The never-ending importance of algorithms

Posted on January 7, 2013

 

As the nation readies itself for the arrival of the first credit card bills of 2013, it is likely that many Christmas buying decisions were effectively driven by algorithms.

It is also likely that many post-Christmas purchases were similarly affected, particularly in light of the web retail records broken on Boxing Day.

The power they wreak on the internet shopper is huge; from delivering the pages viewed when searching, to recommending other products when on a site.

It is the all important PageRank that is the most powerful though. It is certainly the one that keeps those working to optimise a site up at night. There are concerns in the wider world though, that the search engine algorithms risk being unfairly skewed.

After all search engines are no longer just that; they are merely a cog, all be it an integral one, of a whole portfolio of products. It is reasonable to suppose therefore that the products added by these companies will be promoted ahead of other providers.

The major search engines say this is not the case, with all algorithms being purely computer driven. Moreover, they say that keeping their algorithms secret is not just a protection of their intellectual property, but also a tool to ensure SEO remains largely ethical and sound.

These are all good arguments of course but, it all reveals just how far reaching and, nearly, omnipotent algorithms are. Free choice and free thought are still present of course, though quite how effective this freedom now is in relation to times past is certainly questionable.

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