EVERYTHING SELLER Amazon reportedly tweaked search results to boost its profits despite an internal backlash, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Apparently, Amazon changed its search algorithm so that it would serve up its own products over those from other companies, and while the WSJ reports that the move was "contested internally", it would appear that Amazon's bigwigs crushed the grumbling and apparently went on with the antagonistic algorithm optimising.
"Amazon optimised the secret algorithm that ranks listings so that instead of showing customers mainly the most-relevant and best-selling listings when they search—as it had for more than a decade—the site also gives a boost to items that are more profitable for the company," explained the WSJ.
Basically, the aim was to make the search algorithms prioritise products that were more profitable to Amazon rather than the items that were the most relevant for the customer.
Given all the stuff that surrounds the likes of Google, Apple and Amazon around antitrust and the exploitation of their market dominance, the whole situation doesn't look good for Amazon. And apparently Amazon employees thought that as well.
"A review committee that approves all additions to the algorithm has sent engineers back if their proposed variable produces search results with a lower score on the profitability metric, this person said. 'You are making an incentive system for engineers to build features that directly or indirectly improve profitability,' the person said. 'And that's not a good thing.'," the WSJ explained.
But Amazon has rather strongly denied the findings in the WSJ report, and threw a bit of shade on the publication.
"The Wall Street Journal has it wrong. We explained at length that their 'scoop' from unnamed sources was not factually accurate, but they went ahead with the story anyway. The fact is that we have not changed the criteria we use to rank search results to include profitability," Amazon told Ars Technica.
"We feature the products customers will want, regardless of whether they are our own brands or products offered by our selling partners. As any store would do, we consider the profitability of the products we list and feature on the site, but it is just one metric and not in any way a key driver of what we show customers."
You'll have to make up your own mind on who you side with. But we'd not be surprised to see Amazon get an antitrust probe out of this, even if it's just to make sure it's playing by the rules. µ
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