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Posts Tagged ‘google’

Oh, Internet worry worts… The Google Verizon proposal is much ado about nothing.

Remember when Google was bidding on wireless spectrum? buying dark fiber? investing in silly power stations?

This is how you GET SHIT DONE.   These guys are stirring the pot and using PR to do it.  I doubt the FCC or anyone is going to seriously take this proposal and implement it.   Google is just pushing the conversation along.

And… we should take the bait and have the conversation.  C’mon let’s take a stand and make some decisions on how we want the internet to be regulated.

Good move.  are we willing to join the conversation?

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As Google grows bigger and deeper the op-eds and various critics are calling for hard core scrutiny and even regulation.

The latest piece I’ve come across is this rather drab call for “search neutrality” in the New York Times.

Without search neutrality rules to constrain Google’s competitive advantage, we may be heading toward a bleakly uniform world of Google Everything — Google Travel, Google Finance, Google Insurance, Google Real Estate, Google Telecoms and, of course, Google Books.

Really?

Does a consumer really have to use Google to find information on all these things?  No.   There are many much better providers of all those information sources.  Does Google actually make money directly on all those categories?  No.   Sure, people advertise on Google to bring people to transactions, but Google isn’t making money directly from the consumer on those ads.

The point of the op-ed relies on agreeing that Google is a gatekeeper to information access.  As a gatekeeper it unfairly restricts competition by promoting its own applications and information sources over third parties.  This is a false representation of Google.   Google is a search engine that a consumer may or may not choose to use.   It just so happens that millions of consumers choose to use Google and Google has negotiated enough deals to make it easier to choose Google.  However, hopping online does not require you to use Google at all.  There are many search engines, many mapping sites, many free email services, many in browser applications and so on.

Web search is not the ONLY way to find things online.  In fact it’s not even the number 1 way most people find information online.  Word of mouth via social networks, email, IMs is still the number 1 way people get to things online.   For websites and services that no one talks about/knows about Google is the number 1 people will find it.  That’s not a problem caused by big bad Google… in fact, the only reason businesses that can only be found via Google exist is, well, because of Google.

The author of the op-ed is a co-founder of a service called FoundEm, a price comparison site (and seller of its underlying technology).    Clearly, FoundEm has had some competitive issues with Google.  That happens.  And FoundEm should fight for its position in Google in any legal way.  However, I don’t think the experience of FoundEm is any way a justification for some regulation of Google in the form of enforced Neutrality.   Google pays to build a big fat index of the web and provide it free to consumers.  No where in that business does Google guarantee it’s the best, most authoritative source of information or way to find it.  It simple is useful enough to most people that they assume Google has it all.   Again, that’s not Google’s fault and Google should not be forced to include information and services it doesn’t think helps its clients and consumers.

There’s a more legitimate bone to pick with ISPs that hijack mistyped address and querystrings and send to advertiser only pages.  That’s an actual abuse of gatekeeper status – the consumer, in that case really doesn’t have a choice of information sources AND in many areas in the US there is only 1 ISP available.

Rather than picking on Google via regulation just out innovate them – in product and marketing.  Twitter, Facebook, Apple, Bing, LinkedIn and more have found ways to compete without Google.   In a world less and less about finding webpages and more about connecting useful information and synthesizing live data Google’s Web Search is losing relevance as a functional tool for users.  We’re a decade away from the market seeing that en masse, but it’s happening.  Web Search IS NOT a tractable problem long term and is constantly being thwarted by spam, new technologies, new presentation formats, the mobile world, and so forth.  The Google folks are very smart and forward thinking –  they are investing in NON SEARCH based products and services, knowing that the gravy train will run out eventually.

I mean think about it… what’s the web search market really worth?  Google is spinning off 20 billion in revenue, the other major competitors much less.   Let’s make a high estimate of $50 billion in direct revenue for the web search industry.  That’s not that big.  Barely a market at all in the grand scheme.  Perhaps what Google is doing is bigger than the revenues imply.  Maybe all the info they are collecting is much more of a scary thing that being a dominate #1 search engine.   Even by that measure google is probably less deep in its insights of important data compared to Facebook or even Yahoo!

Do I worry about Google?  Sure, personally I do with my own information.  As a company acting as an unfair monopoly, no, not at all.  I don’t have to use them.  I don’t have to buy ads on Google.  I can close my gmail account.  They don’t really even have aggressive retention methods like phone companies, insurance providers and ISPs (can’t cancel without 40 phone calls!).

