Currently, the predominant business model for commercial search engines is advertising. The goals of the advertising business model do not always correspond to providing quality search to users.
We 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
We believe the issue of advertising causes enough mixed incentives that it is crucial to have a competitive search engine that is transparent and in the academic realm.
Believe it or not, this is what Sergey Brin and Larry Page wrote in their famous paper “The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine” in 1998 (Appendix A: Advertising and Mixed Motives). Looking in retrospect, you may think that:
(a) They were a couple of naive romantics and their success came by accident.
(b) They were a couple of bastards lying as they were about to sell/had sold their souls to the devil.
(c) Any other possibility in between.
What is clear is that they might have harboured “mixed motives” and they would continue to do so. And to be fair, thinking something and the opposite is perhaps the most elevated degree of wisdom, and that’s perhaps the reason Google stands out as the most enviable, most evil company in the world today. Ambiguity is king!
Feature Image: Google December 2, 1998; internet Archive