Update 12.28.06 12:56pm: Most of these sites are back to their original rankings, all the updates and my response to the situation, the new changes (and my response to a BB reader, the editor of Search Engine Land) are in this Boing Boing post. It’s such a relief to be back in my original spot in rankings, and it really made me reflect on just how fragile the emerging democratization of information is.
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In recent weeks, Google has been changing its search algorithms and now many (though not all) sex websites have been dropped — including this one. It seems to have coincided with changes they made relating to their pay-for-play keyword ad program, AdSense. What’s disturbing to me (besides the harm it’s done to small businesses over the holidays) is that Google’s snafu seems to have dropped more sex-positive businesses (that focus on accurate sex ed) than big-gun, mainstream adult businesses (that sell unsafe sex toys and skanky product). To me, this also shows the huge problem with having a monoculture wherin a single business is depended on to provide a communication service. They screw one thing up, and an essential feature (like access to accurate search result information) disappears. For instance, I remember talking to Johannes at Monochrom a few weeks back in Vienna, and he was upset that Google had just totally dropped Monochrom.at from the search results, when it had been coming up first (now only the .com comes up).
It used to be that if you searched for Good Vibes, Comstock Films, Tiny Nibbles and Violet Blue, you’d get each of these sites in the top rankings or on the first page (SafeSearch off, natural results). No more. However, if you search for Adam and Eve or Vivid, you get the mainstream sex toy and porn sites on the first page.
So, as Tony Comstock explains eloquently in his post about how his indy film business has been seriously affected, if people read about any of these entities in a magazine and then go to search for them, searchers don’t find what they’re looking for. Unsafe sex toys and “interracial” porn from huge companies, no problem, but books and toys from women-owned sex-positive healthy sex businesses? No.
Tony actually pointed this out to me this morning; I actually don’t Google myself very often but Tiny Nibbles used to come out as the first result — especially important to me when a woman has been running around using my name *as her business*. But Babeland had put together this excellent post about how they’d been suddenly dropped before the holiday season, and I hadn’t had time to research it and do a post; now it seems to be corrected. Comstock Films and many others are realizing that they’re affected too. My page ranking is seriously FUBAR in a weird way that can only be a mistake; search for “HOWTO: give an erotic gift (for the holidays and beyond)” and you get Fleshbot, Viviane’s Sex Carnival… and then the actual post I did about ten days ago. Conversely, search for “great news for schizophrenics” (a post on Jamie Zawinski’s blog) and it’s the first Google entry result.
It seems to me that Google screwed something up — something, we will never know, because they are secretive and proprietary. And for people who depend on tools like Google Search to mine the internet for accurate links to news, people, articles, and everything else that makes media happen, well, we just have to keep in mind that Google isn’t as accurate as it used to be. It’s just lame the way the reshuffling has happened — we in the sex-positive communities have worked so hard to make a place for ourselves outside the huge, entrenched old-boys’ distribution network that companies like Adam and Eve and Vivid take for granted (and still exclude indies from). I truly believed that things like Google made the playing field a whole lot more even for those of us struggling against gender stereotypes, sex-negative portrayals of healthy sexuality and — yes, even abstinence education. Now we all have to work a lot harder.
Update 2: Valleywag writes, Chronicle writer disappears in porn clampdown.
Update 3: Boing Boing writes, Google “disappears” sex blogs? Something’s broken. Also, my post on Fleshbot, Google Spanks the Little Guys (image via).
And, I’m all for thinking that one should always first jump to the conclusion of stupidity (mistakes) and not malice, but one reader writes, “why would any company compromise its product (any search for ‘tiny nibbles’ should reasonably come up with the result ‘tinynibbles.com’) unless there was a reason? my guess: money. they didn’t get rid of *all* sex sites, so it’s not because the christian right forced a change. rather, they quietly changed their search algorithms so that the big companies would be prominent and the small independent businesses would be lost.”