Google’s New Search Results Layout

Google has updated its search results page layout to a new one as of 26 July 2012, with an interesting change but one that also has a few problems. The change involves content being delivered directly by Google alongside search results, so that if a name such as “Roger Ebert” is searched for basic details come up on the front page in format of the below picture:

Google's New Search Results Layout

 In essence, really basic information related to common searches such as people and locations is now available immediately on Google search pages. While in some ways this is a good thing, there are a lot of question marks concerning whether Google should really be in the business of creating AND distributing content. The relationship between a librarian and the library they work for changes dramatically if they get paid for directing people towards certain books. It corrupts the purpose of providing open access to resources.

The idea behind Google’s approach is that information is more accessible immediately, which is a good thing but there are a few problems with the particular approach Google has taken here. The first is that this information is not really necessarily Google’s to distribute. Basically, it may result in a time where people only use Google and no other web source, effectively killing the Internet. The problem here is that Google did not put in the work to acquire the information. The second problem is that in choosing sites it is arbitrarily giving certain sites a boost, sites that are often quite poor. For example, I hold Wikipedia to be a poor site full of copyrighted content essentially paraphrased from textbooks and biographies without the kind of author commentary required by fair use rules, but this change will see even more traffic directed to Wikipedia as each gets its blurb content from Wikipedia. This might be more of a criticism of Wikipedia than Google, but Google is still essentially validating Wikipedia’s behavior by having such a close relationship. On the plus side, though, clicking any of the related links results in their names being searched for, rather than licking directly to a page, which is a good move.

Overall, it will be interesting to see how this all plays out.

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