A small controversy has been making the rounds today as some people have noticed that the searches on Google for iOS apps are no longer showing the links to iTunes. First noticed by AppsFire cofounder Ouriel Ohayon, the issue is that the search results seem to be excluding iTunes and instead showing other results higher than usual. We reached out to Google for comment and a spokesperson tells us that it has had problem "fetching" iTunes' pages on the web, and therefore they're not showing up in search results.

We've been having some issues fetching pages from the iTunes web servers, and as a result some people may have had problems finding iTunes apps in search easily. We're working with the team there to ensure search users can find what they're looking for.

The explanation lines up with a brief analysis from Danny Sullivan at Search Engine Land, who speculates that the classic "duplicate content problem" has split rankings for various iTunes pages. This isn't the only high-profile issue Google has had with dropping links from search results in recent memory — two weeks ago it blocked all links to Digg.com thanks to some overzealous spam control. Spam isn't likely the problem this time, but whatever the issue, Google claims to be working on a fix. Google has a real need to be impartial when it comes to serving up search results, so even the appearance of bias is harmful to its reputation — look no further than "Search Plus Your World."