The Elephant in the Room: Google Monoculture

I was browsing the sessions at an upcoming Search Conference, which describes itself thusly:

This is a companion discussion topic for the original blog entry at:

Perhaps we should all use for 1 week and see if we can break the habit of being part of the Matrix…

The reason why people aren’t in the uproar that you say they should be in is because Google’s products work, and work very well. Microsofts products began to suck, really bad and deploying an alternative became (still is) very difficult.

So, the day Google’s products suck, the users will leave and use something else, the same thing happened to Yahoo.

The question shouldn’t by why isn’t everyone in an uproar, but rather, will the day come when Google’s products turn south?

10 years ago, Microsoft wouldn’t send lobbyists to Washington to buy congressional influence. Google, Google’s CEO and 4 other executives pumped a lot of money into the Obama campaign.

Google wants control over your medical records. The pending stimulus bill has a provision to digitize your medical records into a vast national database.

No need to worry about Google.

But in this case, Google IS the best. We dont use the others because they are not as good. Why should Google be punished for that?

That sounds like dumbing down testing to be fair to more kids…Oh wait…we do that too…


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 think the disparate level of rage has to do with the fact that mostly Google hasn’t used their monopoly power to crush people. There are surely some examples, but nothing like what Microsoft did and would continue to do if they were able.

It’s also the case that Google has won by making the best product. A lot of people thought that Windows sucked, but couldn’t switch off it because the MS monopoly kept them there. It’s not that there’s a better search engine out there that Google keeps us from using with business practices of dubious legality, it’s that the other search engines suck.

I don’t like that Google’s the only game in town, particularly because as businesses optimize their sites for Google, it’s harder to find certain non-commercial content. But it’s no easier in Live Search or Yahoo.

Not really stating anything new, but Google has become Google because there is no overhead for consumers. Whether that overhead be money, effort, time…it doesn’t really matter because Google hit the sweet spot with all of them.

And quite possibly Google’s being out there makes a difference? Microsoft was putting stuff IN our homes, whereas maybe Google makes us want to BRING it in to our homes…sounds kinda weak, but just thinking out loud.

Strange to see people say that Google’s monopoly is good because their product is the best. I agree that there’s nothing specifically scary about Google now, but it’s too much power for any one party to wield.
Case in point: Google’s censorship of its Chinese search engine had a lot of people up in arms at the time, but strangely, healthy competition didn’t produce another search engine to turn to in righteous indignation.
I was just thinking out loud at work today (prior to reading this post)… what if Google started charging $0.001 for each of its searches? Hard core internetters would probably balk at this, but the majority of Google users wouldn’t mind paying a few pennies per week for what is an excellent search service, bar none. Google would rake in even bigger billions than they do now, to the point where they could effectively call the shots on the Net. That is not something I would look forward to.

for my website it is more like
Google 5700
yahoo 120
and live 80
per month at the moment

Google is not a monopoly and ms windows is. I choose to use google because it works very well and I like using it I use windows because I have to despite it being a big pile of shit and I hate it. I wonder how a smart person can miss such a clear and simple distinction

Stack overflow this blah blah blah blah stack overflow that blah blah blah blah stack overflow blah blah blah blah. Did I mention stack overflow?

Jeff writes: Does the fact that Google’s products are mostly free and ad-supported somehow exempt it from the same scrutiny?

No, of course not, but it is worth remembering that any user can switch to another search engine permanently in about 20 seconds. There is no barrier to customer exit, you might say.

Monocultures are dangerous when there are no alternatives - when you’re unavoidably dependent on just one thing. The alternatives for search exist, and they work.

if it were microsoft, it would be all right tho, wouldn’t it

At no point in the MS virtual monopoly, has MS controlled anyone’s access to opinion, thought, or knowledge. Google does, every day, albeit with their oft stated noble intention of not being evil.

The fact is, at the point that MS gained the ascendancy, and developed their monopoly, the market was ready for a monopoly, if it wasn’t MS, it would have been IBM, Apple, Sun, Larry and Sergei if they were old enough, or anyone else who could have got it together well enough. The market was ready to explode, and they were in the right place, at the right time, and any of the others would have done the same thing.

It is the legal reponsibility of the directors of any corporation to place profit above any personal ethical qualms that they may personally hold. Go read corporations law. Google is a corporation now…

For all those who say windows is a pile of shit, but continue to use it… why? If you feel so strongly about it, prove that you have a spine, and are capable of independent thought, go use something else.

Yes, google make the best search product, at one time, MS made the best OS product, many people here may not actually remember what how shitty the other options were back then. At the time, MS was seen as our saviour from the evil of the big blue IBM.

Yes, google is my most used search engine by a factor of at least 20:1, but it does still worry me, much more than any monopoly that MS ever had.

MS had a monopoly on operating systems and office software, google has a monopoly on the flow and visibility on the largest collection of human knowledge ever assembled. They can influence sales in markets that have nothing to do with IT, their influence is far greater than MS ever achieved. If you do business online, and get blocked by google, you will go broke, no ifs no buts.

They make a great product, I don’t consider it shitty, so will continue to use it, carefully and mindfully, for the moment…
hell, it even finds my old answers on SO when I have forgotten the answers myself - how cool is that?

But how easy will it be to move away when all your mail is in gmail, all your files are stored on your gdrive, all your work is in your google apps, 80% of your ad budget goes through google, and all your clients find you through google? One click away, I don’t think so.

The MS monopoly will just be a blip in history, google will be of far greater significance, good or bad, who knows…

What are we going to do about it? NFI.

But at least be aware that it is happening and don’t be so naively black and white.
baaaaa. MS are evil. baaaaa. Google are not.

Say hello world to your robotic overlords.
Don’t Worry - they make the best products, they’re free (kinda), and… They’re not evil TM

…and mysteriously one night codinghorror is removed from google searches…


Yes Google has great products and has been pretty consistant with their don’t be evil philosophy… BUT the scary thing is:

While Microsoft wants to take your money, Google silently creeps under your underwear.

Well, speaking only for myself, my hatred of Microsoft was not due to dominant market position per se. Rather, it was because (1) some of their dominant products just weren’t very good; (2) they were using dominant positions in some markets to establish or maintain dominant positions (often of sub-par products) in other markets; (3) they were doing this using tactics that were often unfair, anti-competitive, harmful to customers, and occasionally illegal.

Google just doesn’t come off that way. They are dominant, but in a highly merit-based way, promoting rather than quashing openness, embracing a cross-platform approach (at least as far as OS and HW). Many of their products are fabulous, and near as I can tell, they aren’t using some products as a club to force the industry to adopt other less meritorious products, and I haven’t seen any evidence that they’re doing anything illegal.

That doesn’t mean they don’t have too much power (I think that’s inevitable when companies get to a certain size), but I think there’s a good explanation why people’s reactions to Google having market power is very different from their reactions to Microsoft.

We are in a society where search engines and social networking sites are either efficient or fun, yet they catalog our every move – for whom, or what what agency?

Yes, the search engine market is a joke term. However, show me a better search engine than Google, and I’ll jump ship at once. But where’s the healthy competition? you ask? Nobody can compete because they haven’t figured out how. Google rules the search market because they focused (hard core) on the SEARCH and not the MARKET. Anyone who tries to take a run at them, but allows themselves to be controlled by the MARKET can never create a better SEARCH. And it’s the SEARCH that gave Google the MARKET.

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.

I think monopoly deserves bolding, not suspicious looking quotes…