Should search engines be regulated?

July 19, 2010

Over the past few days, bloggers, SEO professionals and even The New York Times have weighed in on Google’s search algorithm and whether or not the government should regulate it to combat perceived favoritism in its search results. This got us thinking a bit, and we will present both sides of the issue and let you decide what should happen.

So, should search engines be regulated?

First, we have to keep in mind that Google started out solely as a search engine in 1998. Over the years, they have come to acquire various sites and online media such as YouTube, and have even incorporated their own mapping and local listing services. People feel that because of this, Google can manipulate search results to place their own affiliates at the top so more people use their services.

Screenshot of Google search results

As you can see from the above screenshot, the first thing to pop up on screen is a Google map with information from its local listings based on my search term. Suspicion mounts because Google does keep their algorithm ‘secret’ and people suspect foul play.

On the other side, it is Google’s mission to provide Internet users with the most relevant and useful results based on the keywords searched. One can argue that YouTube is the most popular video-sharing site on the Internet so it makes sense that searches for videos return YouTube results near the top.

If the search engine’s algorithm is made public, hackers will surely have a field day, doing what they can to permanently list their own sites on the top of results, which will corrupt the industry of search results.

What should happen now? Do we regulate the major search engines to prevent monopolies and expose the Internet to the end of searching, or leave it the way it is and risk being spoon-fed ‘relevant’ results that are all from one company?

Feel free to weigh in below in the comments.

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