Search engine says its results more 'relevant' to black users
29/04/2009 8:35:00 PMJames Keller, THE CANADIAN PRESS
VANCOUVER, B.C. - Search for "recipes" on Google, and you'll get the standard array of websites for free cooking ideas.
But enter the same keyword at RushmoreDrive.com and the results are conspicuously different: websites dedicated to "soul food," traditional black cuisine from the southern United States, and another plainly titled "African American Food and Recipes."
Rushmore Drive bills itself as the first online search engine customized for black users, and the site's founder says the technology reveals the vast potential to tailor the Internet to virtually any ethnic or cultural group.
"Someone challenged me, 'Why do you think we need a black Google? We don't have a white Google.' And I said, 'Of course you do, it's called Google,"' says Johnny Taylor, CEO of the North Carolina-based site, which started last year.
"It's not because Google is somehow racist. It's that search engines are proxy for the majority."
Google crawls the web and ranks pages by, among other things, how often they are clicked and how many other sites link back to them.
That only reinforces the preferences of the majority of users who are likely white, says Taylor, whose site takes a different approach.
Rushmore Drive also crawls the web for results, but gives prominence to sites that staff have already identified as black-focused. It also aggregates news websites in the same way, also giving higher importance to sites like Black Entertainment Television rather than MTV.
Taylor says someone typing "Whitney" into a traditional search engine might be trying to find the Whitney Museum in New York, but Rushmore Drive assumes black users are more likely to be looking for musician Whitney Houston or civil rights leader Whitney M. Young.
"There are a number of terms that mean different things to different groups of the population," says Taylor.
"We're trying to provide a more relevant search experience, which is no different than anyone else."
Rushmore Drive then approaches advertisers with its claim to reach black consumers.
Sites targeting specific cultural groups aren't exactly new.