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Google Sued over Page Ranking 596

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the but-i-wanna-be-ranked-higher dept.
OrangeHairMan writes "Google.com is being sued by SearchKing.com because Google "purposefully devalued his companies' and his customers' web sites, causing his business to suffer financially." There's a page on SearchKing.com's site too." Does anyone besides me find this hilarious? My favorite part is that the name of the site is "Search King".
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Google Sued over Page Ranking

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  • Too Easy (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BoBaBrain (215786) on Monday October 21, 2002 @10:20AM (#4495057)
    Case closed. [google.com]
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 21, 2002 @11:18AM (#4495628)
      IT IS A PUBLICITY STUNT. Nothing else, "search king" has no real case. They are just making alot of noise to boost hits. hugh
    • Re:Too Easy (Score:5, Interesting)

      by tiedyejeremy (559815) on Monday October 21, 2002 @11:32AM (#4495777) Homepage Journal
      • Robert Massa:There is nothing wrong with wanting link popularity for your site and I'm saying there is nothing wrong with sending out email to people you don't know from Adam and trying to conduct business without the benefit of money, but there is also nothing wrong with paying for the value you perceive with cash. I call it doing business.
      I call it SPAM!!!!!!
      • Robert Massa: Maybe I really am the Internet anti-Christ for saying this, but here goes. I am a salesman. I sell things for a living. I get hired by my clients to sell things. That's what I do, I'm good at it and I make no apologies for it. If a cynical SEO uses the term "eke out cash" as a synonym for "make a sale," then yes, I am guilty.
      You are the anti-christ. Case Closed.
  • by silicon1 (324608) <david1@noSpaM.wolf-web.com> on Monday October 21, 2002 @10:21AM (#4495061) Homepage Journal
    search envy..
    • Re:they just have... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Midnight Thunder (17205) on Monday October 21, 2002 @10:48AM (#4495349) Homepage Journal
      Yep, SearchKings search algorithm doesn't work too well either. I put in the name of the company I work for (kept anonymous), and it didn't appear top. Given that the name of the company is two words I am suprised that it came up with references to the company, before it even listed the companies web site? Google shows the company's web site first. Hmm, try searching both sites for 'slashdot' for example.
  • by WittyName (615844) on Monday October 21, 2002 @10:21AM (#4495063)
    Name says it all. It is owned by google..

    They expect google to never change it? In return for what? Do they have ANY business relationship with google, other than the obviously parasitic one?!?

    FOAD..
  • Not so hillarious (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Perl-Pusher (555592) on Monday October 21, 2002 @10:21AM (#4495071)
    It's only funny if it gets thrown out of court, like it should. If they win or google settles, that would not be funny at all!
  • PlowKing? (Score:5, Funny)

    by RobL3 (126711) on Monday October 21, 2002 @10:22AM (#4495076)
    Ah... I always wondered what Homer did after the PlowKing fiasco....
    • Re:PlowKing? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 21, 2002 @10:26AM (#4495112)
      Barney Gumble ran Plow King. Homer ran the Mr. Plow business.

      Signed,
      Simpsons Nerd
    • by Gudlyf (544445)
      Everybody!

      "Call Mr. Search,
      that's my name.
      That name again
      is Mr. Search!"

      • by saider (177166) on Monday October 21, 2002 @10:55AM (#4495414)
        Lawyer tells Search King that Google is here to see them.

        Google : Mr. Simpson?

        Search King: You don't look so rich...

        Google: Don't let the haircut fool you, I am exceedingly wealthy.

        Search King: [quietly to the lawyer] Get a load of the bowl-job!

        Google: Your Internet ad was brought to my attention, but I can't figure out what, if anything, Search King does, so rather than risk competing with you, I've decided simply to buy you out.

        Search King and their Lawyer quietly discuss this proposal.

        Search King: I reluctantly accept your proposal!

        Google: Well everyone always does. Buy 'em out, boys!

        [Googles' lackeys trash the room.]

        Search King: Hey, what the hell's going on!

        Google: Oh, I didn't get rich by writing a lot of checks! [insane laughter]

    • by poopsie (320177) on Monday October 21, 2002 @10:46AM (#4495328)
      When your search rank is a fallin'
      There's a man you should be callin'
      That's KL5-4796,
      Let it ring!

      Mr. Google is a loser,
      And I think he is a boozer,
      So you better make that call to the Search King!

      In Spanish too!

      Senor Google no es macho,
      Es solamente un borracho
    • Re:PlowKing? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mikeage (119105)
      First, the Plow King was Barney (Homer was Mr. Plow). Second, we know Homer founded compuglobalhypermeganet, as well as the infamous Mr. X website. Third, get a life (self referencial)
  • by irc.goatse.cx troll (593289) on Monday October 21, 2002 @10:22AM (#4495077) Journal
    How stupid do you have to be to think you have a chance suing google over improving their technology?
    Oh, wait, this is the same company that sold placement on a site they didnt have any rights to..I think I just answered my question
    • How stupid do you have to be to think you have a chance suing google over improving their technology

      Isn't that what the DOJ did to Microsoft?

      Trolls aside, Search King is claiming that Google used their dominant market position (in web searches) to shut down a competitor (Search King) in a different market (advertising).

