26 March 2011

The Googleplex Is The New Libya

This is one of those epiphanies one has when staring at the evidence before you. You can draw the conclusions any which way from Sunday. In my personal opinion Google has co-opted the freedom of the internet and this has resulted in a Libya like state of the electronic world. I believe that Google’s leaders have lost the plot and despite their personal belief system – they have created a monster that has in effect enslaved us all. Dissent is not punished physically but by a form of exile and exclusion. In this post – I will lay out why I think we have reached this state and what should be done about it. Make no mistake there is no individual on the planet save Larry Page or Sergey Brin who can fix this. So it must be up to the collective to deal with it.

Understanding the minds of the Googleplex - and comparing them to the mind of Qaddafi, the world must look at the core principles. Libya's Green Book has the same ring to it as the Google manifesto. OK so I am probably being a bit extreme in comparing Google with Libya however I am steadfast in my belief that the impact on the world at large is indeed far greater with Google than it is with the wild man of Libya.

Although I am an ex-Microsoft person - this should not deter you, dear reader, from understanding why I believe that Google has become a force for evil in the world that today most of us inhabit. We have come to depend on the web and its tools as part of everything that we do. Commercial, Political, Social, etc - all spectrum of the human thought process. Those who have come to guide us have the power to do both good and evil. That can happen overtly, subtly, and by happenstance. Newton's second law needs to be re-written for the web. For every action there is an amazingly complex set of reactions. With this comes respect and responsibility for the power that has been unleashed and that the Googleplex now has in its hands.

For everything that happens - this responsibility has to be maintained ethically. The Googleplex workers believe they are doing good. They appear to act ethically and responsibly. But – that is not enough. The burden of this responsibility must be controlled explicitly. Things cannot be allowed to happen by benign neglect. In the incredibly complex work of the web – the combination of any action has become almost impossible to predict and control. But if you are the gatekeeper then both your own and the actions of those around you become your responsibility. And here is where I believe that Google has failed us all. Accidental evil is no excuse for Google.

In my view Google’s effort’s to drive commercial value has blinded it to its moral responsibilities. The seeds of Google’s fall from grace go back quite far. When Google started to allow an end to separation of church and state by making the Organic results “gamable” at that point Google abrogated its right to control/manage the entry point of the web. Successive governments – admittedly in hindsight – have failed to understand the impact. Perhaps the only government to comprehend the power of Google was China, and we all know how that turned out.

Google is in my view guilty of gaming its own system. The State of Texas surprisingly has the same view. There is a lot of evidence to support this. You dear reader will have to satisfy yourself of this fact. Any evidence I put up will be rubbished but there is enough of it to make me believe this to be the case. But Google has not only increased the ability to game the system – and thence drive more revenue to its coffers – it has done so by making the entry point of the web tighter and tighter. The losers in all this have been the long tail of local and niche providers. Ultimately the consumer must pay. The benefit of having "free" stuff at the expense of "freedom" is not a parallel that should be drawn. The equation is very simple.

Google’s Money Making Power > Any Leveling of the Playing Field

Just picking on 2 recent changes – the imposition of Google Instant – a $1billion bet which has made Google’s power even greater. No one else can match this power. However perhaps the icing on the cake is the deployment of PANDA – Google’s new organic algorithm. I have scoured around looking in Bing, Google and via links to see how the world has assessed the changes. Here is one of the best of the early analysis reports.

However I subscribe to the view that in general the results of the change have favoured the bigger brands at the expense of the smaller players. For a good example go and check out this article in webpronews.com. Also read the comments below the article.

So where do we go from here? I am a capitalist. A Reagan Democrat if you will. I abhor the interference of Government in commerce. But I believe that Google’s power has become matchless. As a result we have to turn to regulation or some other means to control Google. The history of the resulting state after Government intervention in the USA has not always been a good one. If you look at the Bell System - AT&T - and its break up one can see the benefit from a global perspective. We traded ubiquity of service for an explosion of services. And this was mostly good but many people in rural communities have and continue to suffer. Now of course the re-emergence of one of the progeny which set about – recreating the model with the acquisition of T-Mobile USA we are back into oligopoly again. The other example I can point to is Microsoft, one of my Alma Maters. A company that having fought to maintain its independence fell to the burden of trying to demonstrate its compliance. In my view Microsoft should have split as soon as it won the contest with the USA. Now it has lost its leadership role and deservedly so.

Reluctantly I support the effort of the State of Wisconsin, Texas and the European Commission to force a new set of rules on the power of Google. I believe that Google has been given adequate time to put its own house in order and has failed to do so. Strangely enough, I can find no legal reason to deny the acquisition of ITA. However the new framework of the web and its impact on our world – all aspects thereof – demand a new set of constraints and rules for the protection of the individual and the collective. (For an interesting perspective please read this article in the Cornell Law Review)

Yes - I believe we need a new legal theory. However we don’t have one. So the conventional theory has to be applied to the Googleplex. And therefore the only possible result is to term the company a monopoly and break it up.

Regime Change on the web. And now please.

Thanks for reading

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