Google: Web friend or Web foe

The world does not benefit from being instructed on "Google's approach to content," the world should insist that Google be subject to the world's laws of content ownership.
Written by Donna Bogatin, Contributor

UPDATE: Google posts its "approach to content" at its blog. I posited last weekend, in the post below, that Google profits-centric "cached content for links" modus operandi is NOT in the best interests of Websites or content owners. Google's blog title says a lot about Google's mind set; It is the Google way, or the highway, as I have repeatedly said. The world does not benefit from being instructed on Google's "approach to content," the world should insist that Google be subject to the world's laws of content ownership and compensation.

Google concludes its self-serving declaration by reiterating its well worn slogan about "organizing the world's information and making it universally accessible." By proclaiming its belief that content owners can "easily opt-out" of Google, and welcoming them to do just that, Google has unwittingly acknowledged that it is not committed to making "all" the world's information universally accessible; Google's oversized profit mission means it is committed to only organizing the world's information that it can usurp without providing appropriate protections to the owners of the information and without paying the owners based on Google's for-profit use of their information.

Google has amassed billions in liquid assets thanks to a business model which exploits Web sites and content owners.

In “Will Google ever build another billion dollar business?” I relate Google’s shrewd determination to be the richest company in the world to the 1980’s financial credo, “greed is good”:

Four hundred percent stock appreciation over two years, 50%+ search market share, 77% quarterly revenue growth, 25% profit margin…and Google wants more.

Google wants more and it has been continuously getting more. The Google phenomenon is not simply that it is a money making machine, but that the Google machine accumulates profits at the expense of the long term best interests of Web sites and content owners. Google’s gold is blinding the Web to the risks of doing “business” with Google.

The Google revolution is not that it is “organizing the worlds’ information” or that it is providing “targeted, measurable advertising.” The Google revolution is that it has succeeded in portraying itself as a magnanimous business “partner” that delights in showering the Web world with Google link love.

The backlash against the Belgian media for its lawsuit accusing Google of copyright infringement illustrates the conventional Internet wisdom that Google is the Web’s “best friend.”

In “Google vs. Belgian media: You go Belgium!” I cite a Techdirt headline and suggest a headline that better reflects the Google centric Web:

Techdirt headline: “Google hoping someone in Belgium recognizes how the Internet works.”

A more realistic headline would read, however:

Google making sure everyone in the world understands the Internet works the way it wants it to work, which is to Google's profit advantage.

How does Techdirt believe the “Internet works”? Just like the Google gospel says it should:

a bunch of newspaper publishers are trying to force Google to pay them to index them and send them traffic (a move that has search engine optimizers worldwide wondering what they could possibly be thinking)… the backwardness with which Belgian news publishers view the internet. It makes you wonder...do Belgian publishers require libraries to pay them extra money to list their books in a card catalog? What this really highlights, however, is that there are still plenty of industries out there that don't necessarily understand how the internet works -- and that can cause all sorts of problems for internet companies who assume most people understand when things are being done for their benefit.

Google operating to the benefit of Belgian media? NO more than it operates to the benefit of owners of Web site content .

In “Google, YouTube: multi-billion dollar “fair-use” risky bets” I put forth Google’s ultimate motivation to control every Web page on the Web to its long-term profit advantage:

Google makes a duplicate copy of the entire content of each Web page it crawls for indexing and then keeps the copy it created, and subsequently controls, within its own storage facilities. Google’s caching of third-party Web content, and display of the copied, cached content in Google’s core search results without content owners’ explicit permission, usurps management, control and ownership of the content from the actual creators and owners of the content.

If a Web site owner removes an expired Web page from its own site, the expired content will remain alive and well within Google and will be indefinitely available to be presented as a Google search query result. Google’s copying, caching and displaying of third-party Web page content makes Google the must-go-to destination for the world’s expired content, while also stripping content owners of full interest in, and control of, the content they created.

For-profit Google buys books from publishers to include in its index in the same manner that not-for-profit libraries buy books from publishers to include in their catalgos? NO and Google sells ads against the content it obtains for free, to boot.

In 'Google Library' to world: give us 'all books in all languages,' free of charge” I ask “How does Google plan on obtaining ‘all books in all languages’?”

• Is it purchasing every single book in the world to compensate every single author in the world?

• Is it paying not-for-profit libraries for the right to obtain the books they have paid publishers to acquire?

NO. In today’s Google world, it is the Google way, or the highway. What is the Google content acquisition way? Obtain content cost-free and exploit others’ content to Google’s financial advantage. Google’s uncanny ability to present every one of its encroachments on content ownership, use and distribution as a benevolent gesture at the service of the public good is one of the reasons that Google always “gets a pass” (see “Google: just like your favorite sports team?")

Google is not the Web’s Santa Claus, merrily traveling the “cloud” to bestow free, traffic generating links to Web sites which have been “good.” Google is the Web’s Scrooge, eagerly traveling the “cloud” to appropriate the content spoils of all Web sites and content producers.

If Google were subject to normal business practices and had to pay for its use of the content from the "billions" of Web pages it sells ads against, Google would no longer boast an enviable 25% profit margin.

Search engines have been characterized as “leeches on the Web” by Jakob Nielsen. Given that Google is the largest and most dominant search engine, it is therefore the Web’s biggest leech. Nielsen underscores:

I worry that search engines are sucking out too much of the Web's value, acting as leeches on companies that create the very source materials the search engines index…

The obscene profitability of search advertising has made many search sites offer a broad variety of non-search services as loss-leaders to drive traffic to their search pages… Free services are obviously nice for users, at least on first analysis. (A second look shows that users will suffer under a lack of diversity if all that's offered are services that are good at driving traffic to the search engines.)

Whatever the case for users, free search engine services take a clear toll elsewhere… what search engines do to the companies they feed on -- the companies that fund the creation of original information. Search engines mainly build their business on other websites' content. The traditional analysis has been that search engines amply return the favor by directing traffic to these sites. While there's still some truth to that, the scenario is changing.

The free Google dance with Web site content owners is not a happy go lucky win-win routine.

Google wins at present and also long-term; it gets content at no charge and can sell ads against that content at 100% margins in perpetuity.

Web site content owners do not necessarily win at present and assuredly lose long-term. Web sites typically believe inclusion in the lofty Google index of “billions” of Web pages opens Internet traffic flood gates. In actuality, however, competitive Google traffic is hard to come by and it gets harder by the day. What is a given, however, is that Google gets Web site owners' content at no charge and can sell ads against that content at 100% margins in perpetuity.

Isn’t it time Web site owners demand a more favorable, guaranteed win from Google? After all, Google can afford it!

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