      Their actual case is absurdly weak, but it isn't nearly as crazy as some people are suggesting.
      • by jdcook (96434) on Monday October 21, 2002 @11:31AM (#4495770)
        "Trolls aside, Search King is claiming that Google used their dominant market position (in web searches) to shut down a competitor (Search King) in a different market (advertising)."

        I think you are saying that the thrust of their claim is antitrust. I think this is correct (NOT their claim itself; merely the divination of what their claim is) and they are attempting to argue that Google is an "essential facility." They can't claim breach of contract since they don't have one (although I'm sure Google is going to argue, if it comes to that, that SearchKing is in breach of the toolbar TOS). They do not appear to be claiming tortious interference. Their argument appears to boil down to "something happened at Google that changed our Page Rank and that's unfair so make them stop." This is sort of an "essential facility" argument. But to have even a small chance of prevailing it must first be established that Google is a monopoly. I think this is going to get tossed on a 12(b)(6) motion.

  • by red_dragon (1761) on Monday October 21, 2002 @10:22AM (#4495078) Homepage

    Since they already seem to be in the financial doldrums, it is a good time for them to change their name. I suggest: Suc King.

  • by larien (5608) on Monday October 21, 2002 @10:23AM (#4495088) Homepage Journal
    you gotta love it:

    SearchKing, Oklahoma's premiere parasitic link-farm

    vs

    SearchKing is one of the pioneers in developing portal and search engine software and services

    Guess which report has which statement? :)

  • by LordKariya (195696) on Monday October 21, 2002 @10:24AM (#4495093)
    Can google not do whatever the hell it wants with its own site ? If google wants to give sites with the word "Sluts" a +90% page rank... it's perfectly free to do so. The "Whores" have no right to complain.

  • PageRank.c (Score:5, Funny)

    by CaffeineAddict2001 (518485) on Monday October 21, 2002 @10:24AM (#4495094)
    // Screw you search king!!
    if(q[i]="Searchking") {
    q[i].rank = q.bottom - 1
    }
  • by blitzoid (618964) on Monday October 21, 2002 @10:24AM (#4495095) Homepage
    "In a much-too-common case of a big organization monopolizing the marketplace, an Oklahoma City e-news company is taking its battle with Internet- giant Google, Inc. to the courts." Yeah, fight the power. I wasn't aware google was a 'monopolizing giant'. Let's home the DOJ takes them down!
  • by jmacgill (547996) on Monday October 21, 2002 @10:24AM (#4495099) Homepage
    As a direct result of this /. and other sites linking to SearchKing to run this story the page rank(tm) on goolge will fly up. (given that its based, in some way, on the number of sites that link to a page)

    SearchKing will then be able to say, "ha we complained and google fixed it!"

    • As it should, but I think (hope) that Google is more sophisticated than that. It will go up for queries like "google law suit", not for anything SearchKing cares about.

    • by WEFUNK (471506)
      The trick will be to get this Slashdot article to be ranked just one higher so perhaps a few of the people dumb enough to think about paying this leach will Google him first and find out what a scam it is. Of course anyone with half a brain who reads this guys very own press release should be able to figure it out:

      "In August 2002, PR Ad Network began placing text ads for businesses on web sites with a high PageRank from Google, thereby becoming one of very few competitors to Google's advertising service."

      Right. That's like saying an autobody shop competes with Ford and then has the right to sue when Ford switches from sheet metal to plastic or that a used Ford dealer is a competitor to Ford that can sue Ford if they starts discounting new cars or discontinuing models. What an idiot.
      • A better analogy (Score:4, Interesting)

        by WEFUNK (471506) on Monday October 21, 2002 @11:03AM (#4495490) Homepage
        Sorry to reply to my own comment, but I feel like I gave this guy way too much credit.

        An even better analogy to the description he uses in his own press release is that of a car thief that specializes in stealing and stripping Hondas announcing that he's one of Honda's few competitors, and that he has the right to sue Honda if they improve their alarms and anti-theft devices.
    • by darksaber (46072) on Monday October 21, 2002 @11:12AM (#4495567)
      What they don't realize is that their ranking probably went down because they changed their own link structure. If they read the published PageRank papers, they would have know that this would happen. In essence, they devalued themselves as a hub/portal page when they added links for unrelated ads which would naturally bring down their ranking. Any upswing in ranking would be because more incoming links are "assigning authority" to them.
  • IIRC, (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 21, 2002 @10:24AM (#4495100)
    IIRC, these guys were previously featured in a Slashdot article for taking advantage of their relatively high standing in the pagerank algorithms by selling prominent links on theif front to the highest bidders for the express purpose of raising their rank in the search results?
  • by LordYUK (552359) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [128thgirwffej]> on Monday October 21, 2002 @10:25AM (#4495105)
    Okay, SearchKing (that is soooo cheesy, IMHO) is a search engine, correct? And Google is a Search Engine too, right? Does Toyota advertise for Honda? Is there something here I missed, or is this whole thing just plain stupid?

    I mean, really, this guy/company is stupid. Of course, "no publicity is bad publicity", just look at Acclaim...
    • by JabberWokky (19442) <slashdot.com@timewarp.org> on Monday October 21, 2002 @10:34AM (#4495201) Homepage Journal
      No. SearchKing is a 'service' that says they will improve your score on search engines like Google. They do this by trying to exploit the algorithms of engines like the Google PageRank system. So Google updated their algorithm to prevent the abuse.

