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Author Topic: BetaNews on Google: Simply brilliant business, but is it evil?  (Read 2456 times)
mouser
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« on: December 23, 2009, 12:08:53 PM »

Nice long article by Joe Wilcox about Google and the Information Trading business.. BetaNews has become a real news source lately..

I wouldn't say Google is evil.. It does seem to me though, that like any other corporation, they have simply pursued a business model that makes them the most profit, and one of the defining impressions i get of Google is unchecked greed.  Maybe that just comes with the territory of ambition that's required to succeed, I don't know.  They have done a masterful job of public relations though, you have to give them that.

« Last Edit: December 23, 2009, 12:11:15 PM by mouser » Logged
JavaJones
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« Reply #1 on: December 23, 2009, 11:29:07 PM »

Honestly I'm not real impressed with Joe. He's quite prolific, in fact he seems to be by far the biggest content contributor on Beta News (and one of my favorite authors Angela Gunn, who was kind of fun is now gone), but he seldom brings much substance with his large quantity of content IMO.

Anyway, I digress (a bit). The question of whether Google is "evil" is legitimate, particularly since they explicitly claim otherwise. But I didn't see anything compelling in this article to make me think they might be. Thing is, just because their business may be putting some other people out of business, doesn't make them evil. Or do you also think Apple is evil for creating iTunes and putting zillions of record stores out of business? Is it sad that record stores (especially small "mom and pop" ones) are going out of business? Absolutely. Is Apple partly responsible? Yep. Are they *evil* for coming up a better system? Hell no. And neither, IMO, is Google.

Success at someone else's expense is not inherently evil. Most successful business "takes" from other businesses - the success of one business almost always means the detriment or even failure of other businesses. That's the way competition fundamentally works. And there are a lot of businesses more obviously "evil" than Google if you ask me. Monsanto, Dow Chemical, and a few others come to mind...

- Oshyan
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zridling
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« Reply #2 on: December 24, 2009, 12:57:25 AM »

Good points, but Google's not evil (yet). In fact, it wouldn't exist without open source software: licensing costs would be prohibitive if it had based its business on proprietary applications. Moreover, free software gives it the possibility to customize and optimize its code -– which is critically important in terms of becoming and staying top dog in the highly-competitive search market. As Google has become ubiquitous, it's important to keep a skeptical eye on them. I wrote in another post that it's not acceptable just to trade one monopoly (Microsoft) for another (Google). If you can abide their privacy policy, then their data liberation practices are perfectly fine by me. I'm glad Joe Wilcox wrote about Jonathan Rosenberg's document: if you're going to call yourself open, then "we need to lay out our definition of open in clear terms that we can all understand and support." Rosenberg goes on:

We use tens of millions of lines of open source code to run our products. We also give back: we are the largest open source contributor in the world, contributing over 800 projects that total over 20 million lines of code to open source, with four projects (Chrome, Android, Chrome OS, and Google Web Toolkit) of over a million lines of code each. We have teams that work to support Mozilla and Apache, and an open source project hosting service (code.google.com/hosting) that hosts over 250,000 projects. These activities not only ensure that others can help us build the best products, they also mean that others can use our software as a base for their own products if we fail to innovate adequately.

There's also this:
When we open source our code we use standard, open Apache 2.0 licensing, which means we don't control the code. Others can take our open source code, modify it, close it up and ship it as their own. Android is a classic example of this, as several OEMs have already taken the code and done great things with it. There are risks to this approach, however, as the software can fragment into different branches which don't work well together (remember how Unix for workstations devolved into various flavors — Apollo, Sun, HP, etc.). This is something we are working hard to avoid with Android.

I knew that Google used the Apache license, but I hadn't realized that it had become the "official standard" for the company in this way. That's very interesting in the context of the discussions swirling around whether the GNU GPL is a good or bad licence for companies that want to offer open source products and also make money. As Google notes, the Apache license has the big advantage for those outside the company that anyone can take the code and build on it as they wish, whereas the GNU GPL gives a disproportionate advantage to the company that owns the copyright. Rosenberg goes on to talk about how trust is an "important currency online, so to build it we adhere to three principles of open information: value, transparency, and control."

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
However, I disagree with Wilcox at the start when he writes: Google's free business model... has hugely disrupted news and other information services.

Joe shouldn't blame Google for doing what it does: index internet content. That newspapers -- like music -- can't figure out how to make money in this digital age when they're still stuck in a 20th century analog model is not Google's burden. There's a reason we're no longer using BBS's: we've moved on to forums and social media and microblogging. The simple reason no one buys newspapers anymore is because there is a multiverse of information sources out there, and if the UK-Guardian or that idiot Rupert Murdoch won't print it, someone else will (within minutes). The vast proportion of their "content" is neither unique nor worth paying for! (At least in customer's minds.)

Joe is also right about open standards and openness. The best things in higher societies are open and free -- education, science, art, libraries, infrastructure (including digital), information, but wrong on his timing. The newspaper industry was holding conferences in the mid-90s on what to do about dwindling revenues and diminished readership. And in 1999, the RIAA sued Napster within six months after getting started instead of either licensing or buying it and using it as a commercial delivery vehicle. Google wasn't founded until Sept. 1998 and didn't go public until August 2004. (See the abstract below on how Bill Gates had to separate the software from the hardware to make his money.)

