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Google Finance, Govt, Policy and Business Issues Forum

Google: It's Not A Search Company, It's a Data Mine

 6:45 pm on Mar 23, 2012 (gmt 0)

I was just about to start to write something on this when I read a couple of great pieces that were just published.

The Case Against Google [gizmodo.com]
It's stunning when you stop and think about it. Search isn't just what Google does best, it's what it is in most people's minds. The company's name is often used as a verb meaning "to search." It's in the Oxford English Dictionary! So what happened?

It's a pretty long article, but it's an interesting read.

Secondly, in response to that, All Things D continues on with an article titled, "What Google Hasn’t Done: Explained Why We as Users Would Want a Unified Online Identity" [allthingsd.com]
After years of providing us with many very good products — search, Gmail, Google Maps, YouTube, Chrome — Google is now on a mission to turn itself into one big product that understands each of us as one unified person.

Google is in the process of tying all its products together so our usage of each one can inform the others, but it hasn’t really told users what’s going on and what it means. And as its set of products becomes more interwoven, Google is cross-promoting them ahead of the competition.

Again, all interesting reading.

This all points to Google on a tipping point, imho. People will either embrace the moves to own our every move, or there will start being a backlash from the general public.

[edited by: engine at 7:13 pm (utc) on Mar 23, 2012]



 7:01 pm on Mar 23, 2012 (gmt 0)

I know which line I'm standing in.


 7:23 pm on Mar 23, 2012 (gmt 0)

In my opinion, there WILL be a backlash.
All the pushes against Google in Europe (where they get the additional black mark for just being a large "American" company) points to it as well.

Plus, it is a very slippery slope. Once the cat is out of the bag so to speak, all the privacy people and technical people will start finding more and more examples of both what IS being done, and what CAN be done with the data.

The worldly interpretation of Google's motto of "Don't be evil", will instead be more like "Don't be evil; But anything providing more profit for Google by definition cannot be evil".

While they will be very hard to control, I do believe that they are headed for trouble. Letting the Russian take the CEO-ship may not have been such a good idea.


 7:50 pm on Mar 23, 2012 (gmt 0)

But they are not out-bursting the data still, no blogs and no portals!
Crunching the data inside as a food for metabolism.


 8:00 pm on Mar 23, 2012 (gmt 0)

Google may be a new word in the dictionary; but the term "Business" hasn't changed since day 1.

How many business meetings start by saying "So team...how can we stay exactly where we are without progressing to much?" Its inevitable that growth and profit is what businesses strive for; hence, "products becomes more interwoven".


 8:18 pm on Mar 23, 2012 (gmt 0)


Nothing wrong with products getting more intertwined. Nothing wrong with Google wanting to stay profitable neither.

The problem from a site owner perspective is partly that a search engine is essentially a content scraper. We deem it a "good scraper" because it supposedly pay us back with visitors.

But, as the article mentioned several times, Google spend more and more search-page space promoting their own products, showing an increasing number of ads, using Google preview (with our content and having us serve it up) to keep users AWAY from our sites as long as possible, and multiple other techniques like that.

Google is pushing hard against a line here, that can have several bad effects for them if they cross it

a) They might alienate more and more searchers, which opens opportunities for new search engines.
c) They are already blocking out content that are relevant to many users, opening more and more for Facebook and Twitter search.
b) If they cross the line from "good" to "bad" content scraper, they will eventually loose access to the web-site content that drives their search engine. If web-site owners start feeling that Google is more of a negative than the users they send our way can make up for, then Google will be blocked.

Between Facebook and other "closed environments" impeding Google, and site-owners getting increasingly annoyed with them, that leaves Google with only their "other businesses", but no search engine to drive users towards them.

Google may not be a mere search engine anymore, but it is still the central reason people find Google's sites to begin with. The thread that holds everything together.


 9:52 pm on Mar 23, 2012 (gmt 0)

backlash from the general public is what already has started, also we who has been in the web business for a long time knows that the next move is a more Private secure experience for the users, means no collecting of date, security,...... so the user has a good feeling when visiting a site, back to the roots if you can say so, you have your stats that's it.