      It's a bit like Captain Midnight suing HBO. Very bizarre.

      --
      Evan

    • by cfulmer (3166) on Monday October 21, 2002 @10:41AM (#4495269) Homepage Journal
      My view of what's happening is that SearchKing is in the business of artificially inflating the ranks of their customers on google.com. Google has noticed this and has taken steps to un-inflate those ranks. SearchKing sues of the basis of Tortious Interference (ie they claim that google.com is interfering with a business relationship.)

      The claim is pretty bogus because it's sort of like saying "Our company advertises your company by writing grafitti on subway walls. We're suing the subway owners who keep cleaning up the grafitti."

  • His customers? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TechnoLust (528463) <`kai.technolust' `at' `gmail.com'> on Monday October 21, 2002 @10:25AM (#4495107) Homepage Journal
    So, is this a pay search engine, or are people paying him to rank their sites higher? If so, then everyone else with a web page should sue search king for "purposefully devaluing" their sites.
    • by Quixotic Raindrop (443129) on Monday October 21, 2002 @10:32AM (#4495189) Journal
      D000d! That is such a good idea!

      I can see it now: "The New York Times is reporting that a Class-action lawsuit filed in San Jose, California, demands that internet search engine SearchKing repay millions in lost revenue to all sites not indexed by SearchKing, because its lawsuit against Google caused an upswing in hits for SearchKing-related websites, which drove customers away from the plantiff's websites. In a related note, a lawsuit filed in federal court in New York today by businesses which are indexed by SearchKing, demanding that SearchKing sue Northern Light, AltaVista, Yahoo, and all other internet search engines to require that SearchKing hits be listed first in all returned search results."

      They can't be serious. They CAN'T be f*****g serious. People wonder why innovation in this country is at a standstill virtually everywhere ... (commercially, anyway).
  • Searchking (Score:5, Funny)

    by seanmeister (156224) on Monday October 21, 2002 @10:25AM (#4495108) Homepage
    Is it just me, or does "SearchKing" sound like Popeye attempting to say "searching"?
  • by mydigitalself (472203) on Monday October 21, 2002 @10:26AM (#4495115)
    just wondering how much loot our frinds google have. it's becoming a more common occurance to see their name involved in stupid lawsuits such as this; clearly they either have to pay laywers or give in - giving in would ruin the integrity we've come to love and respect. surely this is hurting google?
  • by surprise_audit (575743) on Monday October 21, 2002 @10:26AM (#4495122)
    Here's hoping the judge dislikes banner ads and popups as intensely as the rest of us:

    SearchKing: We sell banner ads based on...
    Judge: Case dismissed.
    SearchKing: But, but, but...
    Judge: You want to pay the defendant's costs? Great! Keep talking.

  • by Kusanagi (108244) on Monday October 21, 2002 @10:27AM (#4495127)
    I was thinking along the same lines when LawMeme said "The King does have a point: when your "business" consists of shoplifting and the corner store installs a security camera, you're going to go out of business quickly enough that an injunction is your only hope."
  • Baseless claim (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Drizzten (459420) on Monday October 21, 2002 @10:28AM (#4495150) Homepage
    Bob Massa, president of SearchKing., Inc. and PR Ad Network, filed a lawsuit today against Google on the grounds the organization arbitrarily and purposefully devalued his companies' and his customers' web sites, causing his business to suffer financially. Massa is asking that the court grant preliminary and permanent injunctions against Google.


    SearchKing began business as an Internet search engine and web hosting company in 1997, approximately a year before Google's inception. In August 2002, PR Ad Network began placing text ads for businesses on web sites with a high PageRank from Google, thereby becoming one of very few competitors to Google's advertising service. According to the lawsuit, once Google became aware of this, it lowered SearchKing's PageRank and the ranking of the web sites it hosts.

    PageRank (PR) is a Google-developed system of determining the value of a particular website. The PR of a site, which ranges from one to 10 (10 being the highest), is displayed publicly on each site visited through the use of the Google tool bar, which can be down loaded to any computer for free, PR value is determined several ways, including calculating the number of web pages (links) pointing to a particular page and how relevant they are to the topic at hand.

    "From February of 2001 to last month, SearchKing's PageRank was seven" Massa said. "Within 30 days of launching PR Ad Network's services, our PageRank dropped to four"

    Due to the high value associated with PR, Massa claims in his lawsuit that the purposeful reduction of SearchKing and its related web sites' rankings has damaged the company's reputation and diminished its value.

    [...]

    "This action by Google clearly demonstrates the free-trade threat that now faces all businesses with an Internet presence," Massa said. "If using the PageRank were a threat to Google, why would they release it to the public? In many ways, our use of PageRank serves only to validate the system."
    This isn't a threat to free trade. Real threats to free trade come from government intervention and business fraud. Google, for reasons it choose on it's own (or maybe even through automated processes out of it's day-to-day monitoring), changed the rank of some webpages. This affected advertising revenue...but there is no mention of any contract among Google, SearchKing, and PR Ad Network formally laying out some mutually-beneficial binding system. This suit seems more like a grasping of straws rather than a serious case.
  • by Hayzeus (596826) on Monday October 21, 2002 @10:29AM (#4495152) Homepage
    Maybe the point of all this is twofold:

    1) Make sure Google is faced with the possibility that it might have to reveal the details of its page ranking algorithm in open court. Might make for a quick settlement.

