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posted by hubie on Wednesday February 28, @05:49AM   Printer-friendly

Users are even more likely to stick with Google due to one change, says Yelp:

To comply with looming rules that ban tech giants from favoring their own services, Google has been testing new look search results for flights, trains, hotels, restaurants, and products in Europe. The EU's Digital Markets Act is supposed to help smaller companies get more traffic from Google, but reviews service Yelp says that when it tested Google's design tweaks with consumers it had the opposite effect—making people less likely to click through to Yelp or another Google competitor.

The results, which Yelp shared with European regulators in December and WIRED this month, put some numerical backing behind complaints from Google rivals in travel, shopping, and hospitality that its efforts to comply with the DMA are insufficient—and potentially more harmful than the status quo. Yelp and thousands of others have been demanding that the EU hold a firm line against the giant companies including Apple and Amazon that are subject to what's widely considered the world's strictest antitrust law, violations of which can draw fines of up to 10 percent of global annual sales.

"All the gatekeepers are trying to hold on as long as possible to the status quo and make the new world unattractive," says Richard Stables, CEO of shopping comparison site Kelkoo, which is unhappy with how Google has tweaked shopping results to comply with the DMA. "That's really the game plan."

Google spokesperson Rory O'Donoghue says the more than 20 changes made to search in response to the DMA are providing more opportunities for services such as Yelp to show up in results. "To suggest otherwise is plain wrong," he says. Overall, Google's tests of various DMA-inspired designs show clicks to review and comparison websites are up, O'Donoghue says—at the cost of users losing shortcuts to Google tools and individual businesses like airlines and restaurants facing a drop in visits from Google search. "We've been seeking feedback from a range of stakeholders over many months as we try to balance the needs of different types of websites while complying with the law," he says.

Google, which generates 30 percent of its sales from Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, views the DMA as disrespecting its expertise in what users want. Critics such as Yelp argue that Google sometimes siphons users away from the more reliable content they offer. Yelp competes with Google for advertisers but generated less than 1 percent of its record sales of $1.3 billion last year from outside the US. An increase in European traffic could significantly boost its business.


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  • (Score: 1, Insightful) by darkfeline on Wednesday February 28, @07:59AM (3 children)

    by darkfeline (1030) on Wednesday February 28, @07:59AM (#1346612) Homepage

    Did they consider the possibility that they are simply less desirable? Like when women complained about pay equity and after investigation it was found that men were underpaid.

    It's certainly possible that Google was favoring competitors to avoid potential anti-trust lawsuits.

    Be careful what you ask for.

    --
    Join the SDF Public Access UNIX System today!
    • (Score: 3, Touché) by epitaxial on Wednesday February 28, @05:21PM (2 children)

      by epitaxial (3165) on Wednesday February 28, @05:21PM (#1346666)

      Going to need some citations for that statement.

      • (Score: 2) by darkfeline on Thursday February 29, @04:10AM (1 child)

        by darkfeline (1030) on Thursday February 29, @04:10AM (#1346756) Homepage

        You must have been living under a rock.

        https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/04/technology/google-gender-pay-gap.html [nytimes.com]

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        Join the SDF Public Access UNIX System today!
        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 29, @09:03AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 29, @09:03AM (#1346768)

          Everywhere I've ever worked has that. As soon as they "equalize" the pay, women get paid the same for less work.
          One physical job was pretty explicit about it. Official company guidelines said to average three pallets an hour. Every manager from the top down knew that meant women had to do two and a half, men had to do three and a half. Men would get written up if they dropped as low as three. Women got warned when they were getting close to two.

  • (Score: 5, Funny) by driverless on Wednesday February 28, @11:47AM (2 children)

    by driverless (4770) on Wednesday February 28, @11:47AM (#1346626)

    It's Gotten Worse Since Google Made Changes to Comply With EU Rules

    should read:

    It's Gotten Worse Since Google Sabotaged Things to Spite the EU Rules

    There, FTFY.

    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by JoeMerchant on Wednesday February 28, @01:05PM (1 child)

      by JoeMerchant (3937) on Wednesday February 28, @01:05PM (#1346633)

      Malicious compliance with well-intentioned regulation is a tale as old as well-intentioned regulation.

      My personal favorite examples include: expiration dates, HIPAA, publicly reportable accounting.

