Why Google isn't what it used to be

The AutoLink debate seems more like the catalyst for venting frustration in a perception shift than a real complaint about the technology.  Google was once the enabler of open market conversations, a doorway to a future where innovators could circumvent the establishment on the way toward improving the world we live in.  But there's something about this new feature that changes all that.  

Product launches such as Orkut, Gmail, Image Ads, and Google News all stripped away the once-thick varnish of credibility and trust that Google commanded amongst the digerati.  They bought closed software tools companies like Blogger and Picasa.  And then Google went public.  The true intentions of the company's founders became obvious to everyone.  They want to be rich!  How rude!

From Tim Bray:
Suppose some bright developers in a garage somewhere are cooking up some new, dramatically better, online mapping application. If AutoLink maps became the default way of doing things, they’re stone-cold dead. Sure, they’ll just call up the Googleplex and ask to be on the options list with Yahoo Maps and Mapquest. Ha. Ha. Ha.

From Steve Gillmor:
Over and over incumbents are walking up to the light at the end of the tunnel and saying, "Looks like a train." If Google leverages its scale to create new inventory around links, the net effect will be to incent competitors to route around it. Just as Google destabilized Office by creating the world’s fastest (and free) spell checker, reference tool, and pizza delivery service, so too will a craigslistian series of competitors destabilize Google if they are stupid enough to persist in refusing a conversation with the very beta-testers who are their partners.

The company's Do-No-Evil mantra then read more like a laughable reverse-psychology trick or 1999 marketing ploy.  Craig Newmark suddenly looked like a saint, and Google was merely one product launch away from turning its core supporters into rebel forces in the fight against evil corporations.

From Doc Searls:
Google is, no doubt, completely revolutionizing the advertising business. But they have a lot of work to do on the other side of the consumer/customer split. They need to start treating consumers as customers. They need to see that markets are not just conversations, but relationships as well.

It couldn't be clearer from their own statements that Google has monolithic intentions:  "Google's mission is to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful."  The difference between Google and the CIA is that Google let's everyone see what is in their database.

Fine.  They are doing an incredible job of building an information services powerhouse with a river of revenues to distribute and impressive products that do impressive things.  Stockholders and advertisers should be very pleased.  Consumers should marvel at what Google offers.

From Jason Kottke:
If you're against AutoLink because you think Google is becoming too big, they're evil, they're abusing their power, or they bought another blog company instead of yours, then that's fine. Just be up front about why you're upset. It's a trust issue. Do you trust Google's software to do what it says its going to do and not take advantage of you? If the answer is no, don't use it. But if you're saying that Google should not provide this feature at all and that consenting adults in the privacy of their own homes can't choose to use the feature themselves, I don't think that's a good deal for the users. As content providers, let's not try and reach into our readers' computers and dictate what they can or can't do with the copies of our content that they've downloaded for their personal use.

Should consumers of Google products trust that Google is providing any of these services primarily for the user's benefit?  Don't believe it for a second.  Those days disappeared long ago.  It's time to get reacquainted with Google and understand it for what it is today...a fast-growing capitalistic enterprise competing for world domination.

UPDATE: Walt Mossberg takes a stand against AutoLink with the argument, among several, that there is "nothing to stop Microsoft from adding a feature to Internet Explorer that would replace the ads on a Google search-results page with ads sold by Microsoft's MSN service."  Micropersuasion's Steve Rubel emphatically agrees, "Let's face it, Google is to the Web what Microsoft is to PCs - the operating system everyone uses to search."  We're all courtside in a fantastic battle of the titans.



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