June 2008

So, the Irish have overwhelmingly rejected the “EU constitution” disguised as “Lisbon Treaty”. Thank you, Ireland! You did what all those who were denied their say by their supposedly democratic governments hoped for.

But this is not over yet for Ireland – the pressure will now mount, because the euro-socialists didn’t expect anyone to say no this time. Eurocracts will probably try to bully Ireland to get back in line with all kinds of threats – from being “left outside” to economic loses. For now they are expressing their anger by saying that “the NO vote is Ireland’s problem“.

Irish prime minister was already summoned to Brussels to explain himself – which shows clearly what the role of national PMs will be in the future EU super-state. And there is already talk of re-doing the referendum – a nice example of how much respect the supposedly democratic leaders have for the people’s vote.

So, dear Irish friends: hold on tight now!

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.

I’m switching to Microsoft Live Search. I’ve changed the default search engine in my browser and I vow to use it as my primary search engine from now on. And I think my reasons for doing it are worth sharing here.

First, make no mistake: I’m not a Microsoft fan and I never was. I was a Linux evangelist about 12-10 years ago and I’m an avid Apple and Mozilla user now. I think MS’s operating systems suck and always did – they are in fact responsible for entrenching bad software as a standard and degrading people’s expectations about software quality in general. And as a company they are as bad as you can get.

So I’m not doing it because I love Microsoft or because I think Live Search is a better search engine. I’m just fed up with Google – and also a bit concerned: my concern is that relying exclusively on Google’s search results affects my worldview too much.

Google has a de-facto monopoly on web search. Therefore everyone fights (with all kinds of SEO techniques) to be on top of Google’s ranking (because almost no one looks further). The effect is that on the first page of Google’s results you are more likely to find someone actively pushing his mediocre content than people who just have good content and no active “SEO strategy”. Also, Google has been known to censor its search results in the past. No matter what reasons they have and whether I agree with them by doing so they try to shape the worldview of millions – including mine – by removing some sites and through that some points of view. Now, that is not ok.

So, I want to see the world through a different lens – not necessarily a fundamentally better one, but at least a different one. And I’ll be actively encouraging others to do the same thing – not necessarily switch to Live Search, but at least throw away Google-Matrix glasses and look at the web from different angles.