You know what I realized just now while reading this thread? I don't really use Google, or any search engine, anymore for actually searching for information. Most of the time now, I pretty much know where I want to go and Google just helps me get there (if this is making any sense). I rarely do blind searches, so to say, like where I type a word and just go. And this may due to a combination of many reasons:
--I've used the internet so much now, that that initial curiosity I used to have is pretty much gone. Now, I have a pretty good idea of where I want to go, and I ignore anything else in between.
--I have a "sense" of what is a legitimate link and what isn't. I'm sure most of you do this too. In the list of results, you can tell from a very quick glance which link is a good one, and which is junk. Novice or uninformed users probably click on a lot of the crap, and that's one reason why most non-computer people get a lot of adware and spyware. And then they go on to say how it's Windows' fault. Not really, it's just that us powerusers can tell what we should and shouldn't click on. But it's kind of hard to explain it.
--I'm a lot more busy now. I have less time to click around and get distracted by random thought chains. This is actually not that true, because if there was something really interesting, I'd probably take a couple minutes of my work day to check it out. Honestly, I've run out of things to search for (randomly, that is).
--Trust. Do I really trust anything out there? Not really. If I search for "best notepad alternative software", am I going to trust the slew of sites that get returned. Probably not. In those cases, I'd go straight to the source, like here (DC forum) where I trust the opinions of the people writing. Is that Google's fault? Not really. How many people out there either know what they are talking about, or have unbiased (financially speaking, that is) opinions? The internet has allowed anyone to put up any type of content unrestricted. Even in real life, I don't trust too many people, and I go straight to the experts for answers to my questions. So, in a sense, Google is just mimicking real life.
I have a feeling that no matter what happens, it will eventually be reduced to a pile of average-at-best junk, because the internet is going to represent society as a whole. If you put everyone in the world in one place, and take an opinion, that opinion will be the average opinion, not the best or the most knowledgeable one. So how can we avoid that? We can't really. It's up to me as an individual to filter through all that and find who I am looking for.
That's a little off topic, but let's get back down to the money issue. People are making money participating in these broad, all-encompassing phenomena, like Google. Well, again, I can't do anything about that, nor will I try. If I could make money doing it, i would also. I probably wouldn't be as successful because I have the desire to not let gimmicks ruin the quality of the product...but unfortunately, that might not necessarily be good for business.
There aren't a lot of people like you, mouser, who are so dedicated to providing quality content with your level of expertise without a concern financially. You are indeed a very rare breed of person to do all this, pretty much for free. We'd all like to think that if we were CEO's of multi-billion dollar companies, that we'd do it differently and with integrity. But I can't say that. Honestly, I don't what I would do because I can't even fathom myself in that situation. I'm not afraid to say that I may turn out to be just as greedy or unethical as the worst ones. I don't know what kind of pressures they deal with, so I can't say one way or the other.
Anyway, that's a couple of things that I was just thinking about while reading this thread.