A reminder that Google doesn’t really search “the web,” just a relatively narrow slice of it. From Threat Level:
The homepage of Pirate Bay disappeared from Google’s search results Friday, after Google allegedly received a DMCA takedown notice targeting the site.
The move is unexpected because, while the Pirate Bay is rife with pirated material, the site’s spare landing page contains no content to speak of — just links, a logo and a search box. By law, DMCA notices are targeted to specific infringing content.
I increasingly hear the students I work with (and a good deal of the faculty) use Google as a synonym for the web, much as how Kleenex is has become another word for tissue. It’s similar with Googling and surfing (e.g. one might say “I was Googling David Bowie last night” when they were actually surfing Bowie fansites with little or no use of Google). Of course, no such equivalence exists — Google is a gated community. There is a boundary drawn between the regions of the web that Google (and other major search engines) will index, and the regions they won’t. What they don’t index, we likely don’t see.
That there is proprietary decision-making behind what information is — and is not — indexed, and that we — as a society — are increasingly loosing our ability to even recognize this indexing is a cause for great concern. Expecting Google to make their gate keeping an open and transparent process is ludicrous. Google is for profit, and dreaming up a contorted “free-market” rational for how it could be in Google’s best business interest to be transparent is a dead end. Google makes billions by controlling access to information, and they aren’t going to give that up. Why should they?
But what if there were non-profit, or even for profit, search engines that focused on identifying and indexing all the information Google (et al) isn’t? At a minimum, having such options might at least make people conscious of the fact that the web is bigger than Google suggests.