My own criticism about Google’s bias are well known. But I’m far from alone in worrying that Google’s increasing investment in online content brings into question the supposed objectivity of their search engine. One notable search engine guru who has expressed his discomfort with Google’s new role as a media company is Danny Sullivan, the editor-in-chief of Search Engine Land. Earlier this week, Sullivan wrote a controversial piece arguing that Google is shifting from a search engine to a content destination. And as he told me when I caught up with him on Skype, Google now “deserves criticism” for the way in which it is muddying the supposed objectivity of its search engine. It’s the issue of “trust” that most concerns Sullivan about Google’s investment in content businesses like Zagat and Frommer’s, he says. And this is only going to increase in the future, Sullivan predicts, with Google likely to make major investments in new content areas like finance and shopping.
So is Sullivan right? Does Google now deserve criticism for promoting its own products? And, if indeed Google does make big acquisitions in the content space, at what point does this really undermine the trust that most of us have in the all-powerful Google search engine?