Google’s market share for web searches is around 90% in Germany. Companies, which want to grow their Internet sales, have no other choice than to pay Google a huge amount of money. Companies’ costs have increased so much that even German market leaders like check24 are not able to earn money. Due to this, in midterm Google can dominate more and more business areas and expand its monopoly position.
The order of Google results are not anymore resulting from a very intelligent algorithm, as in the early days of Google. Instead, commercial aspects are ruling the logic and order of the Google results. For example, if a user at a PC enters a search term that is relevant for Google’s business, like “Samsung Galaxy”, 90% of the screen are advertisements, if user has not scrolled down yet. The commercial focus of Google’s results causes all results, including the ones that are not advertisements, to be showing in a logic that only Google knows. Around 200 parameters are determining the order. These are changed on a daily basis, according to Google.
Therefore, not only consumer decisions but also social and political opinion formation is based on a nontransparent logic. But also for quality of websites, logic of Google has dramatic consequences. If a company wants to avoid the huge costs for Search Engine Marketing (SEM) using AdWords, it only can do Search Engine Optimization (SEO). For SEO, a whole industry has evolved, which tries to understand parts of Google’s Black-Box-Logic and then designs the websites based on their findings. This results in masses of websites, which are overloaded by keywords and countless paid social media postings with links to these websites.
In Germany, more and more people are becoming aware of the fact that Google Web Search is a severe risk for our democratic society. Therefore a real alternative to Google is demanded by more and more people. Even in politics, thoughts are emerging to solve this in National or European initiatives. Even the members of the European Parliament voted for a separation of Google’s web search business from the rest of the company, arguing that search results should be “bias-free and transparent”. But this will probably not be enforceable or result in endless legal disputes.
A democratic alternative to Google Web Search must follow a completely different approach than existing search engines like Google, Bing, DuckDuckGo, Ixquick, and others. It needs to follow important democratic values like transparency and codetermination and focus on the human being’s knowledge and ability to judge. To make such an approach work, it must include efficient separation of powers as well as checks and balances.
Therefore a democratic search engine does not only need to define a new type of web search, but also a new type of online marketing. The current logic of SEO/SEA/SEM, that results into lower quality of the websites and provokes fraud, needs to be replaced by a mechanism that rewards quality and automatically penalizes fraud.
The result of this observations and thoughts is PLIDS.