Do I get a badge for "Google Apologist" if I say that "bias" article is, er... BS?
Well, I guess it depends on how you look at it. The way I've always thought of it, these "results" at the top are not actually search results, they're "info widgets" that *directly* provide potentially relevant info in case that will answer the user's question without actually having to visit a separate site. This is exactly like Google's "widgets" that can process equations or do unit conversions for you. I doubt that Yahoo or any other company would be willing to let them scrape and reformat data for "widget" presentation in the same way, at least not without a price, so I don't see this as unreasonable or anticompetitive at all.
Several Slashdot posters (in fact almost the majority) have already echoed my thoughts, so I guess I'm not the only one:http://tech.slashdot...400&cid=34287362http://tech.slashdot...400&cid=34287384http://tech.slashdot...400&cid=34287574http://tech.slashdot...400&cid=34287404http://tech.slashdot...400&cid=34287426
Sorry, I don't doubt Google has some "evil" tendencies and certainly wields lots of power, but the incessant Google blood/witch hunt I just can't get behind. I think what happened with wireless data gathering is worse than this, but even that was probably not malicious and is arguably being handled fairly reasonably.
By the way, Yahoo does the exact same thing with their own content. And you know, I like Google's services more, but I have no problem with that either. Yahoo Health comes up for "acne" and Yahoo Finance for "goog" (or any other common stock name). The only difference is that with Yahoo, for the acne search, I had 4 3-line sponsored results *above* the widget, plus a 6-line widget, plus 5 lines of link to 2 articles and their summaries, *then* the real search results started (this is on top of 6 ads in the right column). In total I managed to get 5 search result links and summaries on Yahoo without scrolling, vs 7 with Google (and on Google one of the results is a news feed, with 1 news story and full summary, plus links to 2 other stories). Google's results are also wider and the ads are only 2 lines instead of 3. There's a reason Google is still #1.
Edit: more experimental validation fun! So try "flu" in Yahoo and Google. On Google, the top "widget" is flu.gov! Next is the CDC, the top actual search result. Wikipedia is 3rd. On Yahoo, Yahoo Health is the widget, then flu.gov as the top search result, Wikipedia 2nd, and CDC 3rd.
Adding Bing into the mix now. Oddly, searching for flu gives me a map listing first, but it's links to a bunch of drug stores where I can get flu shots so I guess it's ok. Big widget though. Flu.gov is the first search result, followed by Wikipedia. No flu info widget (besides the map). Interestingly Bing has the fewest ads with just 1 2-line ad on top, and 5 on the right. Bing uses a different provider of stock quotes (interestingly it seems to not be the same data source as MSN moneycentral), but has the same type of widget at top. For acne, Bing has 4 2-line ads at top a Mayo Clinic sourced widget and "Bing Health", then regular search results (5.5 without scrolling). Interestingly, Bing dynamically adjusts its top tabs for domain-specific search, so for "acne" I have a "Health" tab at top. But if I search for flu I *don't* get the health tab (not even with "influenza"). Weird.
But regardless all this data just upholds my original contention. There's nothing wrong here. This is not a representation of "relevancy rank" per se, it's just another way to present data which a given company has that may be relevant to your query. It's just like the ads bar, an additional element of the search page design that shows *different* information than regular search results.
All this being said it would be nice if Google and others allowed you to turn off the widget stuff (maybe they do?).