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Subject: RE: UKNM: Search Engines and Shopping Malls ?
From: Peterson, Jonathan
Date: Tue, 30 May 2000 15:27:02 +0100

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> > Do you think that it is fair to the consumer that companies
> can get within
> > the 1st 5 listings of a search engine via payments and
> technical trickery
> ?
> No

Is it fair that in the Yellow Pages some companies can pay to get a bold
type entry and some only get normal type? Unless the search engine makes
claims that its results are only based on a bona fide closeness algorithm
there's nothing much wrong. Since users don't pay for the search service,
there's no real grounds for complaint by users.

> > Are we really giving the consumer a choice ?

> The net does give the consumer more choice. It depends whether
> the consumer can be bothered to do more than just go to the
> recommended sites offered by their isp service for example..

Quite - the net makes it easier (perhaps) for consumers to excercise choice.
It also makes it easier for them _not_ to excercise choice.

> > Are we being governed on the net by companies that have
> financial clout ?
> Yes - but then I presume off the net the same rules apply - Johnny
> Green Grocer isn't exactly going to be able to advertise at the
> same level as Tesco?

Well, in the good old days the net was meant to change all that. The idea
was that www.jonnysfruitandveg.co.uk became just as accessible as
www.tesco.co.uk so Tesco's investment in all the best high street real
estate suddenly counted for nothing.

The interesting thing will be whether the Tescos of the net start investing
in all the same things that made them big in the high street - will they buy
up all the good domain names such as www.summerfruits.co.uk (or whatever)?
Will they buy up all the directory listings and search engine placements -
all the default bookmarks in all the browsers, all the other things that are
bound to be put up for sale so that the worried and cash rich Tescos can
start buying market prominence.

At the end of the day, the consumer will have little control over this
because the consumer is a very weak force in the net - because the consumer
doesn't pay for anything. If search engines got revenue from micro-payments
of their users, then they would have an incentive to provide the best
searches possible. Instead, they look for revenue from big companies who
will pay for high listings. If consumers paid for their browser software the
browser manufacturers would spend less time selling placement on the default
bookmarks list and more time making the browsers work well.

> > What is going to happen to the small to meduim size web company ?
> Go under, get bought out, or manage by luck to become a big
> company with financial clout - then they get the choice to become
> one and the same as the rest or lead by example.

Sad, but maybe true. What is really sad is that it looks as though this may
become more true on the net than in real life. Most towns, if not high
streets still have a good number of independent traders who find a niche
where Tescos couldn't get planning permission, where the population is big
enough to support a corner shop but too small to support a supermarket, and
so on.

It may be that on the net, no one small survives because there are no
accidents of geography, of local demographics, or of history to perturb the
big algorithm of market development. In the clean empty sheet of the net,
the market equation can be most efficiently solved with having just one of
everything. Hello blandness.

It will be interesting to see what happens but I long for micro-payments to
put power back into the hands of the browsing public.


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  RE: UKNM: Search Engines and Shopping Ma, Chris Meachin

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