    2) Quick publicity for Search King! They consider themselves a publicity company, after all.

    Makes perfect sense to me, especially if you can get an attorney willing to take the gamble. Given the current glut of attorneys, this wouldn't seem to be much of an obstacle.

  • SearchKing... of ads (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Diclophis (203740) on Monday October 21, 2002 @10:31AM (#4495171) Homepage
    results for "php" on searchking [searchking.com] Note that the first page of results has nuthin to do with php, or its development, hell it doesnt even return php.net (php's homepage). Meanwhile Google's results [google.com] return very informational and useful sites, and clearly define which results are paid for. I suppose this is just a window into the obviuos.
    • by scott1853 (194884) on Monday October 21, 2002 @10:49AM (#4495358)
      You're surprised? I'm going to get sued for posting their proprietary searching technology, but here's the source for the SearchKing algorithms:

      SELECT * FROM LinksTable ORDER BY AmountPaid DESC
    • by wirefarm (18470) <jim&mmdc,net> on Monday October 21, 2002 @11:45AM (#4495901) Homepage
      I just searched for MMDC (my own site) on SearchKing and the results seemed to be lifted directly from Google:
      Google's index of my site:

      MMDC Tokyo :: Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so. - Douglas ...
      Aug 29, 2002 - 11:43 PM, MMDC Tokyo, Time is an illusion.
      Lunchtime doubly so. - Douglas Adams, Main Menu. ...
      mmdc.net/ - 47k - Cached - Similar pages

      SearchKing's:

      MMDC Tokyo :: Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so. - Douglas ...
      Aug 29, 2002 - 11:43 PM, MMDC Tokyo, Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so. - Douglas Adams, Main Menu. ...

      What are the odds that they both crawled my site at exactly the same minute on the same day?

      These clowns are pathetic.

      Cheers,
      Jim

  • Hillarious? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by FreeLinux (555387) on Monday October 21, 2002 @10:31AM (#4495172)
    No, it's pathetic that Google actually will have to waste money defending against such a frivolous suite. I did find this funny though...

    on the grounds the organization arbitrarily and purposefully devalued his companies' and his customers' web sites

    So, it was an arbitrary ranking, that purposefully targeted him and his customers? I would have thought that arbitrary and purposeful targeting would be mutually exclusive.

    I guess he never gave any thought to the possibility that his work sucks. It's always somebody else's fault, isn't it?
  • Fuckers! (Score:5, Funny)

    by mosch (204) on Monday October 21, 2002 @10:32AM (#4495191) Homepage
    This is shocking. I bet Google will have the gall to claim that they were only making these changes so that the most relevant results are listed, instead of admitting the truth, that they were attempted to destroy the very reputable SearchKing. Now how are on-line casino owners supposed to make themselves the top results for searches like 'Britney Spears Naked', or 'Busty Ladies'.

    Clearly, this is a move by Google designed to hurt not only SearchKing, but the general consumer!

  • by mustangdavis (583344) on Monday October 21, 2002 @10:35AM (#4495216) Homepage Journal
    for using Google's good name for free advertising!

    Is it just me, or does this wreak of a cheap PR campaign for SearchKing?

    Has anyone even heard of searchking before this article?

    Maybe searchking will be able to sell enough casino ads to pay Google for the rights to use thier name in a pointless law suit that is really just a cheap advertising campaign!

    Two words for the wonderful people at Google : COUNTER SUIT!!!
  • by Salamanders (323277) on Monday October 21, 2002 @10:36AM (#4495222)
    So at what point (if any) could Google be considered part of the infrastructure of the Web... If they just outright stopped linking to a given site, is that still their right? Could they ever get widely enough used that it would no longer be their right to arbitrarily influence page rankings? (I see a whole fleet of lawsuits lining up unless the Judge slams this one hard...)
  • Learning is fun (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Sunkist (468741) on Monday October 21, 2002 @10:40AM (#4495261) Homepage
    From SearchKing press release [searchking.com]

    Bob Massa, president of SearchKing., Inc. and PR Ad Network, filed a lawsuit today against Google on the grounds the organization arbitrarily and purposefully devalued his companies' and his customers' web sites, causing his business to suffer financially. Massa is asking that the court grant preliminary and permanent injunctions against Google.

    Hate to tell you Bob, an action cannot be arbitrarily ("determined by chance") and purposefully ("intentional") committed.

    Way to go you...CEO!

  • by KjetilK (186133) <.kjetil. .at. .kjernsmo.net.> on Monday October 21, 2002 @10:44AM (#4495301) Homepage Journal
    Well, Searchking's business model consists of making people pay them to spam google for them, by making non-paid documents coming up lower. What Searchking doesn't get is that I'm not interested in being spammed by their customers, I'm interested in good search results. It is comforting to see that Google penalizes sites that tries such tactics, because it means that I get better search results. Go Google!
  • What an ego! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Ibag (101144) on Monday October 21, 2002 @10:46AM (#4495322)
    Due to the high value associated with PR, Massa claims in his lawsuit that the purposeful reduction of SearchKing and its related web sites' rankings has damaged the company's reputation and diminished its value.

