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Opinion
Barry Ritholtz

Gaming Google for Profit and Ideology

Political fellow travelers have learned from the spammers.
Search and dispute.

Search and dispute.

Photographer: Ulrich Baumgarten/Getty Images

Since today is the 11th anniversary of first-day trading in Google shares after its initial public offering, I wanted to bring to your attention a recent bit of gamesmanship that has been taking place with its search function.

Google rose to its position of authority and influence because it invented a better way to navigate the World Wide Web. Search was more or less OK in the late 1990s, but two Stanford students, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, figured out how to use the link structure of the Web to create page rank. They created an algorithm that ranked any site by its authority, which was a function of how many other authoritative sites linked or pointed to it. Sure, it's a bit circular, but it works extremely well -- better than the other search engines of 10 or 15 years ago, most of which have since been forgotten.