Sam Dichupa_ Jared Keller _ Tim Moon

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					Sam Dichupa, Jared Keller & Tim Moon
IMT 550 – Search Engines Simulation: GOOGLE

Google’s Background

“Google” comes from the mathematical term “Googol” meaning 1 followed 11 zeros. The
nephew of American mathematician Edward Kasner, named Milton Sirotta, thought of this.
This term perfectly reflects the company’s mission, which is “To organize the world's
information and make it universally accessible and useful”.

The search engine,, allows people to obtain different kinds of information
such as the news, case studies, articles, movie schedules, weather, stocks, phonebook
listings, driving instructions, recipes, maps, images, etc. All this come from all over the
world, which means it comes in a variety of languages as well. People love using Google
because it is very easy to use. Users just need to key in a search term in the text box
provided and click the “Google Search” button to get the search results. It is not confusing at

Google’s homepage is seen below:

As mentioned in the Features Overview in Google’s website, Google has an edge over its
competitors because of four elements: comprehensiveness, relevance, speed and user
experience. (, para. 1) Google is best
known for its clean and uncluttered web design. This adds to the elimination of confusion
by not distracting the users with disorder. Everything is organized in a way that eases the
utilization of this search engine. Moreover, Google has impeccable speed. As explained in
Google’s website, “Almost as soon as or an international Google URL is
entered, the homepage appears on the screen”.
((, para. 1) In addition to this, the return
of search results is very fast – less than half a second.

Larry Page, co-founder, explained in the Technology Overview in Google’s website that they
are dedicated to developing “the perfect search engine”, which is something that,
“understands exactly what you mean and gives you back exactly what you want”.
(, para. 1) Google is different from other
search engines because of how it performs its search queries. Other search engines base
their searches on how often the search term appears on web pages. Google does it quite
differently with the help of the two following technologies:
(, paras. 4-6)

       PageRank Technology – PageRank reflects our view of the importance of web
       pages by considering more than 500 million variables and 2 billion terms. Pages that
       we believe are important pages receive a higher PageRank and are more likely to
       appear at the top of the search results. PageRank also considers the importance of
       each page that casts a vote, as votes from some pages are considered to have greater
       value, thus giving the linked page greater value. We have always taken a pragmatic
       approach to help improve search quality and create useful products, and our
       technology uses the collective intelligence of the web to determine a page's

       Hypertext-Matching Analysis – Our search engine also analyzes page content.
       However, instead of simply scanning for page-based text (which can be manipulated
       by site publishers through meta-tags), our technology analyzes the full content of a
       page and factors in fonts, subdivisions and the precise location of each word. We
       also analyze the content of neighboring web pages to ensure the results returned
       are the most relevant to a user's query.

The lifecycle of a Google search query is explained in the diagram below. It is seen here that
there are a number of steps after a search has been made before returning results to the
                                     1. The web server sends the query to the index
       3. The search results         servers. The content inside the index servers is
       are returned to the           similar to the index in the back of a book - it tells
       user in a fraction of a       which pages contain the words that match the
       second.                       query.

                         2. The query travels to the doc
                         servers, which actually retrieve
                         the stored documents. Snippets
                         are generated to describe each
                         search result.


Google has various Search Features. These make it even easier for users to search for
information. These helpful features are explained in detail below:

   Everyday Essentials
       Weather – Simply type "weather" followed by the city and state, U.S. zip code, or
         city and country.
       Stock Quotes – Simply type the ticker symbol into the search box.
       Time – Simply type in "time" and the name of the city.
       Sports Scores – Simply type the team name or league name into the search box.

   Reference Tools
       Calculator - Simply enter the calculation into the search box.
       Book Search – Simply enter the name of the author or book title into the search
          box and any book content will be returned.
       Unit Conversion – Simply enter desired conversion into the search box.

   Choosing Keywords
       Synonym Search – Simply place the tilde sign (~) immediately in front of the
          search term.
       Dictionary Definitions - Simply type the word "define" then a space, then the
          word(s) to be defined.
       Spell Checker – Google automatically checks whether the query uses the most
          common spelling of a given word.

