Should Google Be Limited In HOW They Evolve Search?

Should Google Be Limited In HOW They Evolve Search?

I have been thinking quite a bit about HOW to address all of the ‘stuff’ flying around about Google, Google +, ‘search your world’, Twitter, Facebook, and a partridge in a pear tree … because in some ways things seem very clear but in other ways not. So what I decided was to drop a couple of ideas and then open it up for everyone to discuss.

First off, let us start with the baseline assumptions.

  • First: Google has a monopoly in search.
  • Second: Google’s search monopoly is a ‘natural’ monopoly. (more in a minute)
  • Third: Google sees search as the absolute core of its business.
  • Fourth: Google sees everything else it does as subservient to advancing and protecting the core search business.
  • Fifth: Google will protect itself from threats to its search monopoly by any and all means possible.

There are likely many more I could make, but this is a start.

Saying that Google has a ‘natural’ monopoly means that they EARNED it by doing it better than anyone else. This is extremely important as it distinguishes them from Microsoft in the 1990’s. When I open my browser on my home or work computers, I can assign a default search tool, and can even have any search website as my home page. I CHOOSE Google … but since I have been on the internet since before it was called the internet, I obviously used something else. I started with the pre-web tools like Gopher and Archie, moved to WebCrawler and eventually to AltaVista. I stuck with AltaVista way too long, leaving only when it turned into a portal and Yahoo ruined it … then I went to Google. Since I use Mac and PC and Android and iOS devices … I could use anything I wanted. But I choose Google search – and don’t like Bing on my Windows Phone 7.

When I say ‘advancing and protecting the core search business’, I mean Android specifically but not solely. The Android platform was Google’s way to advance their ecosystem into mobile without being beholden to anyone else (like Apple). I also mean protecting by extending things that are ‘required’ on an Android device to include Maps rather than someone else’s navigation software (which happened with the original Motorola Droid, as contracts had to be broken and Maps included or Google wouldn’t ‘certify’ the device … resulting in the death of a small company).

And when I say ‘protect itself from threats’, I mean that they will leverage their monopoly to thwart threats. They want ANYONE who is thinking of searching ANYTHING to come to Google. If they go to Expedia or Priceline to search travel info, that is a problem. If they go to Amazon for purchases, that is a problem. If they go to Twitter for news, that is a problem. And if they head to Facebook to search for friends, that is a problem.

And this is where things get interesting and problematic. Who really cares if Google opens an online travel service or their shopping portal or even a social network? Why shouldn’t they be able to advance as they like? The problem is not having them, but integrating them into their search engine.

And this is where things start to get like Microsoft.

Google has done a pretty good job at evenly penalizing sites for trying to ‘game’ their search – to the point of recently demoting their own Chrome browser for paid links! That is a really good policy – and it isn’t the first time the search business has penalized another arm of the company.

The problem with Microsoft was that they already had an established monopoly, but like any public company are expected to constantly grow each business and also add new revenue streams to both protect existing businesses and open up new growth areas. So with Microsoft, they were late to everything about the internet – they tried to copy AOL with MSN (and failed), dropped in a free ‘Mail & News’ into the OS releases and found success … but it was when their late entry into the browser field came along and was integrated deeply into Windows itself came along – and at the same time Windows Updates started causing mysterious crashes and incompatibilities with Netscape – that they crossed the line from evolution to anti-competitive.

When Google decided to enter the social networking fray again with Google+, many wondered how it would work. Very quickly it became clear that Google saw this as a ‘core competency’ – they were taking existing, popular products such as Reader and fundamentally altering them to be more ‘Google+ friendly’. This was not some ‘Wave’ type lark. But when Reader lost the ability to comment and was replaced only with Google+ sharing, it annoyed some but since it kept the ability to email, tweet or Facebook share, it was just a bad decision.

This week with Google ‘share your world’, things seem to be different. When you search for something on Google now, your results (as shown in the top image) are laden with Google-centric results. Flickr shows up on top … but ONLY because Robert Scoble +1’d it and I follow him on Google+. There are also other unrelated Google+ profiles and maps. The maps feature I LOVE, and is something I use regularly – again, I consider Maps a ‘natural’ dominance as I just like it better than Mapquest and switched without ever looking back.

