Sir Tim countered, and it's worth quoting in full.
Do you remember when the web came out, the first search engines before Google were famously terrible. They were famous for producing lists of junky answers. Originally when the web was small there was no problem finding things because it was a list of websites, and each one had a picture of what was on it. When it got bigger you got the problem of where to find something and that problem got more and more acute, and then...
Somebody, in fact Google, is nice web science example. They thought we can use this vector machine technology and it could solve the "where to find stuff" problem. So now the result is much more effective search engines. So yes, OK.
We silently wondered where this would lead. We didn't have to wait too much longer: the answer had almost arrived.
So one cycle further on... the spammers have gone to considerable amount of trouble to build the "fake web". I dont know what the proportion is but as you say, there's domain names all linked in to each other all generated by computer, all full OK, junk. Full of crap. So. There'll be another cycle. OK
Er, we thought. Is that it?
So when you see what's happening, OK, there are a lot of spammers out there. It's like spam for email, you know. Suddenly spammers deluged us but email was designed for a world where everybody was friendly - and spam happens where people are motivated by pure greed and not part of a friendly club. You can design email systems around that; the email system is being converted so it works in this environment. I'm sure web search engines so they work in this environment...
But, er how? Sir Tim's historical narrative had a few flaws in it. It seemed negligent not to point this out to the GLB.
" I remember AltaVista worked wonderfully - until it was gamed. Google was wonderful it was gamed - entropy keeps returning. We don't seem to be making much progress. Are you saying we will somehow fix it - magic will happen?" asked your reporter.
There were howls of distaste from the panel.
Wendy Hall's face was thunderous - and I realized I had not merely made an unwelcome expression at a revivalist meeting - I'd farted in the church.
Hendler leapt in to take the discussion off topic:
We're not making much progress until you do the maths. We're now doing as well with two or three more zeros at the end of how many pages are out there. So in a sense you have to run as fast as you can to stand in the same place. What a lot of the researchers Google look at is exactly how to keep scaling across.
That's a good answer - to a different question. It wasn't scale, but system integrity that we were talking about.