   Local Search
          Local Search – Simply search for the category of business and the location and
           results will be returned right on the page, along with a map, reviews, and
           contact information.
          Movie Showtimes – Simply type "movies" or the name of a current film into the
           Google search box.
          Real Estate and Housing – Simply type "housing", "home", or "real estate" and
           the name of a city or a U.S. zip code into the Google search box and hit the Enter
           key or click the Google Search button.

   Trip Planning
       Airline Travel Info – Simply type in the name of the airline and the flight number
          into the search box. Delays at a specific airport can also be seen by typing in the
          name of the city or three-letter airport code followed by the word "airport".
       Currency Conversion - Simply enter the conversion into the Google search box.
       Maps – Simply type in the name or U.S. zip code of a location and the word
          "map" and a map of that location will be returned.

   Query Refinements
       Plus (+) Operator - If a common word is essential to getting the results, by
          putting a "+" sign in front of it will help.
       Related Search – Simply type "related:" followed by the website address into the
          Google search box.
       Fill in the Blank – Simply add an asterisk (*) at the part of the sentence or
          question that needs to be finished into the Google search box.

   Search by Number
       Package Tracking – Simply type the tracking number for the UPS, Fedex or USPS
          package directly into the search box.
       Patent Numbers – Simply enter the word "patent" followed by the patent
          number into the Google search box and hit the Enter key or click the Google
          Search button.
       Area Code – Simply type the three-digit area code into the Google search box and
          hit the Enter key or click the Google Search button.

Google’s Role in this Environment

As we all know, Google made it big in the Internet world. It is the most popular search
engine of all time that led to the famous word – “googled”, which means “searched” in the
Internet lingo. Google is definitely the leader of search engines worldwide. Through the
years, Google has branched out to other roles and are viewed differently by a number of

Google endeavored new positions, and one of them is surprisingly in the open source
environment. In the article, Google's role in an open source world, Dana Blankenhorn stated
that “The company freely offers APIs for its most interesting features, it contributes to a
wide variety of open source projects, and it will host a Developer Day on May 31 at 10
company offices around the world” (2007, para. 2). Google is very generous as it offers the
most free development work in the world. But, due to privacy issues, there is a limit to their
generosity. In the same article it was mentioned that, “Google's search algorithms are held
as strictly proprietary, they are not shared, and they are subject to change without notice”
(Blankenhorn, 2007, para. 4). It is a fact that companies should keep their sensitive
information hidden as this gives them competitive advantage. Google is exemplary in being
an open source player and at the same time still maintaining their privacy.

E-commerce is an emerging business. It has helped companies in their growth and
profitability by making shopping effortless and faster. Customers are able to shop online at
their own convenience. They do not have to go out of their way to go to a store, go through a
number of goods and wait in line to purchase these goods. E-commerce lets customers shop
by simply browsing through web pages. Shopping is now simple and quick with ecommerce,
which is one of the industries Google has gotten involved in by catering to search engine
users that are potential buyers. Google got into e-commerce with the help of the
advertisements that they post on their web pages. Whenever a search is made,
advertisements will de displayed and when these are clicked, Google and the merchants
make money. It’s as simple as that. Google is a space wherein people can see and browse
products for sale hassle-free.

Herewith, Google has what they call the Google Checkout. Benjamin Ling, the Head of Google
Checkout, explained in a session entitled Nonbanks in the Payments System: Innovation,
Competition, and Risk that “Google Checkout’s idea is to get more e-commerce transactions
flowing from consumers to merchants. It is by eliminating all the friction that we make it
very easy for consumers to search, find, and buy in a matter of two or three clicks, and have
the item delivered to their door. That is the principle behind Google Checkout—to make the
network go faster and faster and grow bigger” (2007, para. 5). Google’s actual role in e-
commerce is facilitation. It facilitates the searching, finding and buying, thus, making
searches the influence behind Internet purchases. Google certainly made their way in the
business of e-commerce through its innovative search approach.

