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TCS Daily - Google the Destroyer:

... In The Google Enigma, tech guru Nicholas Carr notes: "The many businesses that see Google as an actual or potential competitor include software houses, advertising agencies, telephone companies, newspapers, TV networks, book publishers, movie studios, credit card processors, and Internet firms of all stripes. Even financial advisors, doctors, and librarians eye the company warily." Since Carr wrote this, even fellow openness community member Wikipedia has been subject to Google ranging shots.

One can make a case that these reactions are overdone. Google is not really all that big a company; its annual revenue of $15 billion represents only 5% of total annual U.S. expenditures on advertising ($285B), and contrasts modestly with the revenues of other information industry companies, such as AT&T ($104B), and Microsoft ($54B), and Disney ($35B). Its eye-catching $700 stock price is largely a PR gimmick, achieved by limiting the number of shares, and of course by Mr. Stock Market's assessment of its scalability and potential to take over more of the ad biz.

To further buttress the skeptics' side, Google's corporate mission statement can be regarded as rather limited, actually. It makes no claim to produce information, relying on others for that function. The "make it . . . accessible" is also passive, implying that Google has done its job when the information resides in its data centers. Someone else must build an infrastructure linking users with those centers, and with each other, so as to make the information retrievable in fact as well as theory.

Furthermore, the search business is not really the organization business. The average Google search produces thousands of hits, mostly duplicative or irrelevant. If you know pretty much what you are looking for, it is great, but "organizing" is not the right concept. Google's basic nature is a giant business/personal phone list, corporate directory, index of publications, music, movies, and so on.

What it does is awesome, but it is awesome because of the scale of its searches, not because of their sophistication, which is pretty much primitive Boolean. The information system has four components - generation of content; creation of the infrastructure for distribution; search; and organization/filtering. Google performs only one of them.

Nonetheless, the concern about Google is justified, not because of potential to take over the whole information business, but because of its potential and incentives to destroy the ability of the providers of the other components of the info system to perform their functions of creation, distribution, and organization. These components were already under severe stress as the forces of digitization, interconnectedness, and P2P wrecked their familiar business models, and Google is both profiting from these forces, and thus happily encouraging them, and making it difficult to develop new business models. ...

Thanks, Jack!


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A book in progress by

Siva Vaidhyanathan

Siva Vaidhyanathan

This blog, the result of a collaboration between myself and the Institute for the Future of the Book, is dedicated to exploring the process of writing a critical interpretation of the actions and intentions behind the cultural behemoth that is Google, Inc. The book will answer three key questions: What does the world look like through the lens of Google?; How is Google's ubiquity affecting the production and dissemination of knowledge?; and how has the corporation altered the rules and practices that govern other companies, institutions, and states? [more]

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Like the Mind of God (22 posts)

All the World's Information (26 posts)

What If Big Ads Don't Work (10 posts)

Don't Be Evil (9 posts)

Is Google a Library? (43 posts)

Challenging Big Media (18 posts)

The Dossier (19 posts)

Global Google (3 posts)

Google Earth (3 posts)

A Public Utility? (19 posts)

About this Book (16 posts)

Other books by Siva:


Rewiring the Nation: The Place of Technology in American Studies (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007)

The Anarchist in the Library (Basic Books, 2004)

Copyrights and copywrongs cover

Copyrights and Copywrongs: The Rise of Intellectual Property and How it Threatens Creativity (New York University Press, 2001)


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