Two weeks ago we wrote about Yamli, a powerful transliteration engine that allows users to use their Latin keyboards to type in Arabic text. The service has gotten rave reviews (see the comments), and serves a very large audience that has largely been neglected.
Now we’ve gotten word that Google has launched its own competing service, and is using a dubious advertising scheme to get the word out. Running searches for “Yamli” or “Yamli.com” on any of Google’s Arabic portals (like Google.ae) will prominently display ads for Google’s competing service alongside the search results.
Google’s AdWords policy is to only ban names trademarked outside of the United States, The UK, and Canada from being used as ad keywords. I contacted Yamli’s CEO, who says that his trademark is filed in the United States (though he has plans to apply for one elsewhere), so it sounds like Google isn’t directly violating its own policies. But the practice is undeniably shady. And searches for other competitive sites don’t return results for Google products (for example, a search for “Wikipedia” doesn’t return an ad for Google Knol).
Google has long been criticized for using its own AdWords advertising service to promote its own products (other search engines do the same, and have fallen under similar scrutiny). Google may not technically be breaking any of its own policies with these Yamli ads, but it’s ignoring its oft-spoken mantra: “Don’t Be Evil”.
Update: Google has removed the ad.