Wednesday, November 23, 2005

What Lurks in Google's Soul?

Washington Post staff writer David Vise wrote an article about Google entitled What Lurks in Its Soul? that first appeared in the Washington Post on Sunday November 13, 2005 and has since been reprinted in quite a few newspapers around the country. Vise's article characterizes Google as a company that has a "passion for disruptive innovation," and Vise succeeds in glamorizing Google with all the trappings of a "bad boys" story.

Vise's article can also be read as a cautionary tale. To wit, according to Vise, Google's goal is "to organize all of the world's information and make it universally accessible, whatever the consequences." Most people seem to like the idea of having information organized and accessible, but most people also seem to like the idea of boundaries and limitations on accessibility, and one of the problems that many people have with Google is that Google does not seem too concerned with setting boundaries and limitations for itself. Of course, the issue of boundaries and limitations on accessibility presumes the ability of Google to succed in its goal of organizing all of the world's information, and that would be no mean feat.

Notwithstanding all the hype about Google's technology, the Google search engine algorithm is still a brute force 80% solution that relies almost exclusively upon keywords and hypertext links to determine relevancy and credibility. Indeed, Google's concept of relevancy relies so heavily upon keywords that I frequently have to distinguish what I call "keyword relevancy" from actual semantic relevancy. And as far as the link popularity test that Google uses to determine the credibility of a website, the flaws of Google's PageRank algorithm are well-documented and easily exploited. Simply put, at least 20% of Google's search results suffer from the flaw of "Garbage In = Garbage Out."

In glamorizing Google's "passion for disruptive innovation," Vise fails to note that the disruptive technology which Google embraces is, at best, mediocre technology that makes the proverbial silk purses out of bat wings. And rather than address the shortcomings of its core technology, Google continues to profit from the inadequacies of its organic search solutions by offering paid inclusion. This may be a profitable business model, but it is not a model for innovation.