      --
      🌻🌻 [google.com]
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 28, @02:54PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 28, @02:54PM (#1346644)

        I have seen mature corporations implode and die from the inside out due to micromanagement and complete failure of leadership to understand human nature. With their obsession with rank, privilege, and office politics, they see the worker bees as an easily replaceable minion, and soon no one actually does anything, as the art of delegation is valued more than the art of doing.

  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by pTamok on Wednesday February 28, @12:18PM (8 children)

    by pTamok (3042) on Wednesday February 28, @12:18PM (#1346630)

    I'm no fan of Alphabet/Google.

    However, if we are aiming for fair representation in search results, what does fair look like? Do we even know what we are aiming for?

    Do I want results solely in a particular language? Or from a particular country? Or a particular locality? Am I looking for something above or below a certain price point? Am I looking for facts or opinion? What kind of opinions do I prefer? Who determines what is fair, and do I agree with them?

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by JoeMerchant on Wednesday February 28, @01:18PM (6 children)

      by JoeMerchant (3937) on Wednesday February 28, @01:18PM (#1346635)

      > what does fair look like? Do we even know what we are aiming for?

      It's a fair question. I think the closest we could get to "fair" search results would come from a search company which:

      1) is not operated for profit

      2) is OPEN. Publicly accountable, auditable, algorithms not only published but clearly explained on an ongoing basis as they are developed, deep audits and summary critiques of algorithms published and linked from the algorithm selection guides.

      3) is built for user tailoring, not that every user would endlessly tweak their personal search profile, but a menu of profiles would be available and open source contributors would be able to extend the collection of search shaping algorithms. Users would be able to easily select their favorite algorithm(s) and use them from anywhere.

      You will know the job is being well done when for-profit advertising/search companies' search derived revenues have dropped more than 50%.

      I would advocate that such a system would be funded, at least in-part, by a voluntary opt-in advertising function which allows users to easily tailor the amount of tracking done on their search activity and types of advertising they are shown. There should also be a free e-mail system that does voluntary opt-in reading of your mail, text messaging and other forms of communication to provide helpful reminders - if you want them - for things like upcoming appointments, flights, bills due, etc.

      In short, I advocate for public takeover of the executive functions of Google to remove the evil they promised not to be and make give it a user serving feature set - and not this kind: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0734684/ [imdb.com]

      --
      🌻🌻 [google.com]
      • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Thexalon on Wednesday February 28, @01:35PM (5 children)

        by Thexalon (636) on Wednesday February 28, @01:35PM (#1346636)

        Publicly accountable, auditable, algorithms not only published but clearly explained on an ongoing basis as they are developed, deep audits and summary critiques of algorithms published and linked from the algorithm selection guides.

        Here's the problem with that: If I'm trying to push something up in the search results, knowing the algorithm completely teaches me exactly how to do that. Propagandists, advertisers, and other kinds of bullshit artists definitely would take advantage of this, if this were in fact the dominant search engine.

        --
        The only thing that stops a bad guy with a compiler is a good guy with a compiler.
        • (Score: 3, Interesting) by JoeMerchant on Wednesday February 28, @02:47PM (4 children)

          by JoeMerchant (3937) on Wednesday February 28, @02:47PM (#1346641)

          >If I'm trying to push something up in the search results, knowing the algorithm completely teaches me exactly how to do that

          So what we have today are "SEO researchers" who fill our search results with a bunch of their "research studies" that are just crap they use to decipher what the closed algorithms are doing... then we have the occasional search engineer who skips out of the company and sells their knowledge (against NDA, but who can prove?) to the highest bidders.

          >if this were in fact the dominant search engine.

          Diversity is part of the solution - a wide variety of search profiles such that SEO won't be working the same on all of them. If there are 100 "top" search algorithms with a good bit of diversity in how they work, then - if you like you could create a sort of "spread spectrum" algorithm which randomly selects one of those top 100 for each search.

          SEO is an arms race, and while black box search algorithms is one approach, I think white box with high diversity inside the box is a better approach in the long run.