 11:13 pm on Mar 23, 2012 (gmt 0)

Get over the privacy kick with Google, they're in your phones, TVs, computers, and when those self-driving cars go mainstream, they'll even be driving Miss Daisy.

People will beg them to know more so they can tell you that you need to stop at the store for milk and the self-driving Google car will even take you there!

Those self-driving cars are the real tinfoil plot. How else to get you back online and out from behind the wheel than have Google drive the car for you? Then you can be feeding their data mine from your mobile computer while they're doing the mundane task of steering.

It's not skynet, it's highwaynet, and it's coming soon :)


 1:40 am on Mar 24, 2012 (gmt 0)

It's going to come down to webmasters embracing the +1 button because if we don't the general public will not see it everywhere and will not adopt it and/or replace facebook with Google+. Who has time for both? Google is turning the screws on it as hard as they can, even offering "special" search results if you embrace S.P.Y. world.

As for being a datamine? Absolutely, you can't even get a static version of their +1 button because they want a javascript file to load and collect user data. Facebook and Twitter both provide a static button option...


 3:16 am on Mar 24, 2012 (gmt 0)

You can only grow and consume so much within a finite space.

Apparently Google hasn't gotten the memo yet.

All company growth generally plateaus at some point dependent on total population.


 11:08 am on Mar 24, 2012 (gmt 0)

Firefox has a GoogleSharing SSL app which encrypts your searches and pools them.


 4:52 pm on Mar 24, 2012 (gmt 0)

I use startpage.com for my searches.


 5:25 pm on Mar 24, 2012 (gmt 0)

While I also know what line I'll stand in (and which is why I shamelessly trick google) I find it amazing how naive people are.

It's shocking! A for-profit company giving something out for 'FREE' and having an agenda in doing so.

Next thing we are going to see headlines that authorities don't necessarily do things in my best interest but rather in their own.

Funny thing is, Google's way right from the beginning was to data mine. They had a vision of mining the web to understand it's interconnectedness and in so provide a product everyone can use (and therefore everyone's eyeballs and information). The only difference back then is that people didn't put as much data on the web, and their ability to gather and interpret data was more limited.

JAB Creations

 5:26 pm on Mar 24, 2012 (gmt 0)

The only positive thing Google can do is buy up all their shares and NOT succumb to the endless demand for no quarters where they made less money than the precious quarter.

The backlash HAS started, webmasters like myself are turning away from Google because it's trying to withhold referral data that helps us improve our content. No, it's not a privacy issue and merely a means to justify everyone using Google products all the time.

- John


 9:02 pm on Mar 24, 2012 (gmt 0)

The backlash HAS started...



Consumer advocacy groups including the Center for Digital Democracy and the Electronic Privacy Information Center, or EPIC, have complained about the new privacy policy, saying it doesn’t give consumers a choice about keeping their data separate. The National Association of Attorneys General sent a letter to Google Chief Executive Officer Larry Page Feb. 22 signed by 36 attorneys general criticizing the new policy.


 9:24 pm on Mar 24, 2012 (gmt 0)

It's clear to webmasters what Google is, and many can see that they have played the game very well. They have stayed in front in search (collecting massive amounts of data) whilst the web has gone from niche to mainstream. I think we are at a point, and have been for sometime, where we can only imagine a few companies ever to be big in search and this will mean that some webmasters will always be unhappy.

I don't like what all of the search engines are doing in my sector, but there will come a point, soon, when middlemen are squeezed entirely out of the equation - we've had discussions on that for a decade.

The important issue is whether the complaints of people will be heard and acted upon by policy makers (and we must remember that politicians are not known for their unwavering support of what is "right" - they go with what will win them votes). We are entering a phase where lobbying will be more important than "being right".

The enemy that we will learn to hate in the future will be the concession; politicians will seek "quick wins" that can be spun in a positive light, especially if those involve some monetary advantage that they can say they have won for their voters.

