The Growing Portrait Of Google As A Big, Scary, Expanding Everywhere Copy Monster

Twice this year, Google’s been fairly frank and vocal about something competitors have done that it feels is unfair. Twice, I’ve watched the technosphere largely react by beating the company over the head with a “You do whatever you want and copy everyone else” stick. Does that measure up, and more so than for Google than other companies?

The first time was this happened was in the wake of Google’s accusations that Bing was copying its search results. This week’s attacks have come after Google whined that Microsoft, Oracle and Apple were ganging up on it to stop Android through the use of “bogus” patents, which those companies apparently overpaid for, in Google’s esteemed wisdom.

What Are You Whining About Now, Google?

Well, boo-hoo. It’s no wonder many probably nodded in agreement when John Gruber fired back that if the patents were so overpriced, why did Google itself bid $3 billion for them, at one point?

I’m not a patent expert. I can’t tell you what in this portfolio might be applicable fairly to Android or not. I have no idea if they were worth $3 billion just for the security of holding them, and perhaps not enforcing them, as Google may have wanted. Maybe Google was going to go all predatory with them.

The Google Monster

What’s far more interesting to me has been the arguments generally about how Google just apparently copies and expands into whatever it wants, something that’s not directly connected with patents.

Reading some of these accusations, you come away with the impression that Google should have sat in its little search box and let other companies expand into new  areas. Moreover, by not sitting in its designated search corner, the company deserves whatever anyone wants to sling at it.

How Does Google Copy? Let Them Count The Ways…

For example, there’s Brian Hall’s post, where he lists Google’s sins:

  • Yelp gets popular? Copy their info, shove Yelp to the bottom of the page and put Google Places and reviews at the top.
  • Groupon won’t sell? Spend billions from other businesses to destroy them.
  • Twitter and Facebook innovate on search? Take their content, whine when they try and stop you then spend billions to prevent their growth and hopefully destroy them.
  • Apple working on a touchscreen smartphone? Spend billions from another business and copy everything you can, down to swipes and apps.
  • Need a smartphone operating system with Java. Take Java and use it for your own ends.
  • Need a location mapping technology and Skyhook won’t sell? Spend billions from your monopoly profits and strongarm your partners and drive Skyhook out of business.
  • Buy up the big travel search sites.
  • Claim you are open source but share nothing related to what your business claims to be about — search, and nothing related to how you make your money — advertising
  • Claim you are open and standards based but control who gets access to your smartphone operating system
  • Like all rich monopolists, they spend millions hiring high priced lobbyists and public relations teams inside the Beltway — for their direct benefit

That feeds into Gruber’s second post on this week’s patent actions, which seems to reassert all these copying facts:

Google seems to feel entitled to copy whatever it wants. Android copies the UI from the iPhone. Places copied data from Yelp. Google+ copies from Facebook. Their coupon thing is a clone of Groupon. And yet it’s Google that acts as though it has been offended when these competitors fight back.

And from MG Siegler today:

Increasingly, Google is trying to do everything. And they have the arrogance to think that they can. And it’s pissing people off.

That goes on to cite examples of various companies behind the scenes who feel like Google just copies everything they do. Apparently, the three remaining people at Yahoo involved with search that haven’t jumped ship to work at Google are among these.

Time for a little push-back. Before I do so, just as I don’t believe that John Gruber is some Apple fanboy who only sees things from a positive Apple point of view, I’d hope that what I’m writing isn’t seen as coming from a Google fanboy.

I’m doing some pushback not out of great love for Google but rather from a great love of balance and reasonable discussion. Right now, we could use some balance on all the copying accusations that are flying around, I’d say.

Yelp & Google Copying

I’ll start with Yelp. If Yelp doesn’t want its information to be in Google, it can opt-out of Google. In fact, Yelp did do that, and not just from all of Google but specifically from Google Places, last year.

Yelp came back to Google voluntarily, and when you look at CEO Jeremy Stoppelman’s quotes from May, it’s not surprising:

We are unhappy with the way Google uses our users’ review on its Places  page. However, there is no solution to the problem…

Google’s position is that we can take ourselves out of its search index if we don’t want them to use our reviews on Places….

But that is not an option for us, and other sites like us – such as TripAdvisor – as we get a large volume of our traffic via Google search…

We just don’t get any value out of our reviews appearing on Google places and haven’t been given an option other than to remove ourselves from search, how to improve this situation.

Let’s be clear here. Yelp argues that Google’s use of its reviews in Google Places has been harmful. Yet, Yelp argues that it can’t leave Google because Google sends its so much free traffic. So which is it? Google is killing Yelp or essential to Yelp’s survival? It’s hard to have it both ways.

Still, I actually have a great deal of sympathy for Yelp’s concerns. Even though they clearly benefit hugely from being in Google, Google’s formerly heavy aggregation of their reviews (and reviews from others on the web like TripAdvisor) have allowed Google to have review pages of its own. It would be nice for content owners to say OK to some uses and not to others, even more than Google already currently allows.

(By the way, Bing and Yahoo do the same aggregating of content from Yelp and other review sites. Google’s direct competitors in search do this, but Google shouldn’t? I guess because what, Google’s bigger than the others?).

