Commercial Dominance of the Web

"...the search engines have the power to grant fortunes and to take them away - it is as if they are the builder of roads, stoplights, and front doors to every business online." - Alexander Halavais, Search Engine Society, 2017.

We believe that folks/organizations that work hard should see a good return (monetarily) on their labor. We are not opposed to commercial endeavors per se unless they have a significant detrimental effect on the public good.

We believe that the commercialization of the web has been taken to such an extent that it is having exactly this kind of negative effect on humanity. Further, we see this as being something which is reinforced (unintentionally) by major existing search engines in two forms:

1. Paid Placements

The organization with the most money can dominate the search results of several of the largest search engines. Beyond this, individuals/organizations with significant financial resources can bury the alternative perspectives on a topic by buying up available ad inventory.

There is currently a wide ranging discussion on whether search engine results should have ads on them at all.

There is currently a discussion on whether search engine results should have ads on them at all. While we are not (completely) opposed to ads on search result pages we believe Phoebe can monetize search through less controversial methods.

"[W]e expect that advertising funded search engines will be inherently biased towards the advertisers and away from the needs of the consumers....Furthermore, advertising income often provides an incentive to provide poor quality search results." - Segrey Brin and Lawrence Page, original co-founders of Google, in The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine.

2. Manipulated Organic Placements

Of the two, our greater concern is with "organic search results." Sites do not rank highly for competitive terms on accident. It is usually the result of significant financial expenditure upon SEO/SEM. The results are not truly organic, they simply aren't paid to search engines.

Search engines change their algorithms frequently to help diminish the worst offenders' ability to game search results BUT the algorithmic changes have had temporary/incomplete results and generally don't cause difficulty for less egregious offenders who may still be utilizing significant financial resources to dominate search results.

We are not opposed to SEO or SEM. We are concerned about implementing processes that ensure the BEST content is shown first, not just the content that has been most optimized.

Further Resources