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
For more great reading on this topic, check out Andy Updegrove's, A Concise Introduction to Free and Open Source Software:

ABSTRACT. In the early days of information technology (IT), computers were delivered with operating systems and basic application software already installed, without additional cost, and in editable (source code) form. But as software emerged as a stand-alone product, the independent software vendors (ISVs) that were launched to take advantage of this commercial opportunity no longer delivered source code, in order to prevent competitors from gaining access to their trade secrets. The practice also had the (intended) result that computer users became dependent on their ISVs for support and upgrades. Due to the increasingly substantial investments computer users made in application software, they also became “locked in” to their hardware and software vendors’ products, because of the high cost of abandoning, or reconfiguring, their existing application software to run on the proprietary operating system of a new vendor. In response, a movement in support of “free software” (i.e., programs accompanied both by source code as well as the legal right to modify, share and distribute that code) emerged in the mid 1980s. The early proponents of free software regarded the right to share source code as an essential freedom, but a later faction focused only on the practical advantages of freely sharable code, which they called “open source.” Concurrently, the Internet enabled a highly distributed model of software development to become pervasive, based upon voluntary code contributions and globally collaborative efforts. The combined force of these developments resulted in the rapid proliferation of “free and open source software” (FOSS) development projects that have created many “best of breed” operating system and application software products, such that the economic importance of FOSS has now become very substantial. In this article, I trace the origins and theories of the free software and open source movements, the complicated legal implications of FOSS development and use, and the supporting infrastructural ecosystem that has grown up to support this increasingly vital component of our modern, IT based society.

__________________________________________________
One of my favorite topics. Thanks for posting, mouser!  Thmbsup
« Last Edit: December 24, 2009, 01:01:53 AM by zridling » Logged

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mouser
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« Reply #3 on: December 24, 2009, 01:08:08 AM »

I don't think google is evil.

But I think the reason google open sources much of their code and gives it away for free is the same reason the infomercials for the SlapChop, Snuggy, and Ginzu Knives give away a free vegetable pealer with every order -- because it helps them make a bigger profit on their sales.

Having said that, i'm not sure why it would matter what their motivation is -- the bottom line is that much of google's efforts benefit many of us, and that is a good thing.

The part about google that i view is harmful is the same thing i view as harmful in all giant corporations -- a driving force of greed that seeks to maximize profits and dominate as much of every market as they can, through monopolistic practices when the easier methods don't work.
« Last Edit: December 24, 2009, 01:09:54 AM by mouser » Logged
zridling
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« Reply #4 on: December 24, 2009, 01:25:15 AM »

Yea, but the very thing that made Microsoft a monopoly -- closed, proprietary code and document formats -- don't apply to Google. To your point, Google is giving it away, much like Microsoft gave us IE all these years, keeping a companies like Netscape and Opera from making any real money on their browsers.

If Google were a monopoly, I wouldn't notice it unless you help me understand. Certainly not in phones (Apple); not in search (Bing is impressive by every measure); not in blogging (WordPress, TypePad, etc.); not in office software (ha!); not in browsers (I've been using Chrome all week, but it has a long way to go before it matches Firefox IMO). While YouTube is dominant, there are many other video sites. And like Microsoft, much of their growth has occurred through acquisitions.

There is email though, I grant that one.
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JavaJones
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« Reply #5 on: December 24, 2009, 01:54:44 AM »

I'd wager Google is at least better in the "driving force of greed" department than other companies, but they are of course still a *corporation*, and a public one at that, so their motivation is ultimately profit. But take for example their professed practice of *not* hiring all the brains in the market to "leave some intelligence keeping the market vibrant" or some such. Could be PR bullcrap, but given how Google does seem to walk the walk in other areas like Open Source I'm not inclined to jump to the BS conclusion. It's just one example anyway - the open source contributions are another. Sure, many benefit Google directly, but many others are so indirectly beneficial as to be arguably more about geek philosophy and cred than profit. Honestly I think Google is one of the only somewhat "geeky" companies of its size - neither MS, nor Apple, nor any other major company I can think of seems to embody geek ideals as much (though *again* they are of course a publicly traded company so they work within limits). Honestly I'd have been happy to never see Google go public - I'd be willing to bed they'd be closer to their "do no evil" ideal in that case.

- Oshyan
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steeladept
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« Reply #6 on: February 09, 2010, 07:38:47 PM »

There is email though, I grant that one.

Huh?  huh  Email?  Have you ever heard of a tiny little email offering called Yahoo!?  What about Hotmail?  Neither are Google emails.  And that doesn't even begin to include the email that almost every ISP offers with their connection.  None of those are Google and, in fact, few are even outsourced to webmail servers.  Most, now days, even offer webmail interfaces so they are just as portable.  No, I think the closest they are to a Monopoly is in Search as they are bigger than Yahoo and Microsoft combined, even with Bing (though it doesn't seem to be staying there for long as Bing is indeed rather impressive as you stated).
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