Thursday, October 07, 2010

My Google Complex

I don’t use Google. Okay, that’s a pretty contentious statement – yes I am aware that Google owns Blogger and therefore I am “using” Google even as I type this. But I try to avoid using Google for search. My default option these days is Bing, although it used to be Ask. This came up in conversation one night at the pub recently (I know, I know - but I’ve reached the age where an evening spent propping up the bar while putting the world to rights represents a wild night out), and someone asked me if I really felt that supporting Microsoft instead of Google was striking a blow for the little guy. But that’s not really the point. My stance on Google isn’t supposed to be a statement on corporate ethics – I’m sure Google is no worse than any other denizen of Silicon Valley (as opposed to its rival Silicon-enhanced Valley, where the software may not be as good but executive stress levels are much lower) - even if “Don’t Be Evil” should really be amended to “Don’t Be Evil, But If Other People Want To Be then, Hey, We’ll Take Their Money.”

Google gives the best results, has the best features, continually innovates, and has an elegant visual simplicity that its rivals cannot hope to emulate. But for one business or brand to be so dominant in any market is inevitably detrimental to the development of healthy competition, which we are forever told is both the lifeblood and the moral compass of capitalism. It may be hard to feel much sympathy for the type of ruthless digital entrepreneurs that might be squeezed out of business – they’ll just go make their money elsewhere, you may say, and do we, as "consumers", really need another search engine when we’ve already got one that fulfils all our needs? But this is not just about one fat cat hogging all the cat food. Power corrupts, and monopoly does too (as anyone who has ever put up hotels on Mayfair and Park Lane will testify). And despite the best intentions, Google undoubtedly has the power to put people out of business. Only one result can be top of the listings, and for a small firm, without the budget or the expertise to optimise their ranking, exile to Page 2 could be commercially fatal.

And what happens if Google starts acting like a bully? Would never happen, the Generation E might protest. But then I’m sure Tesco don’t see themselves as corporate bullies, and Starbucks didn’t set out to drive the independent coffee shop to extinction. When companies get too big, it’s not good for competition, it’s not good for the supply chain and, ultimately, it’s not good for consumers either.
Bear that in mind the next time you go searching.


At 11:27 PM GMT+1 , Blogger Rish said...

Au contraire mon ami. Starbucks (I believe) deliberately set out to flood high streets - hence you will often get many establishments within spitting distance of each other.

Likewise Tesco - my stomping ground is getting another store (there are two big ones within three or four miles). The majority of local people don't want or need it, the local area will struggle to cope with the traffic on an already busy junction (which admittedly is the fault of the planners), and crucially, whereas the other local supermarket (Sainsburys, about 300 yards down the road) have had a long-standing agreement not to undercut the local greengrocer and fishmonger), Tesco refuse to do any such thing.

Rant over. Just wanted to put a counter-argument.

At 12:58 PM GMT+1 , Blogger JD said...

Okay Rish that's fine. But if you ask Tesco they will say that they are committed to bringing their customers the best value. Likewise Starbucks are committed to bringing coffee-drinkers the best "experience." They may behave like playground bullies but that's not how they see it.

The point that Google - in the name of bringing the user the best/fastest/most bespoke, Minority Report style results - might easily crush a number of lesser corporate entities by way of unintended/un-admitted consequence.

At 11:55 AM GMT+1 , Anonymous Rish said...

Oh I don't disagree with you - unsurprisingly you are looking at it from a marketing/business plan outlook, whereas I am viewing things as a consumer.

I also freely admit that I may have forgotten what point I was making due to my ire at Tesco barging into a community where they are not wanted. Sadly, many people (probably including me) will end up shopping there as we all want things at the best price, don't we?


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