Several months ago Google publicly said “A” by including paid links among forbidden methods of SEO. Users were encouraged to report pages using such links and the spam fighting team, which has Matt Cutts in the ranks, worked on an algorithm to detect such pages.
Regardless of clear signs that paid links, as one of the techniques used to cheat search engines are not allowed, during those months Google AdWords and AdSense still allowed the companies working in paid links business to run ads. The problem was widely commented on many sites as a sign of duplicity from Google, on one hand fighiting with illegal SEO in organic results and on the other allowing the same companies to run ads via AdWords/AdSense and indirectly making money on the business.
Today Google says “B” in the case of paid links. Indeed it does it quite late, but in the end Google turns out to do the right thing by removing ads run against the regulations. As Matt Cutts put it in several comments, after a chat with ads team the problem was recognized and policy will be enforced from now on.
Until now the search results for keyword “PR8” (i.e. PageRank 8) looked like this:
PR8 query results before the change
and today they look quite different:
PR8 results today
(The images are licensed CC-BY-NC and come from Google Blogoscoped)
It is a step in good direction both for Google and Internet users. Most people realize that the fight between spammers and search engines is an eternal arms race and that it's impossible to separate 100% grain from chaff. Nevertheless, I reckon that to give up the fight would result in so much spam in search results, that they would no longer be useful. Organic results for most queries would not differ much from the ads shown next to them. The top places would be taken by those who spend the most money on “promotion”, regardless of their relevancy or usability. I hope we'll never see such a dark vision of the WWW.