Let's look at the automated car, I bet that Google will "concede" that they do not manufacture the cars themselves (thus allowing politicians to claim a victory for the auto industry) - but licensing the technology and having access to the data is more than enough for Google. If I was getting heat about monopoly stuff, that's the type of thing I'd do.

It has already happened with Android; it's not a closed system (Google may say they want to support open source, and do in many cases, but it suits them not to be proprietary in many areas as this would be a big concern). The thing that Google does do with Android though is to do deals with manufacturers and networks to have their apps on devices - and users want those apps so it's not tricky for them. If the majority of people want Google search to be on their phone when they get it then it's not hard to defend the practice of putting it there!

I don't like some of the things that Google do, but I don't blame them. They are a business that operates in a flawed regulatory/political environment when we look at how it is able to cope with the challenges that domination of search creates (that's frameworks worldwide), and I expect them to use that to their advantage. I think they do some things very well, but I also think that they have made some questionable decisions that show a poor overall view on privacy and other things.

We must remember though that most people do not know or care about the plight of the downtrodden webmaster; many love Google for what it allows them to do with ease.


 11:09 pm on Mar 24, 2012 (gmt 0)

wildbest - I used to use startpage. Now I use ixquick. Same but different: startpage includes G in its list of meta search engines, ixquick (at the time of writing) doesn't. When it does, I'll flee elsewhere.


 5:57 am on Mar 25, 2012 (gmt 0)

I like Startpage/ixquick. The company, Surfboard Holdings, has a nice interface. It is my default

But as a meta-search engine (searcher in search results, basically it is a mere front-end or Proxy. Using the search APIs of the real search engines (the ones with the web-crawlers) to create information. Essentially Content scrapers that scrape from other content scrapers. :)

So, if they gain any high popularity, driving up their per day queries, how long do you think it will last before such as Google and Bing cut them away from feeding at the trough? Showing Google/Bing results, but with their Startpage/ixquick's own sponsored ads as their only business model.

They are essentially letting Google/Bing do the investments in infra-structure, crawling, and other, and presenting it to users with a "privacy front-end" that filters away the cookies and such.

I can imagine several things:

a) Google/Bing have let them suck on the straw so far as a nice "social experiment" for them. If a large portion of users flee to startpage/ixquick, that means the real engines need a similar service. (I also see in user-comments about them, that one factor in Europe is "At least they are not American". (Although they as a Dutch company was founded in New York, I think. :))

b) I can easily imagine that such as Google or Bing might just swoop in and buy out SurfBoard Holdings, which is still a private company just for the technology. Making Surfboard's filtering interface into their own "private search". A mere user-choice on the front-page of Google or Bing. Unless of course it is easier/cheaper to make their own interface, and just cut SurfBoard off from feeding.

c) I can VERY easily imagine that being bought out that way is EXACTLY what the ixquick owners are currently hoping and planning for. Because they surely cannot imaging that they can keep using the real SE's hard work and results without some serious coin in return. Knowing Google/Bing, we all know that this will not be a long-term viable business model. (Exception: see below.) The SEs are not charities. Allowing other companies to siphon users away from Google/Bing, while using Google/Bing's own data. :)

As long as they stay comparably tiny, Google/Bing tolerate them as an experiment. Something to monitor. After that? I certainly wouldn't.

To allow StartPage/ixQuick to live, they would have to pay more for the search results they take out, than Google/Bing themselves could make from the ads they present on their own search interfaces.
Maybe the thinking is that this revenue stream from Surfboard is from a set of users that would not otherwise use Google/Bing. So making some revenue of those users might be better than no revenue. :)


 6:44 pm on Mar 25, 2012 (gmt 0)

I use startpage.com for my searches.

Use it fast, before google forces a name change, i.e. endpage.com - just as what they apparently did to scr00gle


 6:06 am on Mar 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

How much information can Google accumulate about you if if just block Google cookies? Even just using session cookies and not loggin in to Google should be enough).

Its more of an issue here because we have more reason to use Google services (Webmaster Tools,Adsense, etc.), but the only Google service that requires logging in that is widely used is Gmail (the last time I saw market share numbers it was still less widely used than Hotmail or Yahoo Mail).