          --
          🌻🌻 [google.com]
          • (Score: 2) by The Vocal Minority on Friday March 01, @05:51AM (3 children)

            by The Vocal Minority (2765) on Friday March 01, @05:51AM (#1346925) Journal

            Interesting posts. A couple of thoughts:

            I think having transparent algorithms is good for a whole host of reasons, however I don't think this alone solves the SEO problem (but it maybe a step in the right direction). SEO is driven by perverse incentives inherent in the system, so if you take away one target to optimise against it will just find another - in this case the hidden variable is the number of users of each algorithm so SEO, as well as deterministically calculating optimal solutions to each algorithm, will also try to estimate the number of users and optimise specifically to the more popular ones. It would be naive to think that the use of the search algorithms would not follow a power law distribution. "Solving" SEO will ultimately require the creation of a virtuous attractor (or attractors) that incentivise agents to continuously adapt to SEO strategies

            Also, modern search algorithms almost certainly include deep learning models, which are not inherently explainable, so transparency may be something of a moot point in some ways. I could foresee the creation of an adversarial SEO model that produces web page templates which are highly ranked by a specific search model!

            • (Score: 3, Interesting) by JoeMerchant on Friday March 01, @01:16PM (2 children)

              by JoeMerchant (3937) on Friday March 01, @01:16PM (#1346957)

              At some point I wonder if there's even a point in "defeating" SEO at all? If the users are finding what they are looking for, then game: over - whether the poster has SEO'ed or not.

              To this end, some (opt-in) user search performance surveillance would be in order. Firstly, if the user takes the time and effort to do so, they could rate the performance of the search results outright. Links they click on could get "star ratings" as to whether or not the link was what they were looking for, possibly in a few dimensions like the SN mod options, but more of a 0-5 stars for each option. Even when the user doesn't put in this rating, the search results can still be rated by how engaged the user was with each returned link's pages. These ratings would, of course, be tied to the algorithms and their tuning parameters that the results came from and the user's next search algorithms and parameters would be tweaked a bit based on their ongoing accumulation of search performance ratings and observations. You could go "Netflixy" on the algorithms and cluster "like users" together for some meta-optimization, showing some results that would be very interesting "to users like you."

              If the user has opted-in to allow some percentage of paid search results, those should be similarly ranked by interest and if the user is genuinely interested in the advertised content then it's a win-win scenario. Bots clicking on advertising links are a problem for the advertisers for sure, but no different than we face today I think.

              The main problem I see is a market dominated either by an openly obvious monopolist who decides for the users how much and what kind of advertising they are going to cram in their screens and speakers, or a virtual monopoly where all the providers act similarly and the end result for the user is little different than the single source provider. Having at least one user controlled provider adequately funded to provide serious competition to the rest would shape the whole market significantly into the users' benefit.

              --
              🌻🌻 [google.com]
              • (Score: 2) by The Vocal Minority on Sunday March 03, @05:12AM (1 child)

                by The Vocal Minority (2765) on Sunday March 03, @05:12AM (#1347175) Journal

                Yes, good point - perhaps it is a question of making SEO work for the search users instead of against them. I'm not quite as confident as you seem to be that SEO bot abuse of a rating system, such as the one you have proposed, would just be background noise, unless the system is used by so few people that setting up the bots would not be worthwhile for the SEO spammers. Forcing sign-up would make it easier to spot and ban the bots. Verifying users would be a more certain solution but results in privacy issues/implications.

                • (Score: 3, Interesting) by JoeMerchant on Sunday March 03, @01:13PM

                  by JoeMerchant (3937) on Sunday March 03, @01:13PM (#1347205)

                  It will always be an arms race to some extent, but most problematic bots should stand out from real users in several dimensions, so the "users like you" filter would be a strong tool, showing bots what bots seem to like, and real people a completely different set of results.

                  Real users might even like to receive 5% or so search results from the most popular results for bots (near the bottom of the second page for me, thanks.). After all, the bot runners are spending significant effort on their promotions, probably best to give them a little something in return for that effort.

                  --
                  🌻🌻 [google.com]
    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by crafoo on Wednesday February 28, @04:46PM

      by crafoo (6639) on Wednesday February 28, @04:46PM (#1346662)

      fairness is a subjective value judgement. Yelp might think things are unfair, but Yelp is trash and anything that buries them seems fair to me. Our governments should be legislating in the best interests of their respective nations. fairness should never enter into the conversation. The world is a battleground of competing interests and nothing will ever change that, never ever ever.

  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by progo on Wednesday February 28, @01:12PM

    by progo (6356) on Wednesday February 28, @01:12PM (#1346634) Homepage

    Louis Rossmann has documented how Yelp punishes businesses for not paying enough protection money.

    Google is also evil. Screw both companies.

