As expected it looks like this week may be a bit light in the news department. That’s fine. Everyone needs a break from time to time. So as I am looking around this morning I come across an op-ed piece in the New York Times that is written by Adam Raff, a co-founder of Foundem, an Internet technology company.
From what I can gather, Mr. Raff is upset that his site was banned from Google’s index. There is no explanation as to why this happened so I am not going to assume anything although an article from eConsultancy looks at his plight and we get some insight as to why Google is so ‘mean’ to him. As a result, Mr. Raff contends that Google simply is too powerful and that the government should be considering a ‘search neutrality’ platform that falls in line with the ‘net neutrality’ platform. Here is a bit of his concern:
Today, search engines like Google, Yahoo and Microsoft’s new Bing have become the Internet’s gatekeepers, and the crucial role they play in directing users to Web sites means they are now as essential a component of its infrastructure as the physical network itself. The F.C.C. needs to look beyond network neutrality and include “search neutrality”: the principle that search engines should have no editorial policies other than that their results be comprehensive, impartial and based solely on relevance.
I had to shake my head that this was actually put in print but I kept reading. I bumped into more ‘complaints’.
Another way that Google exploits its control is through preferential placement. With the introduction in 2007 of what it calls “universal search,” Google began promoting its own services at or near the top of its search results, bypassing the algorithms it uses to rank the services of others. Google now favors its own price-comparison results for product queries, its own map results for geographic queries, its own news results for topical queries, and its own YouTube results for video queries. And Google’s stated plans for universal search make it clear that this is only the beginning.
I guess my question is “What is a company supposed to do in that situation”? Why should anyone in the free market be obligated to being relegated to a ‘public service’ status just because they do something better than most?
I admit that it seems a bit creepy at times to see just how far reaching Google is with regard to services. I also believe that as they get bigger there are likely to be many vulnerabilities that will be discovered and exploited as the free market has seen in the past with seemingly invincible powers like IBM and Microsoft. It just happens.
There’s a lot more to this op-whine piece that I am surprised the Times even allowed to see the light of day.
Without search neutrality rules to constrain Google’s competitive advantage, we may be heading toward a bleakly uniform world of Google Everything — Google Travel, Google Finance, Google Insurance, Google Real Estate, Google Telecoms and, of course, Google Books.
Some will argue that Google is itself so innovative that we needn’t worry. But the company isn’t as innovative as it is regularly given credit for. Google Maps, Google Earth, Google Groups, Google Docs, Google Analytics, Android and many other Google products are all based on technology that Google has acquired rather than invented.
Ask Cisco if they ‘invented’ everything they own. The folks who make Flip cameras are thrilled that Cisco likes to buy good ideas. Interestingly enough, Mr. Raff actually shows that Google PROVIDES market opportunity for the little guy. There are small companies out there that make good things that Google could buy thus making the companies that were innovative enough to be recognized successful beyond what was likely to happen on their own. Maybe Mr. Raff needs to think about making something worthy of being purchased by Google rather than worming his way into the media to complain about his issues.
I do have a solution for Mr. Raff. If there is this need for an impartial search engine (which is a ridiculous concept because in order for anything to be ‘ranked’ in numerical order there needs to be some guidelines thus implied ‘partiality’) that is based solely on merit (Whose definition of merit? Someone has to be judge and jury here, right?) and relevance (as defined by whom?) why not let the government build its own search engine? Why put this constraint on the private sector? Our current situation here in the US is that the government wants to be knee deep in everything so why not let them create the engine ‘for the people and by the people’ then let the people decide?
Are there any Googlers out there who would like to address this kind of thinking? As for Marketing Pilgrim readers how do you really feel about Google’s place in the market? Is there any validity to this argument? Is Google’s dominance something to be concerned about or just accepted? Is there a real threat of this becoming a Google world? What if that did happen? Is there any validity to the concept of ‘search neutrality’? Weigh in please.
I have a better idea. Would someone please make some news so we can move on to other things?