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Is Google the next Microsoft?

Column Or am I being paranoid? [Yes, Ed.]
Mon Sep 01 2003, 11:55
ALL OF THE loving favorable press surrounding Google's fifth anniversary is just too perfect, too sweet, too "Gosh, how wonderful." Reminds me of the unquestioning flattery AOL got back in the late '90s as they plundered and pillaged their way across the dot.com landscape before the eyes of those same reporters at the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal. (Literally -- Kara Swisher got an "insider" look at AOL and wrote a sugar-coated account of the company in the '90s. Missed all that bad AOL accounting later recounted by her successors at the Washington Post. Today, she's quoted on Google's press page. Hmm...) Thomas Friedman of the New York Times is so besotted he titled his June 29 article, "Is Google God?"

Sound the alarm, mates!

This cloying, worshipping, fawning fountain of positive press is way too good to be true. Google's PR people have put in overtime working Jedi Mind Tricks on the mainstream media. For that, I bow to them, and admire their cunning. Don't get me wrong, I use Google without a second thought, have the Google tool bar installed both at home and work, and will likely buy the O'Reilly book that tells me how to game Google's rankings. (And the fact people can game Google to raise their listings in the search engine should be a telling point, hmm?)

But consider for a moment the unbridled power Google has at its fingertips if it doesn't like this column.

"Hey Joe, what are we going to do about this idiot reporter?"
"His publisher paying for AdWord placement?"
"No"
"Ah, screw him. Bury them both in PageRank."

Quietly, without a single overt action or threat, anyone searching for "Doug Mohney" or back articles of The Inq has to dig to page 57 to find the first responses. Who'd know otherwise? It's not like there's an independent auditing committee to certify the validity of a Google search or the proprietary PageRank. And God, er Google, could never be wrong, could it?

If you want a real dose of paranoia, it can be found at google-watch.com. Run by a public interest group out of Texas, they make a rather interesting case for reasons to fear Google, using its toolbar, and some of the ways it is grating upon people around the globe. For example, Google keeps around full-blown cached copies of pages, including the full text. Since Google is making a buck off the cached copy, sooner or later folks that hold copyright on the text, say like Yahoo or Microsoft, aren't going to be too happy about this practice. And it's likely to happen if Microsoft gets into the search engine biz to compete Yahoo's Alltheweb.com and Google.

A different spin can be found at www.nutch.org to develop an open source/open standards search engine. News.Com discusses it here (URL: http://news.com.com/2100-1032-5064913.html), [Er. Screw Cnet. So did we Doug, four days before, here Are those two facts by any chance related? Ed. ] and lists luminary supports such as Lotus founder Mitch Kapor and tech book mogul Tim O'Reilly. Er, Nutchers are worried that a single search engine as a monopoly is a Bad Thing, especially if the search criteria for page ranking is some sort of proprietary formula. (It's written in Java, so I suppose I should credit a karma point to Sun this week). Google could likely shut down a lot of the naysaying tomorrow by "glass boxing" the way PageRank is calculated. Fat chance, but one never knows.

Do I think Google is out doing something Really Nefarious? No. Questionable? Maybe. Why? The good news press is way too loud and way too good. But there aren't many comfy alternatives to Google right now. µ

 

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