Best way to beat a big business is to do what it grows too big to do – imagine and execute on that imagination.   Google can’t disrupt the gravy train – but small businesses can.   Build a great product, market aggressively and leave the regulation and activism to issues that really need it….

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Methinks the best experience will end up combining real time search with regular web search.  Yes, it’s nice to have unfiltered immediate information in certain situations like breaking news or emergencies.  Outside of that synthesis is essential to keep the noise to signal ratio down.

I don’t so much mind the metaphor used on TechCrunch today of consciousness and memory.

Imagine having just memory or just real time consciousness – it somehow wouldn’t be very efficient for the processing of information into action.  TC brings this up.  Yesterday’s Michael Jackson and celebrity death coverage and the malware issues showcases that without some non-real time synthesis things get pretty messed up.

Thinking through this is not that hard.  Though you can’t use citation analysis to filter results like in PageRank, you can do similar things to get some confidence interval in the real time results.  However, the more accurate you make that the more processing time it will take and, thus, it will be less real time.   I think some hybrid of rapid filtering with a real time pressentation of streams with a big note that says UNFILTERED or UNVERIFIED should do just fine at the top of regular web results.

I’d use that kind of experience, for what it’s worth…

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Whether it’s “valid” or not humans (and probably most animals) make associations of new, unknown things with similar-seeming known things.  In fact, this is the basis of communication.

In the case of discussing new websites/services/devices like Wolfram|Alpha, Bing, Kindle, iPhone, Twitter and so on it’s perfectly reasonable to associate them to their forebears.  Until users/society gets comfortable with the new thing and have a way of usefully talking about it making comparisons to known things is effective in forming shared knowledge.

My favorite example of this is Wikipedia and Wikis.  What the heck is a wiki?  and what the heck is wikipedia based on this wiki?  Don’t get me wrong – I know what a wiki is. But to someone who doesn’t, hasn’t used one, and hasn’t contributed to one it’s pretty hard to describe without giving them anchors based on stuff they do know.  “Online Encyclopedia”, “Like a Blog but more open”…  (for fun read how media used to talk about wikipedia, more here)

More recently is Twitter.  What is it like?  A chat room? a social network?  a simpler blog? IM?  right… it’s all that and yet something different, it’s Twitter.  You know it when you use it.

Just like in nature new forms are always evolving with technology.  Often new tech greatly resembles its ancestories.  Other times it doesn’t.

In the specific case of Wolfram|Alpha and Bing/google… they share a common interface in the form of the browser and an HTML text field.  They share a similar foundation in trying to make information easy to access.  The twist is that Wolfram|Alpha computes over retrieved information and can actually synthesize (combine, plot, correlate) it into new information.  Search engines retreive information and synthesize ways to navigate it.  Very different end uses, often very complimentary.  Wikipedia uses humans to synthesize information into new information, so it shares some concepts with Wolfram|Alpha.  Answers.com and other answer sites typically are a mash up of databases and share the concept of web search engines of synthesizing ways to navigate data.

All of these are USEFUL tools and they ARE INTERCONNECTED.  None of them will replace each other.  Likely they will all co-evolve. And we will evolve our ways of talking about them.

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Here is one of the best blog posts on putting Wolfram|Alpha into perspective:

Asking which result is “right” misses the point. Google is a search engine; it did exactly what it’s supposed to do. It isn’t making any any assumptions about what you’re looking for, and will give you everything the cat dragged in. If you’re an elementary school teacher or a flat-earther, you can find the result you want somewhere in the big, messy pile. If you want accurate data from a known and reliable source, and you want to use that data in other computations, you don’t want Google’s answer; you want Alpha’s. (BTW, the Earth’s circumference is .1024 of the distance to the Moon.)

When is this important? Imagine we were asking a more politically charged question, like the correlation between childhood vaccinations and autism, or the number of civilians killed in the six-day war. Google will (and should) give you a wide range of answers, from every part of the spectrum. It’s up to you to figure out whether the data actually came from. Alpha doesn’t yet have data about autism or six-day war casualties, and even when it does, no one should blindly assume that all data that’s “curated” is valid; but Wolfram does its homework, and when data like this is available, it will provide the source. Without knowing the source, you can’t even ask the question.

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