Google's Got Mail and it isn't going to be pretty.....
I'm skeptical of the information pouring in about the AOL Google deal.
If the NYT version is true, however, this is very alarming indeed.
If Google's effectively taking on search optimization for AOL, as the article suggests, then Google has begun to sell their soul, which was purity of search results. This seems unlikely though stranger things have happened in the wild web west, always changing at the speed of cash.
....Google will also provide technical assistance so AOL can create Web pages that will appear more prominently in the search results list. But this assistance will not change computer formulas ...
This sounds tame at first but anybody who knows Search Engine Optimization (SEO), knows that insider knowledge about the algorithmic ranking formula is everything. Ranking formulas are complex, fickle, often wrong, and always subject to manipulation. Google has always insisted they cannot reveal specifics about the formula to preserve it's integrity.
Having Google insiders who could even get basic answers to questions about key ranking factors like keyword density, link values, filters, penalties, and thresholds would effectively give AOL the key to the Google search vault.
Also conspicuous was this quote from the NYT article, suggesting MSN refused to offer the same treatment.
Time Warner asked Microsoft to give AOL similar preferred placement in advertising and in its Web index and that Microsoft refused, calling the request unethical.
Earlier in the year I spoke with an MSN search engineer about this very aspect of search (stacking the results to favor paying clients), and he insisted that it was against the interests of search because the engines credibilility is at stake and thus the almost priceless aspect in the equation - market share - would suffer.
I agree with MSN. So will everybody else. Except maybe AOL.