May 20, 2005


Been meening to return to the issue of Google and write something proper up. But before we drop the written, consider this something of the freestyle, emerged off the dome in an email exchange with T van Veen and Wayne Marshall on the subject of this particular propaganda.


1- There is nothing democratic about google, yes they provide information freely, but they take in radically more info then they give out. For instance each time you search they get more info, about what people are searching for, about what you (as a cookie) like to search for, which link results you click, which ads, etc. In exchange for all this data they give you back stuff they already know. All the relational stuff they keep for themselves and maybe their big advertisers. Its a completely asynchronous relationship. Google is a black box, you can only get out of it what they let out, they don't even provide a public way to get in touch with any human at the company..

2- There are only 3 search engines of note, Google, Yahoo, and MSN, all the other big ones use services from one of the three. The necessary capital to create new one is extraordinary over a year ago the NYT claimed Google had 100,000 servers running...

3- If you don't show up in a web search you barely exist online. People have an extremely limited capacity to remember addresses, bookmarks, links on their friends pages, memory. Everything else they go to google, which essentially defines the global web. Everyone has a small local web, cool. But if you are trying to communicate to a broader audience you need to leave your local web, and without the search engines you are pretty much fucked, they can sensor your info. Not completely, but enough marginalize you. Similarly the way they rank sites can radically alter traffic patterns, they claim the ranking is purely an algorithm, but its always shifting and could easily be politicized.

4- Google is a private company. Technically they are publicly traded, but the stock is structured so that only the holders of preferred shares have any say over the companies actions. Shareholder activism is a bit of a joke ala Nader, but its sure beats nothing, and occasionally is even effective. Google is structured to make this impossible, so is the NYT for that matter, but very few companies are. There is zero public accountability in Google's world. They say 'don't be evil' and we have to trust them. So far they seem pretty cool, they run porn ads but not gun ads for instance. But they've also rolled over every time a large entity sues them, ie the Scientologists and the French government. What happens when the NSA knocks on their door? Come to think of it, have they ever denied sharing info with the NSA, FBI, Homeland Security, etc...

5- Until Orkut and Gmail Google never knew your name. Not anymore.. The original Gmail terms of service even gave them the right to archive emails that you delete from you Gmail account. The only thing preventing them from reading these emails is that TOS agreement that splashed across your screen as a digital file a while back..

6- The issue isn't really what Google has done, but what they have the potential of doing.

Posted by Abe at May 20, 2005 08:11 PM


Interesting possibilities to expand on the point about taking in radically more than they give out. I look forward to seeing more salient thoughts on this...

To me, google is an organization that goes beyond previously concieved boundaries of monopolism, or even capitalism. i can only imagine the indignance of libertarian zealots if something ala google had been set up and run by a state or govt somewhere, but as a private company, what we get is an entity with absolutely no accountability, no transparency, and yet apparently working for "free access to all the world's information" (and maybe with internal links to state or govt entities anyway)... And all is said and done in such neutral and objective language...

Now "information" is starting to extend to the files you keep separate on your local drives, not just content on the interweb. What potential in this? The mind freaks.