As for Hall’s point about Google shoving Yelp’s reviews at the bottom of Google Places content, that argument makes no sense. Google did recently make that type of change, and it seems to be exactly what Yelp wanted. So Google’s damned for “copying” and then damned for not copying — and the not copying argument is bizarrely used to say they copy?

Groupon & Google Copying

Apparently, from what I read with Hall and Gruber, Groupon was a coupon site that sprang from the aether and into the mind of Andrew Mason in 2008. Since Mason originated couponing, if anyone tries a similar business, they should be shunned as copy monsters.

I exaggerate, obviously. But I don’t get the logic here. Is there a patent that Google’s violating on this idea? Or is it just that people shouldn’t copy what other people do? Or is it just that Google shouldn’t copy what other people do?

Wait, I know. It’s because Google tried to buy Groupon but couldn’t get it. If that’s the case, this seems a strange business lesson. If you can’t purchase something you’re interested in, the advice is that you should never go into that business at all?

Android & Google Copying

Gruber tells us that the Android UI was copied from Apple. Hall says that the idea of a touchscreen smartphone was copied by the iPhone.

Newsflash. As a Windows Mobile user from 2004, I had a touchscreen smartphone that ran apps long before that idea ever punched itself out of Apple. My phone did things that Apple later copied, too, such as the innovative copy-and-paste feature. It was magical.

I currently use both an Android phone and an iPhone (both of which I’ve purchased). In my last review, while there are use cases where the Android phone is better, the iPhone still remains are far more relaxing mobile operating system to use. A pleasure to use. And that tells me if Google’s just copying everything, it’s done a pretty bad job of it.

Bottom line: Samsung can make its Android phones look like iPhones, but that doesn’t mean they act like them.

Google Unfairly Funds Other Businesses

I was bemused by the number of times Hall was upset about Google apparently taking money from “other businesses” to fund new ones in its quest for global domination. I’m not sure what businesses don’t spend from one area to help build another. How else are they supposed to start anything new?

When Microsoft launched Internet Explorer, I’m pretty sure the price it charged was zero. And you didn’t have to buy Windows to have IE. Apple hands Safari out like candy on Halloween. If I want to use it on Windows, I just head on over to Apple — there I get it for free. I don’t pay for iTunes, either.

Perhaps it’s that you shouldn’t keep spending and spending on one business in hopes of growing it. You know, after you’ve tossed so many millions into something, you should just give it up. So much for Xbox getting to where it is now. And sorry, Bing, I guess you die.

Google Expands Too Much

Maybe it’s just that when you’re trying to do “everything” rather than your particular niche, that’s when it all goes wrong. Clearly, Microsoft should have just stuck with DOS. Or, if it was going to do Windows, creating an office suite was a step too far. Certainly creating a gaming platform, as well as now two different mobile platforms was the company just being arrogant.

And Apple? Aren’t those the people who just made computers? What were they thinking suddenly being a music player company by rolling out the iPod. It’s not like we didn’t have MP3 players then. Or when exactly did Apple declare it was a consumer electronics company by releasing a phone and an TV platform? What’s next?

Success Doesn’t Come From Copying

Are we really going to have a copython to decide who copies whom the most? I’ve watched people in the search space copy ideas from each other over and over again. Sometimes the copying goes on so much that a “victim” yelling about something that a competitor “stole” doesn’t even realize how they themselves might have stolen it from someone else.

One popular meme is that all of Google’s design changes have been borrowed from Bing. This all happens in an alternative universe where Ask.com apparently never existed. And even some of the Ask innovations came from others.

Everyone copies from each other. But copying an idea from someone else doesn’t guarantee success. Windows and MacOS grew into successes from Xerox PARC origins but not because Microsoft and Apple got the secret keys to a graphic UI. It’s because both companies worked hard and built compelling operating systems with their own ideas.

No business that just copies will succeed, I’d say. That business has to have something else, a vision, an infrastructure, a unique twist along with their own fresh ideas. That’s why debates over copying can be so tiresome.

Or do we really think that Microsoft’s phone business is healthy because it gets licensing fees from some Android handset makers?

Expansion Brings Disruption

As for the expanding everywhere issue, it’s not that expansion is bad — nor is Google really expanding into “everything” or alone in expanding. It’s that expansion can bring disruption, and if you’re an established business comfortable in an area that’s being disrupted, it can be easier to cry foul that to keep innovating.

That’s not to say that there aren’t legitimate concerns that any company might use one aspect of its businesses to support others in ways that violate anti-trust laws. Google, of course, it undergoing scrutiny about this now both in the US and the EU.

Stick To The Concern At Hand

To me, the stuff I’ve read from Hall, from Gruber and from others often just seems knee-jerk responses against Google and its growth, rather than serious examinations of complex issues. Google’s big, we don’t like it, so let’s take some cheap, surface shots at them.

Some of this is understandable in the sense that Google does come across has having a selective case of the whines. When things go well for Google, even if those things might be perceived as unfair to others, it doesn’t speak up.

