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Google: Internet Democracy?

Discussion in 'Google' started by jkomp, Dec 4, 2005.

  1. #1
    Is Google, as its creators (Larry Page and Sergey Brin) claim, 'uniquely democratic'? Well, it is certainly unique, or at least it was when it was founded. However, its claim to be democratic is extremely questionable. If it is indeed a democracy, it is one comparable to 19th Century Britain, where only the rich had any real vote, some people had multiple votes and bribery was rife.

    Google works on the assumption that by putting a link on your page to another site, you are casting a vote for that website. However, is this assumption a reasonable one to make? The short answer is...no. The primary, and perhaps most fundamental flaw in this is that people can put more than one link on their page. If some people have more votes than others, then surely this undermines the democratic fabric on which Google is said to be based. Furthermore, people often pay for links on high ranking sites - we call this advertising. Google reads every link on a page, it has no way of knowing whether it was paid for or not. Can a system where votes can easily be bought, ever be described as democratic, even in the loosest sense?

    "If some people have more votes than others, then surely this undermines the democratic fabric on which Google is said to be based."
    SEMrush
    Another crack in Google's claim to be democratic is the fact that some votes are worth more than others. The higher a site ranks on Google, the higher the value of its votes. This seems reasonable, a high ranking site must have useful content, (to have been linked to by other sites, although this page may, indeed, have purchased these links!) therefore it is likely to link to another site with valuable content. However, it is not the fairness of Google's system that this article is questioning, it is its claim to be democratic. Weighted voting cannot exist in a truly democratic system.

    Overall, Google's system is indeed 'uniquely democratic', in the sense that is unique compared to any democratic system I know of. With; multiple voting, some votes being worth more than others, buying votes and more, it is extremely doubtful that Google is indeed the democracy of the Internet.

    Thom Jenkins of www.QueryCube.com
     
    jkomp, Dec 4, 2005 IP
    wrmineo likes this.
    SEMrush
  2. Blogmaster

    Blogmaster Blood Type Dating Affiliate Manager

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    #2
    Umm, how does Thom Jenkins know how exactly Google values the "votes"? What gets me is this:
    First the article writer simplifies everything to a fifth grade level and then decides to make a judgement based on that. Google is still a business. Which business is more democratic than them?
     
    Blogmaster, Dec 4, 2005 IP
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  3. stephenmunday

    stephenmunday Peon

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    #3
    Google brings information from all over the world to you more efficiently than any previous service or medium. Surely this is a boost to democracy?

    Is Google itself democratic? If there is information out there on the internet, there is a good chance Google has spidered it and makes it available to you. Even your granny's blog will get indexed with one link from a signature in this forum. Now, her blog is not going to be of much interest to many people in the world, so giving it a decent ranking only for very specific, granny-related keywords is a sensible, pragmatic decision.

    I know we all complain about the algorithm and how it can be manipulated, but would we really want our access to information sources to be totally vetted by humans? We know the answer is no - just look at DMOZ! All that bitterness about alleged "corruption", and at the end of the day, no one uses it! (Or at least my refer stats suggest this.)

    To return to my first point (that Google and similar search engines have a positive democratic effect), a situation in Pride and Prejudice (which my wife and I were watching on DVD last night) provides a great illustration about how times have changed - for the better: If you know P&P, you will be familiar with the fact that a large part of the storyline is built on the fact that Elizabeth Bennett is blinded by Darcy's pride into believing the lies told her by the dodgy Mr. Wycombe. Of course, in today's world, this would be impossible: A quick Google, and Mr. Wycombe's past would have become completely apparent.

    Bad for literature, but good for democracy!
     
    stephenmunday, Dec 4, 2005 IP
    Blogmaster likes this.
  4. jkomp

    jkomp Well-Known Member

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    #4
    Good points - It is more democrat than some but not as democratic as it could be - can we agree on that at least?
     
    jkomp, Dec 5, 2005 IP
  5. JohnGalt

    JohnGalt Peon

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    #5
    You may be simplifying what Google actually does to rank a site. Yes, linking structure is huge. But it's not just a matter of buying more votes. One of the components of how Google works is that they look at the network of sites that are relevant to your site and re-rank sites based on this "LocalRank" system. This is from their patent application which is based upon Krishna Bharat's "Hilltop" idea. You should read the original Hilltop paper, here:

    w w w.cs.toronto.edu/~georgem/hilltop/

    And also Google's more recent patent "Ranking search results by reranking the results based on local inter-connectivity" here:

    patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO1&Sect2=HITOFF&d=PALL&p=1&u=/netahtml/srchnum.htm&r=1&f=G&l=50&s1=6,725,259.WKU.&OS=PN/6,725,259&RS=PN/6,725,259

    If it were as simple as sheer number of votes, certainly we could all go out and create millions of links to our sites and come out on top. Obviously there are those who have tried to do this. I think we are seeing much more integration of Hilltop into Google results at this point.

    Also - when Google talks about being democratic, I don't think they mean it in a sheerly political way. I think they mean that in a broader sense Google strives to give the searcher a chance to find all the information that would best answer their query. So if you can create a site that provides excellent, relevant, quality information on a topic, Google wants their searchers to be able to find your information as opposed to finding just the propaganda from the mainstream press or the government. Does this make sense? I am sure there are even more examples of what they mean by democracy and my idea is just one, or maybe just scratching the surface.
     
    JohnGalt, Dec 5, 2005 IP
  6. jkomp

    jkomp Well-Known Member

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    #6
    Indeed, the are certainly many definitions of democratic and this article only explores the most common one. Also, does the Hilltop method actually enhance google democracy in the political sense?
     
    jkomp, Dec 5, 2005 IP
  7. Bompa

    Bompa Active Member

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    #7
    I think Google meant democratic as opposed to dictatorial.

    In that, the web itself decides who shall rank highest.

    And their algorithm does this fairly well. The fact that the system is abused
    does not reflect on the system, but rather on human nature.

    All voting systems have flaws and vulnerabilities.



    Bompa
     
    Bompa, Dec 6, 2005 IP
  8. ketanshah

    ketanshah Peon

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    #8
    I am afraid with digitization of books G is trampling too many people
     
    ketanshah, Dec 6, 2005 IP
  9. jkomp

    jkomp Well-Known Member

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    #9
    Good point bompa, it is indeed (for the most part) the general workings of the internet rather than Google itself that determines ranking. But does the absence of dictatorship justify a claim to be democratic?
     
    jkomp, Dec 6, 2005 IP