Jeff Atwood on the Google Monoculture

Published on: 2009-2-9

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Jeff Atwood on the "Google Monoculture"


I'm a little surprised all the people who were so up in arms about the Microsoft "monopoly" ten years ago aren't out in the streets today lighting torches and sharpening their pitchforks to go after Google. Does the fact that Google's products are mostly free and ad-supported somehow exempt it from the same scrutiny? Isn't anyone else concerned that Google, even with the best of "don't be evil" intentions, has become more master than servant? I don't know. Maybe that's OK. But it does mean that if Google, for whatever reason, decided to remove you from its search results, your website no longer exists. At least not as a viable business, anyway. Read more: The Elephant in the room: Google Monoculture The following comment sums up the debate: Google's monopoly is scary because it *could* abuse it. Microsoft's monopolies are more than scary because they *have* *been* abusing it for 20 years. Google enjoys 95%+ market share in their core market because they are the best. Microsoft enjoys 95% market share in their core market because of a positive feedback loop, not because it's better. See: VHS vs Beta (although admittedly there is a case to be made that VHS was actually technically superior in some respects, but you get the point). Look at the state of the browser. IE is clearly inferior to all the alternatives[*], yet it still commands ~70% market share due to it being bundled with Windows. Microsoft let IE6 rot for 5 years. If Google did that with their search engine, they'd be out of business. That's not to say Google's position is not a cause for concern; just keep things in perspective. As the recent Satyam/Maytas events have shown, there is very little transparency in the way big corporations are managed - even the employees working in the company usually have no idea as to what the management is up to, leave alone the general public. At a recent free software conference in Trivandrum, my students had a heated debate with a Microsoft lover who resented our attempts to demonstrate to him the benefits of working on GNU/Linux and Free Software - he felt that we were not showing enough "respect" to BillG and Microsoft! Anybody with enough computer skills to use a browser can find out more about the kind of tactics which MS uses to bring down competition - if that is fair game, then we are more than justified in showing a bit of disrespect to Microsoft. And there is no reason why we should exclude Google, if we see that they are going down the same path ....

Tue Feb 10 05:16:57 2009

Google will abuse its monopoly, thats the inherent design flaw in the monopoly system. Maybe it will wait for reason good enough for essential evil. It starts with conspiracy theories and then when theres reason enough, one of these theories will turn out to be true.