Google Product Search to become Pay for Play

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In less than promising news, it seems that Google has decide to switch its product search to paid model starting sometime in fall. The entire product search will disappear, and it will be called Google shopping and will only feature merchants who pay a fee to be included.

According to David Mercer, of Business2Community, here is what is going to happen

  1. Free product placements in Google search results are out
  2. Merchants will have to bid to display their products
  3. Paid product placement ad space will be bid upon by merchants vying for position
  4. Premium adwords space will be reduced to make way for a sponsored product images box at the top of the page

Danny Sullivan, of Search Engine Land has a real issue with this, and says that it goes against what Google is all about:

Once Deemed Evil, Google Now Embraces “Paid Inclusion” is my column from yesterday at our sister site Marketing Land. It explains the history of Google’s past opposition to paid inclusion and its reversal over the past year. Of that history, I’ll highlight this part of Google’s 2004 IPO filing, which specifically talked about paid inclusion being bad in terms of shopping search:

Froogle [what’s now called Google Product Search and will be called Google Shopping] enables people to easily find products for sale online. By focusing entirely on product search, Froogle applies the power of our search technology to a very specific task—locating stores that sell the items users seek and pointing them directly to the web sites where they can shop. Froogle users can sort results by price, specify a desired price range and view product photos.

Froogle accepts data feeds directly from merchants to ensure that product information is up-to-date and accurate. Most online merchants are also automatically included in Froogle’s index of shopping sites. Because we do not charge merchants for inclusion in Froogle, our users can browse product categories or conduct product searches with confidence that the results we provide are relevant and unbiased.

Jskrewson” on WebmasterWorld has this to say:

I have to admit, I’m saddened by this too. What really gets me is what Google is doing to the Internet. They play a stewardship role in defining the direction of the Internet. This is a role that should be done in the most ethical manner possible. Originally, the “do no evil” mantra was an acknowledgement that they understood the heavy responsibility of their stewardship.

Somewhere along the way, the owners lost sight of their responsibility. I hate to say it, but it makes you wonder if there should be a governing body controlled search engine that ensures a more democratic Internet can exist and thrive, instead of an Internet for the big brands and the biggest spenders.

I miss the idea of the Internet as a level playing field where everyone had an opportunity to have their voice heard. What happened to that, dear Google?

What's your opinion?