But in spite of having a Google+ account and making some use of it, if Google was actually searching ‘my world’ there would be LOADS more from Facebook and Twitter. Google claims that they would give equal weight to those services if they allowed Google full access to all of their data. Seriously – why not just ask for bank account access while they are at it! The other problem is that Google already has MILLIONS of Facebook pages and Tweets indexed – just try searching your name and Twitter or Facebook and see how many results pop up.

To many this demonstrates that Google is trying to leverage their search monopoly to make Google+ the de facto standard social network, removing Twitter and Facebook from the public conversation.

What do you think?

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About the Author

Michael Anderson
I have loved technology for as long as I can remember - and have been a computer gamer since the PDP-10! Mobile Technology has played a major role in my life - I have used an electronic companion since the HP95LX more than 20 years ago, and have been a 'Laptop First' person since my Compaq LTE Lite 3/20 and Powerbook 170 back in 1991! As an avid gamer and gadget-junkie I was constantly asked for my opinions on new technology, which led to writing small blurbs ... and eventually becoming a reviewer many years ago. My family is my biggest priority in life, and they alternate between loving and tolerating my gaming and gadget hobbies ... but ultimately benefits from the addition of technology to our lives!

2 Comments on "Should Google Be Limited In HOW They Evolve Search?"

  1. Great post. The only major difference between Google’s current issue with G+ in search results and Microsoft’s IE bundling issue is that Microsoft had already entered into a consent decree with the DOJ not to bundle products into their OSes that they had previously sold as separate, non-free products. Google is not under any sort of consent decree at the moment (though many think that this will push them into it.) So, the reason that Microsoft was sued back in the 90s wasn’t merely that they had bundled IE to try to gain a competitive advantage against Netscape and other browsers – it was that they had already agreed that they would not bundle, and had broken that agreement.

    There is another difference – Microsoft required all OEMs to sell a license of Windows with all PCs that they sold, even if they did not have Windows on them when sold (i.e., if a customer wanted it installed with Netware or a Linux variant or something.) There is not a single PC being sold today that requires the user to use Google search – I believe that even Google ChomeBooks allow the user to select a different default search service, and there are Android phones that famously use Bing for search (ie. the Samsung Fascinate; the initial Froyo build would not even allow you to change to Google search.) Remember that Microsoft claimed in court that IE could not be removed from Windows without breaking the OS. (While this may have been true, it seems obvious that Microsoft could have designed Win98 in a way that did not break Windows if you removed IE.) And, of course, Google search costs nothing to the consumer or to the OEM. In fact, Google actually pays Mozilla for their search referrals in Firefox. And I think that only Android phones are required to have Google search, Google market, and GMail to be called Android, but there are alternate markets, mail clients and search apps that can be used and set as default (with the exception, of course, of a brief period when AT&T would not allow sideloading of apps, so there was no way at first to add the Android App Store, or GetJar – I think…) 

    While most users probably will not bother to do this, it is quite possible to never use Google search for anything, on just about any product that I can think of.

    If I read this right, Google claims that Twitter has flags to not spider their content, so Google says that they cannot add those items to search. Fair enough, though, of course, Google feels that they should be able to access that content without paying what Twitter demands. At this point, this is a Twitter vs, Google thing. If Twitter really wants their content in social search on Google, they will come to an agreement with Google, or choose not to have those results included. However, Google has to walk this line very carefully. At some point they are going to go too far, if this wasn’t that point.

  2. The quote of the day I saw: Google has pretty much gamed its own search engine to insure Google+ will succeed.

    As for Twitter and Facebook, you can already see stuff from them on Google or Bing or other engines if you search.  Google has MILLIONS of pages already indexed.  But they specifically exclude them.  And they make you opt-out of it … which isn’t illegal but has been shown to be at the very least unethical time and again, yet people keep doing it …

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