    If SearchKing had been the only site whose pagerank changed, I might say they had a case. Unfortunately, several sites [slashdot.org] had their rankings changed by the new algorithm. It doesn't appear to have been a systematic attack directed only at him.

    The following quote made me burst out laughing:
    Massa explained [...], "High PageRanks don't come easily. The webmaster had to do a lot of work to get enough people linking to him to give him that ranking. They deserve to be paid for that effort."

    They found a way to cheat the system and cause google to give results that overvalue their pagerank, and it took effort to implement it for new pages. Because cheating the system isn't easy, they deserve to be paid? I just don't get it.
  • by clark625 (308380) <clark625NO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Monday October 21, 2002 @10:46AM (#4495325) Homepage

    The plaintiff (Search King) actually wants a jury trial. Granted, this is Oklahoma and not big-city New York and all; but one has to believe that Google has many clients there. And no matter how back-woods you get, people just hate those nasty people who are responsible for banner ads, annoying links, and all that jaz. Seems to me that Google won't have any problems.


    Then again, we're only talking about $75,000 in damages alleged. That's not a lot of money, and Google might do well to just settle the case for around $50,000 or so (without admitting fault or altering their page rank system). Yeah, yeah, I know that it's all "about the point of the matter" and if Google gives in to one company they will look weak and all that. But there's a cost asociated with fighting the complaint, too. And sending attornies to Oklahoma all the time just to spend an hour or two in the court room to hash out every little piece of evidence seems silly. It just gets way too expensive, and settling isn't always a bad option. Sometimes you can spend a fortune proving you're right only to find that it cost you much more in the long run (sometimes even the core business due to the legal fees). Seems like a waste of precious time to me, when Google should be doing what it's best at--search engine technology. I'd almost hate to see them fight this with the risk of losing focus on the core business itself.

  • Hey look! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by FreeLinux (555387) on Monday October 21, 2002 @10:51AM (#4495376)
    SearchKing has forums [searchking.com]. I like this post [searchking.com] best. It is from the SearchKing himself, Bob King. It is a defense of his actions. It seems that he's taking heat for this on his own site.

    Care to give him your take on it?
    • Re:Hey look! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by leviramsey (248057) on Monday October 21, 2002 @11:44AM (#4495897) Journal

      Holy shit. Mr. King is even stupider than I originally thought. I'll let him speak for himself.

      Does an unspoken contract exist between search services and webmasters that allow a search engine to legally build it's business using the content of webmasters without express permission?

      It's called robots.txt. Learn it. Use it.

      Those are just a few of the questions that I personally believe every search service on the net may be liable for. These are questions that have never been asked. There is no precedence for and they have never been challenged. Now we all live with an internet that is riddled with mistrust, misconceptions and misunderstandings. It is a shame.

      Oh, so now you want to destroy search engines themselves. Except for yours. Yeah... um... riiiiiight...

      For the sake of time and in consideration of limited finanacial resources, this case has to be about only one or two things at this time. I can't sue on behalf of all the portals. I don't have permission from everyone. It seems that most people are forgetting that SK is one thing and the portals are something else. It seems no one wants to see that the portals are all independent, but no matter what anyone sees, they are independent and that would have to be something more like a class action suit and I'm not even sure what that entails and could die a happy man if I never have to learn.

      So not even your link spamming buddies are willing to support you. You know you've got it bad when even the pr0n sites and casinos that googlebomb look down on you.

  • by Lothar+0 (444996) on Monday October 21, 2002 @10:54AM (#4495406) Homepage
    I figured that Homer had a new business plan after compuglobalhypermeganet was sabatoged by Gates and his goons.
  • The King is Screwed (Score:4, Interesting)

    by forged (206127) <soltesz.gmail@com> on Monday October 21, 2002 @11:02AM (#4495476) Homepage Journal
    In a very good interview [pandia.com] CEO Robert Massa says: "[...] We do not own the Websites and we have no influence over Google, who publicly publishes the PageRank of Websites through the use of their own toolbar, so we have no way of knowing what might happen later".

    Right there, you said it King. You have no way to control someone else's own business. If you don't like it, fcsk you.

    Later he goes on saying, "In the event the PR of a page with an ad changed, we would simply adjust the pricing or adjust where the ad was being displayed at the advertisers request."

    I suppose you will sell your services at a real low price, very shortly :)

  • by XaXXon (202882) <xaxxon@ g m ail.com> on Monday October 21, 2002 @11:07AM (#4495519) Homepage
    From the SearchKing (can anyone say that with a straight face?) press release regarding the suit (bold font added):

    Bob Massa, president of SearchKing., Inc. and PR Ad Network, filed a lawsuit today against Google on the grounds the organization arbitrarily and purposefully devalued his companies' and his customers' web sites, causing his business to suffer financially. Massa is asking that the court grant preliminary and permanent injunctions against Google.

    from dictionary.com:
    arbitrary - Determined by chance, whim, or impulse, and not by necessity, reason, or principle
    purposeful - Having a purpose; intentional

    From what I can tell, it's pretty tough to do something arbitrarily and purposefully.