 9:35 am on Mar 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

Google is this, Google is that, just another article by a journalist with too much spare time.

Google is a search box which frames adverts around it's output, as long as ppc pays the staff's wages that is what it is.


 8:14 pm on Mar 26, 2012 (gmt 0)

Google is not allowed on three out of four of my desktop/laptop machines (and certainly not on my servers) other than as googlebot on public web sites.

Having said that, today I had to enable googleapsis in NoScript so that my wife could view a missed ITV (UK) TV program. That really annoyed me! I am paranoid enough to believe G is logging at least some of the info from that access.

What they do with the information I obviously can't say but I would believe that were I foolish snough to use G's SERPS or gmail/etc I could end up being force-fed related adverts.


 4:35 pm on Mar 27, 2012 (gmt 0)

It seems like everyone wanted "free" and "easy" got it! Analytics, Gmail, Search, +1, Checkout, Android, etc... How many people complain about privacy and continue to use Google services beyond just search? How many stay logged into their Google accounts all the time and hand over the data? How many people don't bother to block the ad cookies or even opt-out of all that stuff?

People can either wait for regulators to try to do something or start making choices. Businesses were all to eager to give away all their most valuable data to the company they purchased the most advertising from in exchange for saving some cash on analytics. Anyone else would have to walk in with a shotgun to get that data from most businesses but they just gave it to Google!

Maybe someone could create some sort of email app that will block sending and forwarding to Gmail accounts to help keep email from people who don't use Gmail and don't want their communications to end up in Gmail accounts from doing so.

A self driving car with Google software would be the ultimate!


 4:51 pm on Mar 27, 2012 (gmt 0)

>> A self driving car with Google software would be the ultimate!

And only gasoline (or water, or whatever) stations bearing the G logo will be noticed by this G-Vehicle.


 5:08 pm on Mar 27, 2012 (gmt 0)

How many stay logged into their Google accounts all the time
I am always logged in, let them read here, let them crawl, swallow or chew all the data but please don't steal my money if I am anyone, don't cause serious privacy violation if I am a celebrity and don't publicize my authentic documents to free customers if I am a business.

A self driving car with Google software would be the ultimate!
And only gasoline (or water, or whatever) stations bearing the G logo will be noticed by this G-Vehicle.
That is what we don't like. If they ban or discriminate our accounts and websites, us being innocent then it is sad. Business policies are not righteous.

 10:15 pm on Mar 27, 2012 (gmt 0)

> create some sort of email app that will block sending and forwarding to Gmail accounts

I run mail servers for my customers. Many times I have thought about blocking all google mail - a high percentage of untraceable spam (they never show source IPs) and a few "real" emails.

As it is, I'm always far more cautious about including sensitive data in mail that goes via G. Paranoid? Maybe, but I don't think so.


 8:53 pm on Mar 28, 2012 (gmt 0)

interesting reading


 8:17 pm on Mar 29, 2012 (gmt 0)

Google is not allowed on three out of four of my desktop/laptop machines...

How many stay logged into their Google accounts all the time

Guilty as charged. I've been in the process of weaning myself off the G habit: it's a tough row to hoe. I got rid of one bookmark even today, and—believe it or don't—chose a home page other than iGoogle. My name is Ishmael and I'm a Googleholic.


 1:12 am on Apr 19, 2012 (gmt 0)

One unified person?
Each marked with 666...

What's interesting is that this mark of the beast is actually UNIX read /write permission for user, group and world. It perfectly fits what Google is trying to do. Frightening!


 4:40 am on Apr 20, 2012 (gmt 0)

Android is the biggest con --- "open" was a lie. It's nothing more than a OS to let Google spy on people 24/7.

Whatever happened to the "promise" of the Open Handset Alliance, (which was touted as a consortium of 84 companies developing Android).

The original site didn't mention on "Google" on the Android page.


Nor did the early 2007 press releases-


But if you dig deeper you find the "alliance" has been sucked into Google's recent consolidation of TOS and Privacy Policy -- and is now geared towards pushing Google+ and Play.

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