Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Evil, Evil Empire

I work with a very decent and highly successful businessman who has a very, very large online business, and another somewhat smaller one. Both have been subject to the vagaries of Google's 'Policies', despite spending huge amounts with them as an advertiser and providing significant traffic as a publisher. Both are subject to the absolute monopoly that is Google in search, text and display online advertising. It is just wrong.

If Google existed in the same way in print or television they would have been forced to split up a long time ago.

But somehow, this octopus has been allowed to grow totally out of control until its tentacles absolutely dominate UK online media in a hugely negative way. It is beginning to make the BBC and BSkyB look benign (and they've employed spin doctors close to both Cameron and Blair to make sure that no one takes on their monopolies).

To find that Google now believes that it IS the internet (see reports of their talks with Verizon regarding net neutrality) is sobering, and possibly not far from the truth. Obama and Cameron need to stop drinking the KoolAid on this one and tackle this company in the same way as Carnegie and other total monopolies that threatened these states were tackled in the past.

Google stifles innovation, blocks commerce and is hugely damaging to business. It also sucks hundreds of millions of pounds from the UK that it pays no tax on at all, and that's not acceptable in our current circumstances.

So, let's look at the other marketplaces they're going after, destroying jobs and companies in the process:

SatNav - they're taking on TomTome et al with their free product
TV - enough said about the dreadful YouTube and then Google TV, but with Leanback they're taking on the broadcast industry, and some of the incumbents are stupid enough to play ball
Mapping - OS ? SO what...
Ecommerce - OK, this has been a failure for them to date, but they'd dearly love to crack it
Apps - why not use Open Office, it's better
Mail - hmm
News - there's been enough written about this
Publishing - they are literally trying to take control of everything that has ever been published, including the 129 million books they claim exist
Translation - they're trying to automate an industry
You - yes, they've codified you and will use you as a money making device for as long as you use any of their dreadful products (I'm not saying they're bad products, but they're scary in what they want in return...your soul.)

But this wouldn't matter if it wasn't for the fact that there is no transparency in Google's business model. You have no idea of how much of the revenues they keep. Larger publishers are told they get to keep 40 - 60%, but any basic analysis of how Google works will show you that revenues move to where Google makes the most money. Almost no one can make money from the Google business model apart from, ahem, Google. If Google was taken out of the equation far more revenues would flow to publishers and content owners, in my view. Google has stultified the content industry and almost destroyed it. Indeed, this might be their actual downfal in the end as people just give up and don't bother producing content at all.

When you deal with Google you are selling your business to your own worst enemy and making a deal with the devil. But you have no choice.

For years in the UK companies like ITV have bemoaned the restrictions put on their ad sales, yet Google gets away with corporate malfeasance on an epic scale.

And, unfortunately, I can't see it stopping soon. Oh, for an alternative to the evil, evil empire that has bewitched us all. Please let's stop Google before it becomes the Internet.