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Google’s Self-Loop Mishap and the Flaws in the PageRank Algorithm

In 2012, when Google Chrome was in its youth, Google found itself violating its own policy by inadvertently upping its Chrome browser’s PageRank. The problem was a result of Google paying a third party, called Essence Video, to host ads for Chrome. Essence Video then used the capital from Google to pay a company called Unruly to carry out part of the ad campaign. Unruly then compensated some bloggers so that they would write positive posts (with the Google Ad embedded) which ultimately increased the number of pages that linked back to the site to download chrome. As we know the number of links that point to a page as well as the level of trust for these links determine PageRank. By having all these artificially generated links to its website, Google inadvertently violated its own policy against artificially boosting PageRank.

So, what was the aftermath of this faux pas? Google ultimately decided that it would artificially deflate the PageRank for Chrome for 60 days in the name of fairness. Some might argue that this is only making the search experience more difficult for the end user by forcing them to sift through what are likely nonsense search results when they really just want to download Chrome. However, I have the utmost respect for the precedent set by Google in policing itself. Unlike many figures of power in the real world, Google, at least in this case, does not consider itself above the principles it expects everyone else to adhere to.

At the end of the day, the PageRank algorithm is not perfect, and can be gamed if one has knowledge of how it works. However, if Google has the means to detect when it is accidentally increasing its own PageRank, it will soon have the means to detect when others are doing so, which will ultimately create a better user experience. Google is the authority in searching, and if they do not garner the respect and utmost trust of their users they run the risk of losing the recognition and effective monopoly they currently have on the industry. Google is awesome. This is just one example why.


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October 2016