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This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things-Page Rank Edition

RIP Google PageRank score: A retrospective on how it ruined the web

One of the reasons why Google has so prominently remained the top search engine in the world over the years is a tool called “page rank”. Page rank was an added feature to the Google toolbar that provided a different rank for each page one might visit when clicking on a link via Google. Essentially, it provided users with a concrete number that estimates exactly how credible and important Google considers a web page to be. Google’s particular algorithm contributed to its success over other search engines such as Yahoo! or Bing; it really is effective. It did serve as a very useful asset for an assortment of institutions, whether it be individuals trying to conduct research, or a company trying to determine how they should advertise. The above article details the long, arduous life of the availability of page rank to the general public. While it technically did always exist as Google’s method of queueing links to display as a search result, it wasn’t always available as something users could see, until the year 2000. Unfortunately, this grand reveal to the world turned out to be much more problematic than anticipated.

As we have learned in our INFO 2040 class, one of the most popular utilizations of page rank is executed in the process of determining an advertising scheme. When trying to figure out what location is best for an advertiser to place their product, it is quite apparent that different companies may get different levels of success at varying websites. There are several factors at hand: the price of the ads, the valuation of a website by the advertiser, the number of clicks involved, the number of websites that point to (or mention) other websites, and of course, the decisive market clearing prices. Clearly, this is going to create a competition amongst websites to attempt to achieve the best page rank scores so that they can increase their self-worth. This competition led to the formation of several third-party service organizations that used dishonest tactics and fake websites to unnaturally increase a website’s page rank. This certainly ruined the entire integrity of the page rank availability, and many law suits were created over Google’s right to shut down websites that “cheated” their way into appearing credible. After over a decade of Google allowing this chaos to ensue, they have recently shut down the availability of page rank scores to the normal users. Without a score to base things off of, third party companies have zero shot at uncovering Google’s true page rank algorithm. Abuse of the system has led to the removal of a great tool for Google users everywhere. In other words, this is why we can’t have nice things.

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