Monday, April 16, 2012

Some popular myths about Google

There are some myths that repeatedly get propagated by anti-Google fellows on the internet:

Myth 1.) Google is an advertising company.

Fact: Google may be making most of their revenue through advertising. That's their business model. But that doesn't mean all or most of their employees are engaged in advertising. Rather they are actively engaged in developing innovative technological platforms. Advertising is incidental, almost an afterthought. A way to survive and further develop their technology. On the contrary, Apple is more of a marketing & retailing company with a humongous advertising & PR budget. Though it does some software and design work, it does not actually manufacture anything. Its hugely overpriced products are manufactured by poor Asian workers on whose sweat blood their American masters have amassed a cash pile of a 100 billion dollars. 

Myth 2) Google sells its users.

Fact: Some accuse Google of selling its users. But by the same logic every publication (online, offline and the dead tree media) that gets its revenue through advertising is selling users. Such people either have no understanding of technology or are talking in twisted tones to appease some deities affiliated to Google's competitors who have been propagating such misinformation. Google does not sell any personal information. (It doesn'€™t need to because it owns the advertising platforms.) Its advertising platforms are automated and are driven algorithmically. I don't mind seeing some relevant ads for the benefit of being able to use world class free services. Relevant ads are of more value to me than an ad that I may not be interested in.

Thanks to the success of Google's ads based model, web based services like search engines, email services, etc can be accessed by vast majority of populations of the world (living in relative poverty) who would otherwise remain excluded from the benefits of the Internet. (Remember, during the late 1990s & early 2000s, when various email services were starting to charge fees for their toy like services, it was Google which reversed the trend by launching gmail with an unheard of gigabytes of storage space for free.)

Ads based revenue has also become a supplementary strategy for most of its premium pricing competitors so it isn't unique to Google any more. So all of them are €˜selling users€™ not just Google!

Myth 3) Google is evil.

Fact: In a world of evil, Google is among the best we have. No company can match Google in terms of transparency & user control. Further, if Google is 'evil' and a candidate for anti-trust investigation in the eyes of the media, I believe its rivals are a bigger (more deserving) candidates for the same treatment for their business practices are more evil and more likely to violate antitrust laws than Google'€™s. Facebook, for example, has close to 1 billion locked-in users who cannot easily take out their data and friend connections and move to competitors. (Only recently it has started data retrieval service, but that is clearly not enough.) All of Google's services on the other hand provide unprecedented control for the user to opt in, opt out, and move to other competitors with their data. Also, facebook by virtue of its large number of users is effectively a monopoly in the social networking market and may be violating section 1 of the Sherman Act and section 5 of the FTC Act by imposing such terms that prohibit automated indexing or retrieval of its users data thus blocking users from removing their own data and friend€™s email connections by reasonable automated means. To make matters worse, Facebook has entered into an exclusive agreement with Microsoft to provide general users'€™ data through automated means for use in its Bing search engine. Twitter too is guilty of such exclusive arrangement. All of these companies (Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter) involved in this exclusive arrangement may be candidates for antitrust investigations under section 1 of Sherman Act and potentially under section 5 of the FTC Act. Similarly, Apple too is a candidate for antitrust investigation under the same provisions for its restrictive (monopolistic) business practices with regard to its App Store and iOS platform. Therefore, people who accuse Google of being evil should look at its competitors and form a more balanced opinion.