In case you missed it, here’s the Google/SearchKing story so far. SearchKing is, at least nominally, a search engine, based in Oklahoma City in the USA. They make money by trying to manipulate other search engines’ results, to put their customers higher than they would otherwise be. They use the usual techniques of loading <meta> tags with false keywords, printing irrelevant information in small print on the bottoms of pages and, for systems such as Google’s PageRank, which rates a page according to the number of sites linking to it, they created link farms, pages full of links with no purpose other than increasing page rankings.

Google’s response to this type of circumvention was (and always has been) to update their algorithms to deal with the behaviour. Google’s aim is to find the most relevant results, and link farms prevent that. The new algorithms lower the PageRanks of link farms and the pages they link to (They already had ways of detecting <meta> tag abuse and other tricks.) To all reasonable people, this is the correct response for Google. If its results start throwing up unrelated material people will stop using it. But SearchKing, it seems, is without reason. In October last year (2002), SearchKing sued Google over their lowered page-rank. Google responded in December.

What SearchKing does is akin to spamming. When I search on Google I expect to find what I want. Google’s algorithms are remarkably accurate as far as relevance goes. Consider if every time I searched for something (maybe I need college related material, maybe I want a useful link for my blog) I had to search through pages of “Traditional Chinese Medicine Refined By Modern Technology” and “Chad’s Web Page” to get what I want. It would be akin to looking for that order confirmation from Amazon and having to sort through hundreds of “Human Growth Hormone” and “Hot Young Teens” mails; ie. not pleasant. Imagine a spammer suing Mozilla for putting spam filters in the new Mozilla 1.3α. Or, as one Slashdot poster put it: “[W]hen 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.”

I can only assume that even the US court system will be capable of handling this case in a responsible manner. Now all we need is a heavy punishment for frivolous law-suits. They have capital punishment in the US; maybe they could use that. 😉