In his essay all about the evils of Google, Internet curmudgeon and Harper's publisher John R. MacArthur reveals that his googling skills need some improvement. To make the point about the search engine's "for-profit theft" (as opposed to altruistic larceny) the man who once compared the Internet to a "gigantic Xerox machine" suggets we do some Googling. The problem that MacArthur discovers, however, has nothing to do with Google, but with his own skills: MacArthur googles wrong. But he shouldn't feel too bad about it. Most people do, too.
Generally, he says, "systematic campaign to steal everything that isn’t welded to the floor by copyright" and more specifically, he says there is a bias in its search results "that elevates websites with free content over ones that ask readers to pay at least something for the difficult labor of writing, editing, photographing, drawing, and painting and thinking coherently."
The evidence for this: "Try finding Harper’s Magazine when you Google 'magazines that publish essays' or 'magazines that publish short stories'—it isn’t easy." We did that, and funny thing, Google is, today at least, actually a great way to find Harper's because so many people are talking about and linking to MacArthur's anti-Google rant that contains that phrase.
But, before, we imagine that wouldn't give the "right" answer because those are terrible search terms. Google wasn't built for sentences. A search term like "magazines that publish essays" doesn't make it clear what MacArthur wants to find. Google Search, like all search engines, is primarily a pattern-matching machine, not a sentient being that thinks in concepts. Even so, specific phrases work better than vague suggestions. A concise query like: "Magazines Short Stories" will work a lot better. And, what do you know, when you search for that, the top result is someone's list of the top 50 literary magazines and Harper's is listed at No. 4.
Next, he suggests: "Or try to get up-to-date news about Xavier Niel and Free through your friendly local Google search engine. Not exactly web neutral, our buddy-philanthropists Larry, Sergey, and Eric." While MacArthur suggests Google is hiding news about Niel because the ad blocking software he created would hurt Google's bottom line, we had no problem finding news about Xavier Niel using those search terms, either in web results or under the "news" tab:
The problem isn't Google, it's MacArthur. The anti-web publisher might want to take the Google class before his next rant about the evils of Google. It's pretty helpful!
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.