Could open source replace Google adwords/adsense?

I love Google. The search tool is terrific, and I have yet to see a better one, and I also use Gmail, Google docs, Google Analytics and plenty of other groovy Google stuff. Oh and this blog is published with Blogger so thanks again Google.

The problem I have is with Google Adwords and Adsense, as I am both a buyer of advertising, and a publisher of their adsense ads. Both are key to Google’s wealth and both suck. So what I would like to know would be better than Google?

How I use Google advertising.
Google Adwords allows me to bid on keywords, and if my bid is high enough, and if someone is searching for that keyword, my ad gets shown on the search results page. Also my ad gets shown on third party pages that Google deems to be relevant to that keyword, and if on either page a user clicks on my ad I pay Google to receive the user to my page. So that is great isn’t it?

On the other side of the fence I display Google adsense ads on my pages and if someone clicks on those ads Google pay me. That is the core of my income and Google made it possible. Fantastic, right?

Well it should be and to be fair it is an incredibly complex transaction that Google manages behind the scenes, but the problem I have is that the price I pay for a click on my ad. bears little relation to the amount I receive per click, and this is a complaint I am hearing more and more often. Google are greedy.

Could the web community create a competitor to Google, and furthermore would it be open source? This would have the benefit of keeping less of the money passing through it’s hands, and a side benefit of keeping Google honest through being an equal competitor.

The problem is so massively complex though, and daunting to even consider. There are millions of advertisers and millions of publishers and the 2 meet in the middle and billions of transactions take place between them. It is a miracle the system works at all, never mind efficiently. There are however examples of the web solving these problems, but none I can think of that are open source.

A non open source website I am thinking of Betfair.com, which takes millions of bets from punters and matches them to millions of amateur bookmakers and at the conclusion of the event wagered on, betfair settle the bets and take a small cut. It works much more efficiently than Google, keeping 5% of the winnings, only. Not open source but very, very slick.

Then there is Zopa.com which puts borrowers in touch with lenders, without the banks required as middlemen, and hence both parties get better interest rates. Again hugely complex, well run but not open source.

And for open source there is Mozilla who develop Firefox the only sensible alternative to Internet Explorer for PC users. This one is open source and free.

I cannot think of an open source project that handles billions of transactions like a Google alternative would need to. Can you?
Please send suggestions via the comments, thanks.

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