FairSearch.org is Everything But Fair About Search

FairSearch.org Logo with Question MarkFairSearch.org is seemingly a group which suppose to promote fair web search competition and to advocate the consumers’ best interests whenever it believes that “some” company is abusing its power. But that “some” company, which theoretically can be any search-related company, is in practice only one under the magnifying glass, Google.

Although this axiom is a bit disturbing and indicates on the subjectivity of the group’s one-sided coverage, it can be argued that because Google clutches such a colossal global search market share (around 80-90%) everything else is just negligible. Thus, the fact that FairSearch solely inclined to criticize Google shouldn’t harm FairSearch’s integrity by itself.

But there are many other issues that harm FairSearch’s integrity, doubt its reliability and question its true nature.

First, it’s important to understand who stands behind the group. On FairSearch.org about page, we can find the businesses that compounds this group. When examining those companies, we will reveal that each and every one has an obvious SELF-INTEREST to undermine Google’s search grip as they ALL provide some sort of vertical search features by the least.

  • TripAdvisor, KAYAK (including SideStep), Hotwire, Expedia, LevelFrance- Offers travel-related search engine.
  • ITSA- Association of online travel companies (which offers travel-related search).
  • Microsoft- Holds Google’s main rival, Bing.
  • Foundem, ShopCity, Twenga, Buscape Company, TheFind- Offers shopping-related search engine.
  • adMarketplace- Search advertising network.

In spite of the clear anti-Google sentiment that arise from all those companies composite, it is yet not enough to claim that FairSearch can’t operate as an unbiased critic of the search industry (and mainly Google). But the group’s manipulative actions and misleading contents can certainly does… here are few {obnoxious} examples for the unfairness of FairSearch:

Tim The Builder

FairSearch.org homepage currently highlighting the story of Tim Carter, the site owner of AskTheBuilder.com. Tim’s site was pretty popular and profitable (by using Google AdSense) and Tim apparently even testified on behalf of Google in 2008 at some hearing. But in February 2011, Tim’s site been hit badly by the Panda update and lost about half of its traffic.

First of all, the fact that Tim testified on behalf of Google SHOULD NOT (and indeed were not) be tied with his site’s rankings at all! What’s that got to do with anything? In fact, if Google would have been promoting his site’s rankings BECAUSE he testified on its behalf, THEN there was a legal case against Google. FairSearch doesn’t presents it like that, but rather tries to manipulatively create some sense of betrayal.

FairSearch’s story also tries to portray Google as disloyal after Tim’s site generated high income through AdSense and was even featured in an AdSense case study. If any, I think it just shows that AdSense revenue has nothing to do with rankings, which is incredibly positive for consumers. But FairSearch story obviously doesn’t mention any of that.

And then there’s Tim’s reference to the Panda update:

…What was puzzling though, was that Google’s announcement and their explanation for Panda said that they would actually reward creators of original content like me. That’s never happened.

That’s not accurate Mr. Carter… Google never stated that they would reward ANY creator of original content like you implies, but only high-quality sites with USEFUL information. Tim doesn’t say anything about the content’s quality on his site, just that it is original. Again, the story paints a twisted picture.

The story clearly attempt to convey the impression that Google harming small businesses, but you should keep in mind that when Tim’s site was demoted, other sites took its place. So perhaps Tim’s business got hit, but another small business has benefited.

“Can Google be Trusted” Slideshow

Another highlighted topic on FairSearch.org homepage links to a slideshow under the headline “Can Google be Trusted?” The slideshow is a bunch of quotes of Google’s top executives which supposedly reveals the company’s conflict of interest. You can watch it here:

It’s hard for me just to begin stressing how deceiving some of the quotes on this slideshow are! Those quotes essentially just were taken completely out of context to confuse the reader. Here are some of the slideshow’s quotes and what they really meant:

“I actually think most people don’t want Google to answer their questions. They want Google to tell them what they should be doing next.” (Eric Schmidt)

FairSearch implies that Google somehow wants to control people, but if you read the original story on the Wall Street Journal you will find that he means that Google will assist people with their lives based on their history and friends.

“The Google policy on a lot of things is to get right up to the creepy line.” (Eric Schmidt)

Eric Schmidt indeed said that but he also said a few more words afterwards which FairSearch “mistakenly” omitted: “…and not cross it.”

“[Google is] the biggest kingmaker on this Earth.” (Amit Singhal)

As before, FairSearch doesn’t show what Singhal said afterwards: “We deal with those responsibilities by having very concrete principles. All rankings are decided algorithmically, and the focus is on user benefit, not advertiser or commercial benefit.”

In addition, there are few ridiculous quotes of Larry Page and Sergey Brin from their 1998 Stanford Thesis, way before Google was the search engine it is today and I actually think they were referring to all other search engines of that time…

FairSearch Panel

On September 13th, FairSearch hosted a panel about (unsurprisingly) the search industry. Even more unsurprisingly, it was mostly a stage to slander Google and later on to publish a besmirching blog post about it. Luckily for fairness, Search Engine Land’s Danny Sullivan caught it. Here’s a list of everything that went wrong during this panel:

  • The panelist Professor Susan Athey claimed that Google doesn’t allow to choose a different default search engine on Android devices instead of Google, which is completely false. In fact, there are examples on the contrary.
  • FairSearch didn’t corrected that error on the post and only established it furthermore as the truth.
  • Google spokesman’s clarification about Professor Athey wrong claims during the panel never reached the blog post.
  • Professor Athey insinuated afterwards that trying to switch the default search engine from Google may result some sort of penalty (ban from Google Play), without any real basis for that statement.

FairSearch = Not Really Fair

To summarize, it looks like FairSearch has almost nothing with fairness, reliability or protecting the the consumers’ best interests. It also seems that its only objective is to ram Google on every opportunity it has while pretending to be unbiased and only serving the group members’ self-interests.