Fri 13 Jun 2008
Not even two weeks have passed since I wrote here about why the ubiquity of Google worries me and now Yahoo is falling into Google’s hands as well. TechCrunch first broke the news yesterday and now is reporting about the conditions of the deal (which are much better for Google) and criticizing Yahoo executives for, basically, giving up on their company and its fight for a place in the Net.
In any case this is clearly a step in the direction of Google becoming the only search engine known worldwide. That would mean a single entity having monopoly over who gets traffic and who doesn’t. Or, in other words, deciding which content is visible and which is not. And this is for sure bending the worldview of its users – if not intentionally then as a result of the SEO experts’ efforts.
This is why I did choose to use Microsoft’s Life Search instead. Joe Ziz commented asking why switch to a search that is not better and is run by a corporate behemoth too.
You see – the point here is not using something technically better but different. If my worldview – as affected by search results – has to be skewed I prefer it to be skewed in a different way. And the problem with search is that with current technology a good search engine requires resources no startup can build. That leaves Microsoft as the only viable competitor – they can match Google’s resources because they can afford it. Probably no one else in the industry can.
And I’m less afraid of Microsoft’s domination of the past than Google’s (near)monopoly of the present. Microsoft just reaped huge profits by selling low quality software, Google is dealing with a much more delicate matter: information.
Now, the big picture behind all this is whether freedom of speech on the Internet will be preserved or not. It is much more likely to survive if there is not too much concentration – that is if the Internet is indeed a neutral pipe connecting small and big alike and putting them on equal footing. If Google (and a few sites like it) dominates and if Net neutrality goes away (which is something all telcos would love to see – selling access to major sites like TV channels is a great idea for Mammon worshipers) then Internet will become as much a censored propaganda channel as TV and radio have became already.
And this is not impossible – the naive thinking of the early 90ies that because the Internet was designed to function after a series of nuke blasts it will be impossible to censor it was proven wrong by China and its Internet Police. In the end it turns out that even if it is technically doable to go around Internet censorship it doesn’t matter if it is too difficult for the majority of the population.
This is a grim vision. It might or it might not become reality. But it is worth knowing how much the shape of the Internet will affect the shape of the society in world’s industrial nations. Google’s influence is not to be underestimated.