Google washes whiter
Where did that story go?
Google has made its own statement on the 'Googlewash': by making The Register story that coined the phrase disappear from its search results.
Not all the search results, mark you, but a very specific one. When you search for the word "Googlewash" (as at 9pm Pacific Time last night) around a hundred results are returned by default. Our story, which is where the word was coined, isn't among them.
We found it, eventually, but it was very difficult.
Remember that PageRank™, Google's secret search algorithm, is supposed to boost the prominence of stories according to the number of links they receive. Google says there are many other factors at play too, but it describes this as reflecting the "inherently democratic" nature of the Internet. And it was a key factor, along with good taste in page design, and a great backroom server infrastructure, in making Google a success.
So a story that coins a phrase, and that dozens of others link to, should be pretty near the top.
Here's what the snapshot looks like now. It's a fluid situation, but as we write, a search for Googlewashed returns 108 results. (Earlier on, it was 111. The number varies, but the end-result is the same, as you'll see).
Look in vain, however, for the original article. When you've clicked through to the eleventh and final page page, you meet the following invitation:-
In order to show you the most relevant results, we have omitted some entries very similar to the 108 already displayed. If you like, you can repeat the search with the omitted results include
Which is practically begging not to be clicked. Yes, folks, this is the netherworld, the place no one ever goes, and it's here you'll find the story that PageRank Logic suggests should be number one - because everyone has linked to it.
And there it is - we're there. In with a bullet at No.22 in the dead zone.
To the casual Google user, they would have to click on 11 pages, then notice the "click me, I'm trash" button, then navigate through two more pages of links to find the original story.
Clearly, somoene at Google doesn't like the word "Googlewashed".
Now then. Google hasn't quite concealed the origin of the Googlewash phrase. If you search for Googlewash, or Googlewashed with the parameter, site:www.theregister.co.uk, you'll find a cluster of four pages with the original in fourth place. So the story itself has not been deleted from the index.
What's happened is that PageRank has hidden it out plain sight.
Now we must remember that Google, based in Mountain View, California is a private corporation, and it can do whatever the hell it likes with its page rankings.
There isn't a search engine in the world that isn't susceptible to some kind of pressure, payola, gaming or otherwise.
But we must examine the narcissitic relationship between Google and this tiny handful of weblog lobbyists who form its most devoted admirers ("I'm the fourth best Dave!" ... "I'm the seventh best Dan!"), for it is essentially synthetic.
Google has built its global brand on two fronts.
It's fast, cheap, tasteful and good. Then there's this other, weird, creepy, techno-utopian strand of Google-worshipping narcissists, who attribute the corporation with almost mystical properties. Its Zeitgeist, somehow, reflects the will of the people. Its PageRank is "uniquely democratic".
But tear away from the mirror for a second and see how small this world of "bloggers" really is.
Although the supplicant mentality is widespread in this tiny clique of 'WA's (Weblog-Lobbyists), they represent only a tiny fraction, and diminishing, number of the world's Internet users. Pew Research described the number of Internet users who read "weblogs" as "statistically insignificant". The number who write them is much lower. And the number of webloggers who look after their fine minds and actually write stuff (Jorn, Tom, you know who you are) can be counted on the fingers of an amputee's hand.
More is not better - quality prevails. For the good nuggets of good writing we must suffer a blizzard of mindless linking. Is this designed simply to waste our time?
And if we start clamoring for *cough* an online democracy, isn't it time we inspected the voting machine? ®