Google Deal gives AOL preferential placement

According to multiple sources including the New York Times (registration required):

Rebuffing aggressive overtures from Microsoft, Time Warner has agreed to sell a 5 percent stake in America Online to Google for $1 billion as part of an expanded partnership between AOL, once the dominant company on the Internet, and Google, the current online king.

Finally, around 9 p.m., Richard D. Parsons, chief executive of Time Warner told Eric E. Schmidt, chief executive of Google, that he would accept Google’s recently sweetened offer. Google, which prides itself on the purity of its search results, agreed to give favored placement to content from AOL throughout its site, something it has never done before.

The New York Times also reports

If a user searches on Google for a topic for which AOL has content – like information about Madonna – there will be a special section on the bottom right corner of the search results page with links to AOL.com. Technically, AOL will pay for those links, which will be identified as advertising, but Google will give AOL credits to pay for them as part of the deal. They will also carry AOL’s logo, the first time Google has agreed to place graphic ads on its search result pages.

Google will also provide technical assistance so AOL can create Web pages that will appear more prominently in the search results list. But this assistance will not change computer formulas that determine the order in which pages are listed in Google’s search results.

In other words, Google is giving AOL preferential placement in it’s search engine but is doing everything to pretend it isn’t. How does one determine whether a computer formula change will give AOL pages an advantage? An algorithm change could be made with the intent of improving results but improves AOL’s placement.

Google has been living on the good guy image for a while but I believe they’re going downhill. The size and number of ads have been increasing, the eBay adverts are getting stupidly annoying and Google is releasing a lot of junk. Google Reader was a real disappointment, Gmail Web Clips is a useless feature and a way to show more advertising and Google Talk was equally a real disappointment.

In addition, Google results have been getting worse for me and I’ve found that MSN or Yahoo! can give equally good results. Not to mention the fact Google can’t do a simple math sum such as 1 – 0.9 – 0.1

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