    I wanted to go back and read more of the page.. but it seems that this web hosting site has been /.'d.. I think that's about my daily recommended dose of irony for the day...
  • by AaronStJ (182845) <AaronStJ@nOSPam.gmail.com> on Monday October 21, 2002 @11:09AM (#4495542) Homepage
    Next, Searchking will be suing slashdot.org for purposely and arbitrarily lauching a devious attack on the website that prevented their customers from accessing it.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 21, 2002 @11:09AM (#4495544)
    I met this Bob guy (Mr. Searchking) in Vegas a year or two ago (at an Internet marketing conference, yes) - he's a cool guy, funny, and actually had intelligent advice to give.

    I think the point he is trying to make is that Google is inherently a commercial entity as they provide business referrals. They also value those referral sources relative to one another, and that value determines the number of referrals they are able to push.

    Bob King decided to buy/sell pagerank as a commodity, since it has value, and is there. Very American no?

    When Bob did this, Google decided to lower the value of his site. What Bob is arguing is that Google did this arbitrarily, not naturally, and that his business (which was in the business, I presume, of convincing people they can attain a high pagerank on google for you, you know Search Engine Optimization) is damaged by being assigned a low pagerank. Which obviously it is. I wouldn't hire and SEO firm with a PR of 4, and neither would you anyone with a clue. Bob knows this.

    In a way Bob has a point, if not a case within that point.

  • I did a search on SearchKing to find out why it sucks [searchking.com], but none of the hits were relevant. I guess that's why SearchKing sucks!

    But wait, there's more! I searched for the same thing in Google and found this site [searchking.com], which is part of SearchKing. It may not explain why SearchKing sucks, but I think it might answer the question, "What are these guys smoking?"
  • by phorm (591458) on Monday October 21, 2002 @11:17AM (#4495620) Journal
    Try looking up "Internet Search" on this site.
    Hmmm, no link to google on page 1
    How about page 2, um, nope

    Oh the irony - phorm
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 21, 2002 @11:18AM (#4495630)
    Sadly, there are plenty of other companies like SearchKing out there practicing a wide variety of techniques to achieve higher search listings purely for marketing purposes. The whole attitude of the search engine optimisation industry is that the only thing that matters is how high their own sites (or those of their customers) rank.... quality search results are irrelevant.

    It's sad to see that a technology which started out as such a revolutionary way for users to find information is being so corrupted by those who don't care about the primary reason people use search engines, which is to find the information most relevant to them.

    Google is leading the way in providing the high quality results, in contrast to the majority of the other major search engines who willingly compromose the quality of their service for advertising purposes, and for that I respect google highly. I can only hope that they will continue to fight these sorts of activies by improving their technology to effectively prevent search engine spamming becoming a more serious problem, and they are certainly doing a great job of this so far.

    The whole search engine optimization industry sickens me. I wish these people would put their efforts towards more useful endevours such as improving the quality of content on sites, or making them better organised/easier to navigate/more accessible. These are the real problems that need to be solved, and will be of actual benefit to end-users.

  • by ClarkEvans (102211) on Monday October 21, 2002 @11:19AM (#4495639) Homepage
    Not that I think PageKing has any ground to stand on, but I do think that it would be great if there was some sort of court certification that Google's ranking mechanism is in fact unbiased as it is claimed by their Marketing and PR. That is, that there isn't code like:

    If domain is 'pageking' Then
    PageRank = 0
    End If

    Truth in advertising is a good thing. Now, for those claiming government intervention is bad (or that it is Google's algorithem and they can do with it as they please) there are two facts: (a) Google claims that it is a unbiased algorithem, (b) People depend upon this claim when using the service. Thus, while Google is free to change their algoirhtem, they should be constrained to do so in accordance with what they have advertised. Just like when I order a product I expect it to operate as advertised.

    So, I'm hopeful that the court case goes forward and that it can set a precident that on-line services can be challenged if someone thinks that it operates with a different spirit than as advertised. That said, I also hope the Judge awards Google appropriate attorney fees after Google wins.
    not that I htink P
  • by Ashurbanipal (578639) on Monday October 21, 2002 @11:22AM (#4495668)
    "When your site it gets no linkage
    and your hit count shows some shrinkage
    dig for 209.217.135.144
    send a ping!

    Mr. Google is a loser,
    And I think he is a boozer,
    So you better make that call to the Search King!"

    Hey Barney, what about a Spanish version:

    "Senor Google no es macho,
    Es solamente un borracho..."

    --Linda
  • "Devalued"? *snort* (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Charles Kerr (568574) on Monday October 21, 2002 @11:32AM (#4495775) Homepage
    According to their PR release [searchking.com], SearchKing's been around since 1997 and is located in Oklahoma City.

    I've been yahooing/altavista-ing/metacrawling/googling (in that order, chronologically) since 1997, and lived in Oklahoma City since then, and I've never heard of these people before now.

    I suspect they've got a lot of work ahead of them to prove devaluation. :)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 21, 2002 @11:37AM (#4495819)

    Here's what I posted in my web log [sooke.bc.ca] when this story broke a couple days ago:

    SearchKing runs an elaborate baiting scheme of fake Web pages that link to each other, to try to convince the Google robot to rank its clients' pages higher than you or I would think the pages deserve. Google updated its algorithm to better resist the scheme. SearchKing loses money because of that; SearchKing sues.

