Google is an angry god
One good thing about being a monopoly like Google is that you can choose to play God whenever you like and no one can do anything about it.
In a good example of how Google has gotten too powerful to be trusted, it chose this week to play dice with the livelihoods of countless people by penalizing many major blog sites and networks by slashing the page rank.
My blog was among those affected, and I saw my page rank drop from 8 to 5 this month, no doubt because of the text links at the bottom of my site.
Other sites that are affected include Engadget (PR 7 to 5), WashingtonPost.com (PR 7 to 5), Forbes.com (PR 7 to 5), my friend Andy Budd's site (PR 8 to 5), and Tuaw.com (PR 6 to 4).
I wonder if Google realizes that it is hurting itself and its search results with this move too. By dropping the page rank of sites with useful information, like the sites mentioned above or the archives of my blog which contain about seven years of Flash-related information (aggregated from my previous two blogs as well as the current one), it is going to hurt the relevancy and quality of its own results.
It's a dual-edge sword: Yes, Page Rank is Google's to do with as it likes and they can penalize anyone they like, as whimsically as they like, but if this move begins to affect the quality of search results on Google then people will move elsewhere as quickly as they moved from Altavista to Google in the first place. It feels to me like Google is playing with fire here and there's a very real chance that they can get burned in the long term.
It also feels like this is a good time to look into supporting other search engines like Yahoo!, Altavista (remember them?), Ask, and MSN so as to even the playing field and not allow any one company God-like whimsical control over search results.
As Andy Beard states:
For a company such as Google with a stock price based extensively on anticipated growth and public sentiment, it doesn't take a huge swing in goodwill to have a dramatic effect on valuation. Google has just slapped their biggest fans.
The findability of information on the Internet is too important to entrust in the hands of any single entity. This is where RSS, aggregators, and other search engines play an important role. It might even be an idea to create a peer-to-peer, open source search engine that is not controlled by any one central entity. If successful, such an engine could help to democratize search results.
And, perhaps, as part of this, a global campaign by high-profile sites to voluntarily de-list themselves from Google may prove to be the most affective counter-attack to Google's opening salvo.
Yes, Google is very powerful but remember that it is our sites that make it powerful. Without our content, without our sites appearing as relevant search results, Google Search is useless. So perhaps we're not as helpless as it might seem but it will take a concerted effort to make any sort of dent in the frightening grip that this Goliath has over the Internet.