Google has also joined the wireless industry as well. Technology is a big part of people’s
lives nowadays. Computers, electronic organizers, mobile phones, the Internet, etc. are
fundamentals in daily lives of people. One of the most utilized technologies at present is
mobile phones. Mobile phones have advanced extravagantly by allowing people to do more
than just phone calls and text messaging. It is now possible to do GPS tracking, email,
instant messaging and Internet surfing with mobile phones. Google made a big deal with
Sprint and Clearwire to be able to cater to the mobile phone junkies.

Google and Clearwire are working hand-in-hand to build applications for the upcoming 4G
network. They believe that the 4G network will not have the aches and pains of the 3G
network, thus, serving the customers better. Larry Alder, Google product manager,
mentioned in the company blog that, “We believe that the new network will provide
wireless consumers with real choices for the software applications, content and handsets
that they desire. Such freedom will mirror the openness principles underlying the Internet
and enable users to get the most out of their wireless broadband experience. As we’ve
supported open standards for spectrum and wireless handsets, we’re especially excited that
Clearwire intends to build and maintain a network that will embrace important openness
features. In particular, the network will: (1) expand advanced high speed wireless Internet
access in the U.S., (2) allow consumers to utilize any lawful applications, content and
devices without blocking, degrading or impairing Internet traffic and (3) engage in
reasonable and competitively-neutral network management” (Duryee, 2008, para. 6)
Google’s mobile search venture will mean that they will be the default search provider for
Sprint customers. It is stated in the article Sprint-Clearwire: Google’s Role Too Big? Pay-For-
Access Deal Raises Net Neutrality-Like Concerns that, “Sprint customers will be able to bring
up a Google search box on their device’s home screen, providing them with one-click access
to Google mobile search” (2008, para. 14). At the same time, 3G applications, Google maps
and You Tube videos will be available for access on Sprint mobile phones. Google’s
partnership with the wireless industry is making the task of searching even easier. Google is
becoming a mobile search engine.

Google is viewed quite differently by BMW after suffering the “Google Death Penalty”. BMW
tried to manipulate the page ranking system of Google by creating “doorway” pages, which
is against Google’s principles. These “doorway” pages, as defined in the article Google
blacklists page rank cheats, “contains a list of keywords designed to boost its position in the
rankings, but then redirects users to a different site”(Thomson, 2006). Of course, BMW used
this so that their website ( would have a better page ranking than the others. This
act violates Google’s guidelines and deceives the users, as explained by Matt Cutts who
wrote Google’s safe search filtering feature. Due to this, Google has punished by
administering the “Google Death Penalty”, thus, reducing the popularity rating of the
website to zero. Google is now more cautious when it comes to practices that are meant to
fool their technology. They published official webmaster quality guidelines, which explain in
detail what webmasters can or cannot do. Google did the right thing by blacklisting
because of their unethical deed. BMW is considered unethical in this case for the reason that
they did not respect the principles of Google and they were dishonest to their users. What
they did was morally wrong in every way, based on deontological ethics that focuses on the
rightness or wrongness of intentions based on the actions performed.

Google has a big impact on various authorities worldwide due to privacy issues. The
European Commission believes that Google should comply with the European privacy
principles and data protection laws, and recommends that people’s personal information
from online searches should not be retained for more than 6 months before rendering them
anonymous. This information should not be retained too long because it gives other people
the chance to obtain this and use it improperly. People’s personal information belongs to
them and just because Google retains it does not mean that it is up for grabs. No one has the
right to personal information unless they own it. But, of course there are still people who
will breach privacy by claiming other people’s personal information as their own, which is
why Google should do something about this. Egan Orion mentioned in the article entitled EU
welcomes Google data retention reform that Google, “would soon start archiving users'
unique Internet Protocol (IP) addresses for only nine months instead of 18 months under
its previous policy” (2008, para. 3). Google will also use the process of anonymization, as
stated by their privacy counsel Peter Fleischer in the article Google To Slice Existing 18
Month Data Retention Period In Half, “we'll anonymize IP [Internet Protocol] addresses on
our server logs after nine months” (Ellis, 2008, para. 3). Anonymization is defined as
“portions of each IP address were moved around in such a way as to make reconstructing
the original number difficult” (Ellis, 2008, para. 5).

