Thursday, November 24, 2005

Are Bloggers splogging a dead horse in urging Google to take action?

Ever since Google took over Blogger from Pyra Labs in 2003 there has been enough speculation about the motive behind this acquisition. Immediately after the takeover Google gave away free the premium services for which Pyra Labs used to charge a fee. Since then the blogosphere has increased exponentially. Technorati tracks 19.6 Million weblogs according to the latest survey. Out of them, it can be safely assumed, Blogger hosts more than 50%. Even considering decrease in bandwidth and storage costs, this must still be a considerable expense. Not only does Google have to manage the site's hardware but also the personnel, who must be charging a handsome salary. Hence I find it hard to glean any monetary gains for Google, at least for the time being. I found a post written in June 2004 that analysed the same problem. The author came to the conclusion that Google was losing money. I doubt if the picture is any different today.

The initial theory was that folks at Google wanted to optimise their search engine by observing the linking patterns and preferences in blogs. But couldn't Google do that without buying Blogger too? Its crawlers could have flushed all the information on blogs regardless of who owned it. Is it then, as some suggest, just a public relations move to earn goodwill? But surprisingly Google's logo never figures anywhere on Blogger. So, not everybody is even aware that Google powers Blogger.

One explanation can be AdSense, those small text ads you may have noticed on Gaurav’s blog. These ads are administered by Google and generate revenue on a per-click basis. Google utilizes its search technology to serve ads based on website content, the user's geographical location, and other factors. Then why is it I wonder that Google doesn't display the advertisements on every blog regardless of whether the blogger subscribes to AdSense. Surely people would continue using the service, as has been proved by the popularity of Gmail despite the incorporation of advertisements. Besides out of millions of blogs only a few are updated regularly and a minority amongst these use AdSense. I find it hard to believe that money made from this alone would justify the expense on Blogger. Besides as the article analysing this issue mentions.

But the advertising revenue per page view is surely a lot lower for Blogger than for the Google search engine. People using the Google search engine are searching for something specific, so it’s probably about ten to twenty times more likely that they will see an ad at the top or right side of the screen that they will be interested in.
The Problem of splogs

An additional twist to this issue has been the advent of spam blogs or splogs. A splog is any blog whose creator doesn’t add any written value. The splogger opens numerous blogspot accounts through computerized bots, enters into the blogosphere stealing content and keyword rich posts from sites and starts generating revenue based on that content. The purpose is to increase the PageRank of the affiliated sites, get ad impressions from visitors, and/or use the blog as a link outlet to get new sites indexed. This ends up skewing blog searches as these faux links draw in visitors who click on pay-per-click advertisements provided by AdSense on the splog.

Many bloggers and netizens vented their frustration at Google in this Guardian article for doing relatively little to stop people from setting up spam blogs.Currently Google merely responds by taking action when some volunteer reports a splog or when bloggers flag a particular blog. Google doesn't actively scour blogspot addresses itself to sort out the problem. Google recently implemented CAPTCHA, a system which shows users an image of a word that must be manually entered, but is distorted to deceive automated software from setting up false accounts. Netizens however are not satisfied. They want Google to enforce a $1 entry fee to dissuade sploggers or make CAPTCHA mandatory before every blog post on comment on blogspot. Google has no plans for implementing the suggestion as they look at it as an inconvinience for their users. This led many bloggers to speculate that Google's inaction was not surprising given their conflict of interest in the matter.

It makes perfect sense that having as many blogs as possible using Google Adsense would make Google more money. The more blogs that are set up using Google Adsense the more exposure the advertisers have, and the more Google charges for that exposure. It seems to me it's clear where the money goes.
Sounds perfect until you realise that if splogs are detrimental to anybody, it is for search engines, whose results go haywire with these phony links. Google is especially vulnerable because of its crawlers who flush all links on the Internet. So why would Google want to put spanner in their own works by feeding contaminated fodder to their cash cow. Google's corporate philosophy focuses on constantly optimising its search engine, (most profits come from this product) and I think Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the founders of Google know better than to allow short term profits cloud their judgment.

Hence my question still remains. How does Google earn money through Blogger? And if it doesn't, then why have Blogger in their portfolio? Answers anyone?

1 comment:

Bruno said...

They maintain the site just to give a free web hosting for BLOGS

Pretty much like Yahoo and Geocities