    I think this is actually less clear-cut than it sounds. SearchKing are bad actors - they were trying to cheat, they don't have a right to do that, it's okay for Google to tweak its algorithms to avoid them, that much is clear. However: what everyone is going to say about this is that Google is a private company and they have a free-speech right to rank pages however the heck they want, and I'm not sure that's actually true. I think there could be situations (not this one, but) where it would be okay for a company to sue Google for ranking them too low.

    The reason is that Google is in a monopoly position. Let me say that again: Google is in a monopoly position. It really is. If your Web site gets delisted by Google, or penalized by Google's page ranking algorithm, you don't have the option of saying, "Oh, well, people will find us in some other search engine." It doesn't work that way - everyone uses Google, and if you're not in Google, you're nowhere. Just like everyone uses Microsoft Windows, and if you can't run under Microsoft Windows, you can't run anywhere. Linux, sure, but if you can't run under Windows, you can't run in a large enough number of places that you have a big problem if you were counting on running under Windows. The Google monopoly is actually more solid than Microsoft's because it's not tied to specific independent companies (Intel, etc.) for support.

    Google's monopoly means that it does not have complete freedom to rank things however the heck it wants to, the way a smaller search engine might. Google has responsibilities that come from its monopoly. Microsoft cannot legally design its operating system to deliberately screw up its competitors' applications. (Okay, they do that, but they do it illegally.) Google, similarly, should not be allowed to tweak its ranking algorithm in ways that are sneaky and bad. I don't think that penalizing SearchKing is sneaky and bad... but it's easy to imagine that Google could do things that would be sneaky and bad. We just have to trust them not to, and that gives me the willies, especially because Google could do all kinds of things that we'd never know about.

    For instance, Google could decide to advocate a political party, and rank that party's pages higher than others, always. Maybe if you searched "Democrat" you would get the Republican anti-Democrat site before the actual Democrat site. (I name U.S. parties because it's more plausible that Google would care about them.) They have plausible deniability, because they could claim that the ranking comes from an objective ranking scheme based on how many links there are, and "Oh, well, I guess there were a whole lot of links to the Republican Web site". That would be sneaky and bad. Google has already shown a willingness to tamper with their search results for reasons that have nothing to do with page relevance, in the xenu.net affair [sooke.bc.ca]. Granted they were between a rock and a hard place on that one, legally, but I'm not sure they made the right decision, and it's a step that puts them on a slippery slope.

    Suppose Google quietly made a site disappear; or, better yet, they just make it appear a few notches lower on the list than it otherwise would. That's a very real harm to the site because people only look at the top few links in the search results; losing one position on the list translates into a loss of a large amount of mindshare. If it was a small site that would normally appear low on the list anyway, would we ever know there was manipulation going on? That's why Google's monopoly frightens me - PageRank is secret, we can tell that overall it seems to work fairly, but they could make a large number of individual exceptions to fair ranking and we, the users, would just chalk that up to "Oh, the algorithm isn't perfect". Google could manipulate its results a whole lot and we would have no way of knowing. We just have to trust Google to be honest. Just like we have to trust censorware companies not to put their political and social agendas into the blocking lists. You know how far I trust censorware companies.

    I don't think that Google is abusing its monopoly yet - certainly not in the SearchKing case and probably not anywhere else either. But I do think Google has a monopoly, I do think that monopolies are very dangerous, and I think the Google monopoly needs to be watched. I don't think we should be fooled by their open-source heritage and their cute holiday graphics and so on. Google is a large U.S. corporation that's making a lot of money from their monopoly on an important part of the computing business, we have very little way of knowing whether they are acting honestly, and they have incentives to act dishonestly. This is a dangerous situation. Who will be the Linux to Google's Microsoft?

    Oh, and hey, they decided they wanted everyone to come to them first for Internet news reporting too. When Conrad Black did that with Canadian news papers, a lot of us were kind of concerned; but when it's the Web, and it's Google, it's all good, and we all like it, because Google Is Cool. Don't say I didn't warn you.

  • by Charles Kerr (568574) on Monday October 21, 2002 @11:52AM (#4495961) Homepage
    I'd never heard of SearchKing before, so I did a little karmawhor^H^H^H^H^H^H^Hdigging with, erm, a search engine which will remain nameless... :)

    From Salon's [salon.com] Aug 2002 article Meet Mr. Anti-Google [salon.com]:

    Why would somebody pay $69 a month for an ad on maps.searchking.com, a PageRank 7 site? Because they think they know how Google works: If you get a link from an important site, your own site becomes more important. You don't pay the $69 for the clicks you might get from all the visitors to maps.searchking.com -- you pay it to get a higher rank in Google.

    In an interview, Massa didn't come right out and say he is trying to sell higher rankings in Google. "I'm just saying that sites with high page rank have a huge perception of value, and if you want to pay more for that I'm not going to talk you out of it," he said. "When they put it on the toolbar and made it public, they must have known it's going to become a currency."

    [snip]

    Sullivan, of Search Engine Watch, says that Massa's is the first program he's seen that has been so "brazen about selling page rank" -- and he doesn't think it's going to work, especially since Google knows about the program.