The Norwegian Data Inspectorate is also targeting Google on breaching privacy. The
Norwegian Data Inspectorate, as explained in Norwegian authorities investigate Google on
privacy issue is, “an independent administrative body under the Norwegian Ministry of
Labour and Government Administration, and is to protect persons from violation of their
right to privacy through the processing of personal data” (2007, para. 2). They are also
concerned that Google is retaining IP addresses too long and for what? These IP addresses
identify people and store personal information. They discussed this with Google’s privacy
expert, Peter Fleischer. His response to the concern of people hacking into Google and
getting people’s personal information is, “We have of course extensive security
arrangements in place to prevent internal as well as external attacks. We also have routines
to ensure a swift response if something should happen. Still, no one can guarantee 100
percent that this will never happen” (Norwegian authorities investigate Google on privacy
issue is, 2007, para. 9).

The Bahraini authorities aren’t thrilled with two of the search engine’s services due to
privacy issues as well. These services are Google Earth and Google Video. Everyone knows
that Google Earth “allows users to view high-resolution satellite images of the Earth on the
Internet” and Google Video is “a popular video hosting and sharing service” (Bahraini
Authorities Block Access to Google Earth and Google Video, para. 3). The Bahraini
government ordered that all Internet Service Providers block these services. Sources
believe that this was ordered because images and videos that expose the Al-Khalifa royal
family, Bahraini government and Bahraini politics are supplied by these services. It is
actually written on article 23 of Bahrain’s constitution that, “electronic communications
shall not be censored or their confidentiality breached except in exigencies specified by law
and in accordance with procedures and under guarantees prescribed by law” (Bahraini
Authorities Block Access to Google Earth and Google Video, para. 6). Several Bahraini
websites have been blocked too for the reason that they are exposing too much information
that should be censored.

The Chinese authorities did something similar. Google arrived to China later than the others
– at 2000. But, on September 2002 the Chinese government blocked access to Google
because they favored Chinese search engines like Baidu. Even thought this did not last very
long, Baidu had already obtained competitive advantage against Google. Herewith, Google
decided to open an office in China last January 2006 to show that they are abiding to the
regulations, specifically on the self-regulation and self-censorship laws, of the Chinese
government. In the article Google in China: Compromising its own values, it was mentioned
that, “Chinese authorities use intimidation to make sure private-sector Internet companies
practice "self-regulation" (in fact self-censorship): to operate in China, companies must sign
a licence agreeing not to circulate content on certain subjects; however these regulations
remain intentionally vague, forcing the Internet companies to interpret what the
government will not like” (Tallay, 2007, para. 3). Internet companies would actually censor
more than what is expected from them just so that the Chinese government would not block
them out completely. Google has put a lot of effort in complying with the self-regulation and
self-censorship laws of China, which forced them to disregard their “don’t be evil” motto. In
China, they are forced to provide biased access to information and overlook their
commitment in increasing information transparency. This is quite a dilemma for Google
since they are trying to be ethical by respecting the laws of China but at the same time
deceiving their users by not upholding their promise to increase transparency.

Moreover, US authorities are getting worried about Google Earth’s capabilities. State
Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli feels that this service is “compromising the nation’s
counter terrorism efforts” (Popa, 2007, para. 1). Google Earth shows too much in their
images that it gives terrorists a gateway in attacking the country. Especially now that it has
a new feature called Google Street View, which shows images of streets in residential and
commercial areas. This was actually the medium used by those who had a plot to attack the
JFK International Airport. In the article Google Earth Criticized by the US Authorities,
Michael N. Gianaris, a Queens Democrat, said for the New York Times that, "In light of the
use of Google Earth in the J.F.K. plot, we must ensure these programs are not used as
blueprints for an attack on our country. We should not wait for disaster to strike before
taking common sense steps to avoid facilitating an attack” (Popa, 2007, para. 3). It is
understandable that the authorities aren’t comfortable about the images that Google Earth
and Street View post online. They really do post too much detail that can give terrorists
what they need to complete a plot against the country. Some form of censorship should be
done to prevent any danger to the public.

