Donna Bogatin raises a very interesting question about whether Google is a public service. Another question: What are the risks of relying on Google as a public service.
In the post, she compares Google to The Library of Congress. She opines:
Google Inc.’s $150 market cap belies its corporate public serving mission statement. Nevertheless, Google’s “philosophy” that “democracy on the web works” combined with its 50% search market share leads many to view Google as a public service and expect Google to operate as such.
Taking it a step further Google could be seen as a utility company that the Web will increasingly depend on.
--Independent Web businesses depend on Google's advertising ecosystem to make money;
--If Google ever went down, many folks would think you couldn't search the Web;
--If the vision of cloud computing every really takes hold, it's quite possible we'll be relying on Google's Web apps more;
--Google gives us our Web video (YouTube), edits our pictures (Picasa); indexes our email (Gmail), points us in the right direction (Maps) and even takes us places (Google Earth). Companies are increasingly looking to Google to learn new business processes. We also count on Google to dish out information on the world, collect books and point us to patents much like the U.S. Patent Office does.
We could go on from there--perhaps focusing on Google's local reach--but you get the idea. Even when Google makes an API tweak it raises a ruckus.
The big question: What's the downside to depending too much on Google?
The first risk is that Google goes evil and gouges customers. Another is that a Web economy rests in Google's hands--when Google hits a rough patch of layoffs, lackluster growth and shrinking monetization rates--it's going to hurt a lot of smaller businesses. And finally, there's the downside risk to world domination.
Microsoft's monopoly has led to a computing monoculture that has led to security issues. Meanwhile, you could argue that Microsoft's dominance has hurt innovation--it's a case I don't buy but you could argue it.
Google isn't in a monopoly position yet, but if current search trends continue it will dominate many categories. What remains to be seen is what happens after that.