    From this Sept 5 2002 story Engine Trouble [guardian.co.uk] in the Guardian [guardian.co.uk]:

    As [google] has become celebrated for taking users directly to the information they want, though, a question has emerged in the minds of internet entrepreneurs who are no longer the recipients of millions of easy dollars: could it be manipulated for much-needed profit? One of Google's advantages has always been its refusal to sell placements in its rankings to the highest bidder, but the PageRank system, some argue, has its loopholes. Because Google measures how many pages link to a site, what if you set up thousands of web pages solely for the purpose of linking to one commercial site?

    Some have accused Bob Massa, proprietor of a "search optimisation" service called Searchking, of doing just that. "All I want is for webmasters with small sites to get rewarded fairly," he says. "This is a chance to see that those guys get visitors and put up good content. Google wants good content. I can't see any problem."

  • by blastedtokyo (540215) on Monday October 21, 2002 @11:52AM (#4495964)
    According to this page [bizreport.com] Google has a 55.1% search share as of Oct 17th. When you throw in that Google runs Aol searches that brings them up to 58.6%. And before June 2002 they were running Yahoo's searches (20.6%).

    If they get back up to that 79% number and hold it for any length of time, legally, that makes them a monopoly. No matter how much we may like Google today, it's a lot of power for one search engine to be able to have. It seems like a matter of time if they keep gaining share before they start abusing that power. Microsoft was innovating when they were at war against 1-2-3 and Wordperfect just as Google is today against Overture. With AskJeeves, Inktomi and Altavista looking like they'll go away soon, we will see Google to keep 'innovating ' making the little guys not show up in their search engine anymore?

    As much as we may love them now, remember who they're trying to serve: their venture (vulture) capitalists.

  • by Animats (122034) on Monday October 21, 2002 @11:59AM (#4496020) Homepage
    The main way to spam Google is to create lots of sites which link to each other, thereby creating an illusion of popularity. This trick is widely used by porno sites and by Scientology. [google.com] Google needs to recognize such site groups, and treat them as a single site for ranking purposes. That's difficult, but maybe they've made some progress, which would kill SearchKing.

    The defense mechanism needed in a link-based search engine is to identify groups of sites which link extensively within the group, but have few links from outside the group. The problem is that this is likely to identify as a group any set of sites devoted to a single but obscure subject where most of the people involved know about each other. It's hard to do this on topology alone, although it might turn out to be possible.

  • by mstyne (133363) <mikeNO@SPAMalphamonkey.org> on Monday October 21, 2002 @12:46PM (#4496480) Homepage Journal
    Did a search at SearchKing for 'google owns you'

    The first result is ... er, interesting

    here [searchking.com] are the results
  • by crucini (98210) on Monday October 21, 2002 @04:14PM (#4498635)
    Did anyone bother reading the page on Search King's site? I'm not defending SK, because they appear to be an unethical business that tried to sell ranking on Google. But it's disturbing that almost noone has even read the other side of the story.

    This isn't about the "PageRank algorithm". It's about Google manually assigning a page rank of zero ("the dreaded PR zero" as SK calls it) to punish SK for attempting to abuse the system. SK also claims that Google enforces an idea of "bad neighborhoods" by assigning PR 0 to anyone who links to a PR 0 page.

    In other words, Google appears to be using similar tactics to the spam blacklist SPEWS. Both entities:
    1. Claim to be automated and objective, while manually manipulating the listings.
    2. Penalize not only "bad guys" but those who associate with "bad guys", thereby seeking to isolate the "bad guys" from the rest of the internet.
    3. Had predecessors (MAPS, AV) that were were easily abused.
    4. Produce listings by a secret method.

    I use both SPEWS and Google. I like the results. But I realize that concentrated power tends to be abused. And inability to see both sides of the story makes abuse easier.
    • by DavidTC (10147) < ... > <neverbox.com>> on Monday October 21, 2002 @09:55PM (#4501050) Homepage
      Link farms are against Google's written rules. Selling anything to do with Google's rankings are against Google's TOS. (Which could mean that Google could have a fun lawsuit against Search King, as Search King publically claims to accept money to do just that. If they've ever searched Google, they're in violation of Google's TOS...and it just so happens their website uses Google's API to...you guessed it.;..search Google.)

      And Google explictly says they will remove people who try to manipulate their ranking system.

      It's not a secret system at all. They explictly state they will do what they did if people do what he did.

      Oh, and their algorythm isn't secret, it's just patented. You can go and look it up, I think it's on Google's site somewhere. Or you could just google for it. Plenty of other people license it, and if you do so, you can run a carbon copy of Google. (Of course, you need a lot of computers and a fast connection, and obviously if Google has manually assigned rankings you'll have to do it also.) This is actually how 'Search King' works, he writes pages that manipulate the (known) system of ranking by linking to each other, so Google has to manually delete them. I, personally, think that's a great thing for google to do.

      And SPEWS isn't 'secret', either, BTW, it's just run secretly. How you get in SPEWS is well known, or at least well assumed...you send mail to their super secret spamtrap addresses. Now, it has no accountablity, but it's not using some voodoo to randomly pick people as spammers.

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