Google and Free Speech

Free speech has been an ongoing issue for Google, and frequently becomes the focus of
ethical issues with the company, though nearly all of the issues that Google faces are
restrictions or orders placed on them by various laws and governments. Outside purely
legal issues, the Google policy of "do no evil" is often challenged in the arena of free speech,
and solutions to the free speech issues faced are often unclear, and often fall into a legal
gray-area. Historically issues of free speech have been addressed based on the laws of the
area that is reporting the problem and the solution is isolated to that area – Google’s choices
are often whether to follow the orders of a country/law, or not. For instance, Turkish courts
banned YouTube access for all of Turkey when certain videos were posted that violated
Turkish law (Haynes, 2008) - Google responded by blocking access to the videos from any
Turkish IP. The courts re-opened access to YouTube until a new case arose requesting the
videos be blocked or removed completely for the entire world; Google refused on the basis
that Turkey should not be able to control issues of free speech for anywhere but Turkey.
Turkish access to YouTube is blocked to this day.

In the context of the web search alone (not considering YouTube, AdWords, etc.) the
concerns with free speech originate from several points:

    1. Items should not be removed from the search engines content unless ordered by
    2. Results cannot be manipulated with the exception of clear cases of abuse

As these issues are not purely legal (there is no legal regulation restricting Google from
modifying content, manipulating results, etc.) though they represent strong ethical

       Is it wrong for a corporation (like Google) to manipulate results in their own search
       Would that even violate free-speech? Do people have rights with regards to their
        placement in Google results?
       Should search engines be regulated to maintain integrity? Or would this simply be
        another version of the same problem - who regulates the regulators?
      Should search engines be censored?

Other Google services, such as YouTube present more obvious issues with regards to free-
speech. The content posted on YouTube can be effectively removed or have access to it
blocked (web-search can only affect finding content in a web-search, but it can never
outright remove a site or prevent access in any other way). The decision to remove content
can be simple or influenced by law (in the case of copyright violation), but becomes a more
complex issue when requests for removal come in for politically charged or potentially
offensive content.

Google and Privacy

Google's web-search systems introduce several privacy concerns, especially with the
information it collects about users (cookies), the searches they perform, what content is
indexed by Google, and through some of the advanced features of the search, the advent of
"Google Hacking".

While most sites on the Internet use cookies, users may have a few added concerns with the
way that Google handles and other information it collects. First, cookies created on users
computers aren't set to expire until 2038, thus, data saved about the user and other
personal information may stay resident on the users computers far beyond what many
expect. While cookies are a common tool across the web, they are often a security concern,
and Google's cookies are no exception. Two separate cases, both involving security flaws in
the way Google handles cookies have led to loss of user personal data. The first case, which
involved created blogs at special addresses, would allow the controller of the blog access to
the same cookies that Google creates - a flaw which would allow access to a user’s Gmail,
search history, documents and other personal information. The second case could be
performed by any site, the owner of the site could add special scripts to collect the address
book of any currently logged in Gmail user that visited their site. Another alarming concern
is that since Gmail was in beta at the time, Google was not required to report the case
(Security, 2007).

Search queries and use of the web search also triggers data collection. This data is not
personal (the IP the search requests comes from is recorded) - along with IP, Google states:

 "Google’s servers automatically record information when you visit our website or use some of
our products, including the URL, IP address, browser type and language, and the date and time
                               of your request." (Privacy, 2009)

The concern with this date is first that it is collected without specific opt-in from the user,
and also that it is not anonymous. Fortunately for users Google has recently changed their
policy to anonymize data after 9 months (Privacy, 2009), and typically refuses to turn over
any personally identifiable information unless forced to by court decision (Sandoval, 2006).