  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Rosco P. Coltrane on Wednesday February 28, @01:37PM (4 children)

    by Rosco P. Coltrane (4757) on Wednesday February 28, @01:37PM (#1346637)

    that they can almost "naturally" counter anything anyone tries to limit their overreach.

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Freeman on Wednesday February 28, @02:47PM (3 children)

      by Freeman (732) on Wednesday February 28, @02:47PM (#1346642) Journal

      Perhaps, which is partly why I've been on duckduckgo for close to a decade now. The up side is that ddg feels like the old google. The one, before they polluted their search page. I remember using WebCrawler and was glad to switch to Google from that. Apparently WebCrawler never died, but has instead changed hands multiple times and most recently had a redesign from scratch. I assume the interface as opposed to the backend. I'm still not interested, though. DuckDuckGo is definitely my goto now and hopefully they keep doing what they're doing.

      --
      Joshua 1:9 "Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee"
      • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Wednesday February 28, @03:16PM (2 children)

        by JoeMerchant (3937) on Wednesday February 28, @03:16PM (#1346648)

        DDG comes as the default on Raspberry Pi OS, and it's good there for much of my use case so I leave it.

        The problem comes in with my "ecosystem" of bookmarks, site usernames and passwords, etc. which I don't get without "Chrome" proper as opposed to "Chromium". In switching Chrome from Google to DDG, I don't see a lot of improvement in overall user experience- once you're signed in to Chrome with your Google number of the beast, the experience is pretty similar either way.

        --
        🌻🌻 [google.com]
        • (Score: 3, Interesting) by fab23 on Wednesday February 28, @06:55PM (1 child)

          by fab23 (6605) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday February 28, @06:55PM (#1346688) Homepage Journal

          For search I also had used DuckDuckGo a long time, but about a month ago I started the trial with Kagi Search [kagi.com]. It seems that I do not search that often, as I still have close to half of the 100 free searches left. It is a payed service, but the search results are much better, I even found a bug report which helped me to solve the problem I had searched before with the error message which DDG did not show (the report was older then my previous search). So for me the Starter subscription will be worth it. I had hints for it a while ago, but then the recent posting Tim Bray: ‘Mourning Google’ [daringfireball.net] from John Gruber pushed me in trying it. Also their blog posting The Age of PageRank is Over [manifesto] [kagi.com] helped.

          The problem comes in with my "ecosystem" of bookmarks, site usernames and passwords, etc. which I don't get without "Chrome" proper as opposed to "Chromium".

          I am using Firefox since a long time with their sync of Bookmarks, History, Open Tabs, Passwords, Add-ons and (some) Settings. Can be used with the sync service from Mozilla or when you are adventures a custom sync server can be implemented on your own system. My old (outdated) installation guide is at Mozilla Custom Sync Server Installation on FreeBSD [wenks.ch], but I have added information and links to the current stuff on top. It is even possible to use the custom sync server with mobile Firefox, in Settings below in About tap 5 times onto the name / version number and it activates the debug mode and a custom sync server can be configured.

          • (Score: 2) by fab23 on Wednesday February 28, @08:04PM

            by fab23 (6605) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday February 28, @08:04PM (#1346701) Homepage Journal

            What I also like about Kagi is their open communication, like a public Changelog [kagi.com]. When I looked into the details of the Automatic Kagi Status Page Updates #2914 [kagifeedback.org] entry, I also spotted comments from vlad the founder and CEO of Kagi. Also the changelog and status site have RSS feeds available.

  • (Score: 2) by ShovelOperator1 on Wednesday February 28, @06:02PM

    by ShovelOperator1 (18058) on Wednesday February 28, @06:02PM (#1346676)

    Currently when I search with any engine, I rarely need a product. I usually need a solution. Sometimes information.
    Searches for products are one per... 100 maybe? Or even more rare as Google doesn't filter things geographically well, so there are better, local platforms to search for products.
    I get results showing me these, quote, "flights, trains, hotels, restaurants, and products", but I don't get any other results. I won't get a forum post written 6 years ago in which someone solves the problem. I won't get this blog post about various solutions, fourth search result in Wiby niche search engine. I won't get this strange "index of" listing full of TXT notes, and one of it has a solution's inner working described by some curious hacker.
    It looks like EU asked google for these things and Google did it, simultaneously derailing all other results with useful information, solutions and practical knowledge.

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