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The blogged wandering of Robert W. Anderson

Google gives AOL what?

I have posted several times about the Microsoft / Google debate, making the point that the trust / faith people give to Google is beginning to wane. The news in the NYT about the AOL / Google agreement brings me back to this same point.

Like many, I am surprised at the deal Google struck with Time Warner for AOL. It isn’t the $1 Billion for 5% of AOL. That seems like a lot, but hey, they print money at the “plex”, don’t they?

But, preferential placement for AOL content throughout the Google services?

What?

One of the things that got people to trust Google in the first place was their stance on preferential treatment. So Google search users will get directed to AOL content instead of more-relevant content? John Batelle reports that (essentially) sponsored AOL links won’t be marked as such. (For those who don’t subscribe to the NYT, Nicholas Carr excerpts some of the article).

Google taught us that sponsored links should be marked; and so, have trained us to trust them. With AOL, they will violate this trust — go against what they have trained us to believe.

So, can we trust Google search if the AOL deal is consummated?

Can we trust it now?

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2 Comments »

    armin wrote @ December 17th, 2005 at 11:56 pm

I believe they’re planning to have them listed separately in a box on the lower righ side, marked as “AOL” instead of “sponsored”. So in a way it is still marked. It’s not mixed in part of the search results, which keeps the integrity.

if this is indeed what they do, I see nothing wrong with that

    Robert W. Anderson wrote @ December 18th, 2005 at 7:54 am

Armin,

Thanks for the comment.

I think it really depends on the way the links are marked. Marking them as “AOL” tells you and me that they are sponsored links (and the other 5% of the Google users who follow business news). What about the other 95% of the users? Will they know these are sponsored links?

What about the next deal they make and the ones after that? How we will be able to tell what is just a part of the Google UI (i.e., boxes around some content) and what is actually a sponsorship through some complex business relationship?

I do think that this kind of issue is inevitable for Google as it grows. I also think that it impacts the trust and faith people have in them.

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