We hear a lot about issues on censorship on Global Voices Online and our Advocacy Project, and most of the cases come from Government policies or business self-censorship because of the Government policies. However, fierce business competition can sometimes result in censorship… or a kind of.
Famous Taiwan infotech blogger Briian recently protested against Yahoo Taiwan (Yahoo Kimo) filtering search results, calling Yahoo!Kimo “evil”.
In his post “Protest! Yahoo!Kimo's ‘Combined Search’ monopolizes information! (抗議！Yahoo!奇摩「綜合搜尋」資訊壟斷)”, he pointed out that Yahoo Kimo's new search function, “Combined Search”, gives out web links, news, video clips, blogs results… only from Yahoo's own services.
First, let's take a look at the original look of search result page in Yahoo!Kimo. The upper part of the page is ads and news, the middle part is natural search result of web pages, and the bottom part is from Yahoo's Knowledge+.
And below is the search result using newly invented “Combined Search” from Yahoo!Kimo:
Look carefully at the result page. The news area contains news stories only from Yahoo!Kimo News (which seems like always), and other media outlets who are not favored by Yahoo and have no chance to get into Yahoo!Kimo News Channel would stay in some kind of unnoticeable Internet Blackhole.
What's more important is the area of “Blog search result” under “Knowledge+” area, where all the results are from “Yahoo!Kimo Blog” and “Wretch Blog” (note: Wretch is the biggest blog service in Taiwan, also owned by Yahoo!Kimo). And that means people who search with this “Combined Search” cannot find anything other than blogs from “Kimo” and “Wretch”. Blogs all around the world are not count as blogs, while only blogs under Yahoo Services are counted as blogs.
The same situation happens when searching video clips with Yahoo!Kimo search. All videos showed in search result are from “Wretch Video”.
This hot post got 192 comments and soon was noticed by ZDNet Taiwan. ZDNet interviewed Briian on this issue and then he put whole 3 parts of Q&A on his new blogpost, which has 75 supporting comments when I write this report. I quote part of the Q&A below:
1) You protest Yahoo!Kimo Combined Search for its information monopoly on Reinstall Mad Man. As a web user and a famous blogger, what changes do you expect to see from Yahoo!Kimo?
Previously I thought that Yahoo!USA's “YST” technology is to find information faster and more precisely, however, it seems like Yahoo!Kimo is trying to prevent their users to find more blogs and more video clips. Are there more clips in Wretch Video than Youtube? Can it cover the whole world's video? Once more and more users are aware of the fact that they can't find what he wants with Yahoo!Kimo, they will turn away quickly and decide to use other search engines.
2) After my interview with directors of Yahoo!Kimo Search and Engineer department, they told me that the reason they don't search comprehensively is due to limited corporate resources, so they decide to present new functions first and then step by step increase search resources. They also believe that Wretch Blog and Yahoo Blog represent most blogs in Taiwan, so the search result can already meet the need of most users. What do you think about their feedback?
This question should be directed to them. Do people think this is a problem because of “technology capability” or “limited resources… while being the most profitable company”?
If Wretch and Yahoo can satisfy most users, then I guess contents in Blogger, Xuite, Pixnet, Windows Live Spaces, Yam Sky, and Engadget are all trivial wrecks? Not to mention languages other than Chinese and information from the most bloggy Japan, US, Europe, China….
3) 有一個很有趣的現象我不曉得你會怎麼解讀，像是Google在美國擁有很高的市佔率，搜尋並超越雅虎多年，不過雅虎在台灣近乎壟斷市場，Google的使用者仍以power-user為主，Google的開放策略似乎還無法吸引到台灣很多用戶的關注，尤其是20歲以下的用戶。對這些非power-user 來說，他們可能真的不關心雅虎有沒有壟斷的問題，你怎樣看這個現象？
3) Here's a very interesting phenomenon which I am curious about how you decode it: Google has very high market share in US, and its search has surpassed Yahoo for years. However, Yahoo seems to monopolize the market, while Google is still embraced only by power users. It seems that Google's open strategy does not attract many Taiwan users’ attention, especially users under 20 years old. To these non power users, they perhaps don't care about the monopoly problem of Yahoo. What do you think about it?
Most of Google's services are much better than Yahoo!Kimo, such as search engine and Gmail, but normal users don't know they have other choices. I notice that Yahoo!Kimo's commercials and advertisements are everywhere on TV, newspapers, magazines, radio, or even buses riding on the streets in Taiwan, but I've never see any ads from Google. Although there are many Google lovers in Taiwan, but Google does not care about the Taiwan Market actually.
Google's huge amount of products might be very popular in other countries, but they are seldom used by Taiwanese. Websites are made for people to use, and there are a forest of differences around culture, habits, nationality or ethnicity, other than language waiting to be discovered. Google China has done a lot of efforts such as merging local websites, but Google just don't care about Taiwanese users while all Google Taiwan has done is having translated its services into Traditional Chinese.
What do you think? Do you consider it a kind of censorship? Do you find the same situation in your country? Please leave comment under after reading this report.