Apparently Google is under attack from many directions for anti-trust violations, the main complaint seeming to be that Google tilts its search results to favor its own divisions (e.g. Google Places at the top of travel searches). The Reason article as well as the Politico piece illustrate just how much competitors with political pull, rather than consumers, are the true beneficiaries of anti-trust policy.
I really have nothing but disdain for this use of government power, but I can't help but laugh at the plight of Google, whose CEO had a large role in suing Microsoft for browser anti-trust years ago for the horrible crime of giving away a free browser with their OS. In fact, ironically, the core of this suit was about Microsoft going too far in integrating the OS with browser. In many ways, Microsoft was probably prescient (for once, they tend to be a follower) in looking towards an OS built around browser. In fact, by preventing Microsoft from such integration, the suit cleared the way for an integrated browser based OS to be introduced by.... Google with Chrome OS. And there sure is a lot of browser / OS integration in my Google android-based phone. I also don't remember my Android phone offering me a range of browser and search choices, requirements their CEO had the government impose on Microsoft.
More recently, Google has led the charge in Washington to regulate broadband suppliers in the name of "net neutrality." This classic bit of tilting the playing field in the name of creating a level playing field was theoretically aimed at stopping broadband companies from tilting their bandwidth for or against different web sites. Thus critics of Google who are concerned with the tilting of their search results for or against companies are demanding "search neutrality." This is a horrible bit of government interventionism, but the irony is delicious.
Google's efforts in net neutrality really are a head scratcher for me. What did they really get from that, and was it really worth opening the Pandora's box of government Internet regulation? And didn't anyone there not see the obvious application of the same logic to themselves? If you establish the principle that Cox Cable has to be a common carrier, it seems like a small step to say that Google Search must be as well. And maybe Amazon.com next must be a common carrier of retail goods. This is bad, bad stuff and Google and its CEO has brought it all on themselves.
Apparently Google is getting accused of skewing its search results to favor its own products. To which I say, so freaking what? When did Google suddenly become a common carrier? The implication is that by their very success (evidenced by a high market share) they have imposed on themselves more onerous rules than others operate under. When I stay in the Marriott, and I ask the concierge about local dining options, don't I expect him or her to list the hotel's restaurant options first?
I suppose consumers might have a mild beef if Google is misrepresenting its service, but for gods sakes its free -- if you are suspicious of the results, there are like a zillion competitors.
This complaint is basically coming from businesses. I know from past experience that seeing one's page rank drop with one of the regular Google algorithm tweaks is frustrating, but companies that through good SEO have climbed to the top of the search rankings are not owed anything, and in particular they are not owed that search ranking that they got for free. In fact, these are businesses that are basically free riders on Google whining about Google's actions. If they want to complain Google is not abiding by its terms of service on its paid listings, fine. That is potentially a legitimate complaint. But can't we agree that, as a foundation principle, government consumer protection action is never required for a free service somehow falling short of expectations?
Via Wawick Hughes, this "voting" site is pretty funny.
Apparently Google has launched a site where you can "vote" on climate change and the IPCC process. Except that you can only vote "yes." Fill in your name and hit submit, and you are counted as having voted the party line. Seriously. Since when does this meet anyone's definition of "vote?"
Every day Google innovationist Justin Baird pedals to work at the internet giant, where he is thinking big in his global campaign to act on climate change.
"My personal mission is to drive positive change through technology," he said.
"I am in a position where I can understand the issues surrounding climate change. And understanding the technology solution that can empower us to communicate collectively."
I guess we know now why Google did not have any qualms about cooperating with the Chinese government. They have been "communicating collectively" in their elections for years.
"From your local postcode it aggregates it together to a state level, then country level, then across the world, so what we're doing is generating a global statistic. Over time it starts to generate and show the strength of public support of what's happening," Mr Baird said.
Wow - I am predicting his point of view wins in a landslide
Chairman of the Copenhagen Climate Council, Tim Flannery, says the Google tool is an interesting invention.
"I can imagine a day not so long from now where the UN secretary-general is elected through Show Your Vote. It's a very interesting world that we're entering into," he said.
Yeah, unfortunately, I can imagine a day too. Already leaders around the world in countries like Venezuela, Cuba, and Iran are elected just this way.
Apparently Google is about to announce a new online spreadsheet product. My first reaction was - that's stupid, who would want to have their spreadsheet app. online -- its slower and probably less secure. Online applications strike me as a step back to the bad old days of mainframe-terminal applications.
But then I thought about my 30 managers who send me excel spreadsheets each week with their revenue data, and it occurred to me that this might be exactly what we need. Its a constant headache keeping everyone on the right version and managing all these submissions. Also, it would be nice if we can eliminate buying 40 copies of MS Office. Currently we are implementing OpenOffice 2.0 to eliminate the MS Office expense, but a real online collaborative spreadsheet solution at Google type pricing (e.g. zero) might be cool.
I don't see it up on their site yet, but they have a lot of cool stuff in Beta I had never played with before. Check out Google Labs here.