"Google Hacking" is a concept involving the use of complex search queries in Google to test
and identify certain security elements in sites. On one hand, it can be used to identify
security risks in sites (penetration testing) to be addressed - on the other hand this
information is available to anyone with access to Google. Malevolent hackers can create
queries to identify vulnerabilities and security holes present in sites indexed by Google.
Most often hacked servers are used to host fraudulent websites, as The Register reports:

    "A study of 2,486 fraudulent websites found that 76 per cent were housed on hacked
  webservers, typically pwned[sic] after hackers identified well-known vulnerabilities using
              search engine queries." (Leyden, 2009), (Moore & Clayton, 2009)

Not only does Google give hackers the capability to browse for security holes via Google, but
it is not a difficult process. Information on how to Google Hack is presently available on
many websites, guides, blogs, etc (Long, 2004), (Zimmerman, 2009), (Gralla, 2005), (Long et
al, 2005). There are even published books on how to use the method for "penetration
testing", a term used to describe intentionally hacking ones own servers to discover security

Ethical Considerations of Google

As we mentioned previously with Google’s position with respect to free speech, Google is
presented with a few, strong ethical considerations:

       Is it wrong for a corporation (like Google) to manipulate results in their own search
       Would that even violate free-speech? Do people have rights with regards to their
        placement in Google results?

These issues would be more trivial if it were a smaller or private corporation because their
user group is either relatively small in size or a very specific group. The sense of “freedom”
is not as strongly associated with smaller or private corporations because they do not reach
as large of an audience.

As a large, public corporation that has a very large, diverse user group, Google is faced with
issues such as free speech because their search engine is intended to search the open web.
The sense of “freedom” is strongly associated with what Google does, especially with their
policy of “do no evil.” Despite not being faced with legal obligations to the users that rely on
Google for searching the vast, open web, they are bound by ethical and moral obligations
because of their position of power.

Google is also faced with further ethical considerations such as the degree of information
they provide access to. Sites with insufficient levels of security can have information they
believe to be “protected” revealed through Google’s crawlers. This gives rise to whether or
not Google has the right to reveal or give access to such information through their search
engine. The website my very well have intended to keep the information “private” to a
select group, but Google’s crawler could have infiltrated their weak security and made the
information public (Laskowski, 2006).
Another ethical dilemma Google is faced with is if they truly have the ethical obligation of
protecting the privacy of those in public spaces. The attention surrounding Google Street
View shows that despite walking on the sidewalk of a public street, people that have their
photo taken by Google Street View and posted online express that their privacy has been
violated. Since Google is accessed by such a large group Google is forced to deal with such
ethical issues.

There may be no legal regulations that force Google to address these issues, but they are
forced by their user base to deal with these issues if they hope to maintain viability within
the eyes of investors. If they are surrounded by bad press such as suppressing people’s right
to free speech, businesses will be less likely to interact with Google because of the bad
image it would bring them.

The Strategy of Google in the Future

Google has already established itself as the leader in the search industry and has grown
without the need of expensive marketing. All the marketing that helped Google become
what it is today was through word of mouth. Google was even advertised in shows such as
The West Wing without Google requesting or paying for it due to their proven capability in
search (Vise, 2005).

In the recent years we have seen Microsoft try to directly compete with Google by focusing
more on their service. They even went as far as trying to buy Yahoo and harvest
Yahoo’s search engine while throwing the rest of the company away to other investors.
Although this attempted buyout failed, Microsoft has still not given up on the Internet war
and the rise of Yandex, Russia’s largest search engine, has added to the competition Google
is facing.

Despite the rise in competition, Google still gains substantial profit from advertisements.
They also gain profit through professional services they offer such as the search solutions
they provide businesses with added security features. Google is also starting to capitalize by
expanding their search capabilities to different areas. Google is most prominently used for
internet search, but they have also expanded to their search capabilities to things like
address search through Google Maps and Google Street View, and have further expanded
into specific fields through services like Google Scholar and Google Health. Google
continuing to apply their search engine capabilities to other areas of focus similar to Google
Scholar will help in their ability to maintain their position as the search leader. Also,
Google's plan to crawl the deep web will allow them to better provide responses to search
queries (Wright, 2009).


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