that need to taken into account when delivering results. Google has decided to use self-censorship in China rather than have the government involved.

Concerning Google’s compromise to the Chinese government, Brin said, “I totally understand that people are upset about it and I think that is a reasonable point of view to take.”

One of the real issues, I suspect, is will Google be of value to searchers or simply frustrate them with an overly strict filtering system that blocks all of their attempts to find what is important to them? The real success of Google in China will revolve around answering this question.

Jan 212006

U. S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has sent a subpoena to Google to compel Google to turn over data in the form of search queries conducted on the Google search engine. So far, Yahoo and MSN have complied with their own separate subpoenas, but Google has refused.

The U. S. Attorney General’s office has issued the subpoena s as part of an investigation involving the Child Online Protection Act (COPA). Google’s main objections have to do with resources required to fulfill the subpoena, privacy issues of searchers and compromising proprietary technology that will be mandatory if the subpoena is to be honored.

This brings to mind whether the U. S. Attorney General’s office presumes the responsibility for filtering adult material from children lie with the search engines or whether the responsibility lay with the parents and guardians (who can also install software to do such filtering)? Or both? The question of the necessity of protecting children is a given and one would have a hard time finding a person who would argue the opposite position.

The bigger questions are the ones of responsibility. Who is responsible are what are the consequences in acting in an irresponsible manner? Google may be balking at these implications along with their previously mentioned objections.

It will be interesting to see how this one plays out as this issue will not be going away any time soon. For the full text, see Google Subpoena

Jan 062006

Well, it’s the beginning of the new year and the beginning of the next quarter. So, this typically means that a Google PR update is imminent. By all accounts, right now, though, all looks quite on the Google-front.

On a separate note, it appears that the Big Daddy update at Google / AOL has also not taken place yet, though there are some indications that the AOL SERP’s have been bouncing around lately, so this may just be a minor update. Also, Matt Cutts from Google has mentioned that his company is testing out a new datacenter, which is actually the Big Daddy update (Big Daddy is not an algorithm change but a foundational change).

The Big Daddy datacenter is supposed to address canonicalization of URL’s and 302 redirects, which have caused numerous headaches to webmasters over the years.

Good luck on high rankings.