October 7, 2002
ELGOOG:Meet Mr. Anti-Google: A crusading webmaster says the popular search engine's page-ranking algorithm is "undemocratic." (Farhad Manjoo, Aug. 29, 2002, Salon)
Daniel Brandt is a 54-year-old webmaster in San Antonio, Texas, and he's not a fan of Google. He knows that opinion puts him in the minority. Some people have insulted him for it, and others -- mostly webmasters -- have told him please shut up, lest Google get upset. "I've heard all the stories about Google -- how the former cook for the Grateful Dead serves up their lunches," he says, reciting a point of the Google mythology. "I know people love them, and I've been censored on some of the webmaster forums when I get too upset at Google."
But Brandt doesn't care, and he's not going to stop saying it, even if people get mad at him: Google's no good. Brandt believes that the search engine is unfair, and it doesn't -- as many people think -- return the best search results. Brandt runs google-watch.org, a new site that he hopes will act as "point of reference for privacy advocates, journalists and bloggers" who want to know the truth about Google.
What is the truth according to Brandt? Google's PageRank algorithm, the celebrated system by which Google orders search results, is not, as Google says, "uniquely democratic" -- it's "uniquely tyrannical." PageRank is the "opposite of affirmative action," he has written, meaning that the system discriminates against new Web sites and favors established sites. More than that, says Brandt, Google is a careless custodian of private information. When you search for something at Google, it saves your search terms and associates them with a cookie that is set to live on your machine for 36 years. Brandt fears that law enforcement officials could muscle Google into divulging all the terms you've ever searched for. Those terms could be "a window into your state of mind," and are therefore a clear violation of your privacy, he says.
Brandt is not a disinterested party; the dispute between Daniel Brandt and Google is personal. He has spent thousands of hours building a Web site that he believes is both useful and important, and Google, in its algorithmic blindness, has given Brandt a lower page rank than he thinks he's entitled to. Brandt finds it genuinely hard to believe -- and even personally insulting -- that Google won't give him more credit.
There, but for the grace of God and the love of a good woman, go I. Posted by Orrin Judd at October 7, 2002 8:14 AM