Blake Ross, one of the Firefox co-creators, isn't too pleased with Google's new "tips" that direct web searchers to Google properties like Picasa. The new tips show up at the top of the page when specific keywords are looked for, including "calendar," "blog," and "photo sharing." Is Google taking unfair advantage of its own platform, or is this just business as usual?
The fuss is about the small icon and associated sentence that appear at the top of certain results pages. Searching for "blog," for instance, produces a Blogger icon alongside text that reads, "Tip: Want to share your life online with a blog? Try Blogger." In the cutthroat world of search engine marketing, some consider this an unfair use of Google's power. What advertisers would want to buy sponsored links alongside such searches, especially when the sponsored links appear at the right side of the page, and have no graphics?
Ross argues that the tips are unfair to advertisers, but he also believes that they show the weakness of the Google services being advertised. If Google's products are so good, the theory goes, then they should appear at the top of the regular search results without any intervention from Google.
"These 'tips,' then, can only be a tacit admission of failure," Ross says. "Either the company does not believe in its own search technology, or it does not believe its products are good enough to rise to the top organically. I'd guess the latter."
Whether the move is "unfair" in any sort of ethical sense is probably less important than whether advertisers lose confidence in Google and begin putting their ad dollars elsewhere. Despite facing these kinds of worries in the past, Google continues to rake in the cash. In the third quarter of this year alone, the company brought in $2.7 billion in revenues—its most ever.