Ronnie05's Blog

The “Like” economy and Google

Posted in Internet and Search, Semantic Media and Web by Manas Ganguly on April 15, 2012

Internet in general has stood for one philosophy: Creative destruction of standards (Brittanica for instance) and the wisdom of crowds (Wikipedia amongst others).However, Google has been one constant through out last decade of Internet which can hence be referred to as largely iconoclastic.

Google with its venerated search algorithim and its links has reigned supreme throughout the last decade of Internet. But now, as we go from a Web 2.0 to a Web 3.0 economy, even the once invulnerable Google might be in trouble. With real identities generating enormous amounts of data, the linked and sponsored economy of Internet is now migrating to the “like” economy… or +1 as Google would have it.

The dramatic shift from traditional search to social media was underlined last week in a speech by Tanya Corduroy the London Guardian’s director for digital development. Eighteen months ago, Corduroy revealed, search made up 40% of the Guardian’s traffic and social only made up 2%. Last month, however, she acknowledged a “seismic shift” in the Guardian’s referral traffic, with Facebook driving more traffic than Google and making up more than 30% of the newspaper’s referrals.

In the wake of Facebook and Twitter dominated social spaces, Google hasn’t quite been just the spectator. In fact, Google now has 4 products that it has tried to rope in the “social” space – Buzz, wave, Google+ and now Search plus your world (SPYW). Each of these are evolution of how Google is trying to make the shift from the search algorithim to the social and collective criteria. Google has also made headway into 170 million customers through the G+ (as against 900 million in Facebook), but the fact that the average user spends a total of 3.3 minutes on Google+ is testimony of the fact that Google still has some distnace to cover.

The concern here is that in trying to catch up with “social” Google seems to be violating its own matra of “Do no evil”. Google’s announcement this January, that it intended to consolidate personal data across its different products and services — from Gmail to YouTube to Google + to SPYW to Google maps to traditional search – had one concerned technology writer suggest that Google will now know more about us than our wives.

As a fact, Google is as evil or as bonafide as any other company or organzation in this world, but there is a good reason to fear Google’s bloodlust for user data across it properties.Afterall, Google’s business model remains primarily the sale of advertising around its free consumer products. Thus, Google’s desire to intimately know us is primarily driven by its core business objective of — one way or the other – selling that knowledge to advertisers.

This threat was laid out chillingly by the Center for Digital Democracy in a complaint about its new privacy policy to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC): “In particular, Google fails to inform its users that the new privacy regime is based on its own business imperatives: To address competition from Facebook, to grow its capacity to finely profile and target through audience buying; to collect, integrate, and utilize a user’s information in order to expand its social media, social search, and mobile marketing activities …”. A number of governments and other citizen agancies are increasingly wary of Google. Antitrust litigations against Google is on the rise. FCC, WhiteHouse, EU have taken exception to Google’s privacy policies.

While its still early, 2012 looks to be the year when Google fortunes could begin to wane.With a global outburst against its privacy policies, anti-trust litigations piling up and decline in public trust, Google looks far from dominating the “like” economy like the way it dominated the “link” economy.

An infographic explaining the evolution and changes in Google’s search algorthim over time. Such tweaks and changes have helped Google stay ahead in the Linked internet economy.

Image Ckurtesy: Outrider

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