Google has spent years developing and honing their search engine algorithm to bring people the most relevant information on the web. And these efforts have been well rewarded. The name Google is now synonymous with internet-based searches, with the transitive verb “to google” now officially part of the Oxford English Dictionary. Most of us probably think of search engines as pragmatic tools which we use on a daily basis, but the fact of the matter is that search engines are a lucrative business, and Google is dominating the market with almost two-thirds of all internet searches.
In the past week—beginning with an editorial in the New York Times—there has been much debate as to whether or not the government should provide some sort of regulation over search engines. The article in the Times points out that when Google started they were a purely informational resource, providing an objective view of the web’s most relevant sites. Over the years, however, Google’s enterprises have expanded vastly, with maps, shopping, paid advertisements, email and litanies of other auxiliary projects. While business expansion is obviously a good thing, Google now has an incentive to promote their services above their competitors—which is a definite conflict of interest when, ostensibly, you’re managing an objective site.