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Google is spoiling the web

When I have a question please just give me an answer, not a product

Some years ago I wrote a Web Master column for FF&FT. I would spend a few hours a week searching the web for interesting fishing related web pages and list them for publication. Over the months I found a heap of interesting sites, at least I thought they were interesting. My main reseach tools were search engines; I used a couple of web crawlers, Altavista and Google which was just gaining momentum. Searches turned up heaps of personal sites, some beginning commercial sites and lots of pages which lay somewhere between including forums – sort of sites which hoped to be commercial in some form at a future date, as some now are.

Back then the search engines would take keywords and return adresses. I guess the main criteria was relevance – ask it about 'spiders, north country, fly fishing' and you got a few hundred pages with the best matches first. I would then check through those and, hopefully, find a few gems tucked away on page three or four of the search. Now all I get are commercial sites. Ok web designers cottoned on to how search engines ranked search results pretty quickly and would 'optimise' sites by putting keywords on the site so their clients would get more hits, be more relevant to more searches. I've no problem with that.

Recently the rise and rise of Google and the commercialisation of all search engines means they (the search engines) are payed by bigger websites. When I search for something the results are now weighted towards sites who, perfectly understandably, want to sell me something. Using a search engine was like asking a librarian for help with research. Back at university we would do just that – "I'd like a list of all the books and articles published in the last 10 years about ..." and the librarian would come back with a list. They would not come back with a list selected because the publishers paid the librarian a commission.

Commerce is killing part of the web I found so valuable, so refreshing and exciting, and that makes me sad. Fishing forums, for the most part, are now stale, filled with stock answers and, too often, mis-information. There is some hope on Youtube and there are some interesting fly-fishing blogs out there is you can find them but it's a big IF.

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