But still, if there are real concerns about patents, then let’s see those argued on the merits of those patents and the patent system. Pulling in unrelated upsets about any company — Google, Apple, Microsoft — doesn’t clarify anything.

Hard To See Google As  A Victim

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that Google is perfect and only does the “nice” thing. Google’s just another company, which acts in its own self-interest and can act just as ruthlessly as any of its competitors to get what it wants.

One of the most disturbing areas is the conflict of Google hosting content as opposed to pointing outbound. Its Google Places pages are arguably destinations of their own. Its YouTube pages certainly are. Should a search engine also have destinations sites? If not, then should that standard be applied to all search engines, as Google’s not alone here.

Google’s also a big fan of the “open,” yet despite the Open Handset Alliance, I still can’t get a pure Android phone on Verizon. And despite Open Social, there’s still no API for Google+.

In the tech space, I think many people understand that Google is no longer that scrappy little company of old with the fun beach balls and the quirky founders. It’s not. It’s just like all the others.

But within Google, there are still a good number of people who don’t get this. They honestly believe they’re fighting the good fight and seem to expect that blog posts laying out their views about why Google is right will be seen as somehow statistically proven and self-evident. It’s no wonder why these posts can then blow back at them.

The sad thing is that we could probably use more of these frank, no-bull discussions about important issues. Perhaps Google or another company will find a way to cast them where they don’t feel self-serving, or where the company doesn’t come across as whining.

And maybe we’ll have discussions that stick to the issues, rather than turning into therapy sessions for getting everything disliked about a company off our collective chests.

I said earlier I’m not a Google fanboy. Below, some critical pieces I’ve written in the past, along with some balancing ones, that you may find of interest:

Related Topics: Channel: Other | Features: Analysis | Top News

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About The Author: is a Founding Editor of Search Engine Land. He’s a widely cited authority on search engines and search marketing issues who has covered the space since 1996. Danny also serves as Chief Content Officer for Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He has a personal blog called Daggle (and keeps his disclosures page there). He can be found on Facebook, Google + and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn



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  • http://www.technovia.co.uk Ian Betteridge

    Good post, Danny. Just to pick you up on one thing:

    “When Microsoft launched Internet Explorer, I’m pretty sure the price it charged was zero.”

    Yes – and that’s one of the issues which led Microsoft to be charged by the DoJ.

  • http://about.me/brentbuford Brent Buford

    Agreed that a lot of the complaints are misguided, but I think there is also a more general sense of disappointment that Google was once an innovative engineering company that has now resorted to producing carbon copies of popular services wherever they see potential market share. They have every right to do so provided they don’t violate intellectual property laws, but back when they started “riffing” on other products (Google Docs, which grew from the Writely acquisition, was a great shakeup), you could argue that they were innovating, even through acquisition. Lately, it seems like they copy whatever they can’t buy, and it’s a little sad for all us geeks that hoped for more.

  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/philipsegal Philip Segal

    I think the most important point in this whole article is that Google is “just like all the others” now.

    I love Google and all the things that stand for; I also hate many things they do. On the one hand, I work with many business that I wouldn’t be able to if Google didn’t exist, and I get to make a living doing something I love. On the other hand, I’ve worked with businesses who are now competing with Google because Google decided they wanted to make money from that source as well.

    It *does* make perfect sense that Google would leverage their search monopoly to create other lines of business; but do they need to get into *every* area they think might be profitable?

    I don’t really know if it matters. They can, and so they will. It would be nice to think that a company would reach a point where they felt they have “enough” money and influence and be happy there. But they’re a public company and now it’s all about profits rather than the original vision of ‘not being evil’ or ‘organizing the world’s information.’

    On the other hand, I think other businesses should understand that and stop whining. If they overstep legal bounds, go after them in court. Otherwise, at some point the momentum will wear off and the thousands of enemies they created will find some hole in their armor, as is the price of being too greedy and making too many enemies. But who knows when that will happen.

    The point is, they’re just like everyone else now.

  • Nate Vollbrecht

    I’ve really got to agree with the majority of this article, though the final point that “Google is just like everyone else now” is a bit off. I still like to believe that Google remains ruled by engineers and not traditional corporate ideas or obsessive compulsive egotistical aesthetics designers [hrumph, Mr. Jobs]. Google still some applications solely because they’re innovative, interesting, or even just “cool”— not because of some overarching all-ruling strategy.

    I’m pretty much a “Google fanboy”, thanks predominantly to Chrome. Chrome is likely part of others arguments that Google is expanding into areas definitely not in its natural hunting area, but I’m just thankful for it— there’s a significant possibility that the vast majority of the world would continue using Internet Explorer 6 or 7 for another decade (okay, perhaps an exaggeration) had it not been for Chrome shaking up the browser market quite a bit.

    Overall, great article, correcting many of the current questionable accusations against Google.

  • tonyswash

    Meanwhile in a parallel universe…..

    Apple today unveiled it’s ‘Open Search’ initiative at a media event. Apple CEO Steve Job announced that Apple was launching it’s own search engine using technology it has been developing for some time and which utilises the vast resources of its North Carolina data centre. Apple’s ‘Open Search’ will not only offer a completely alternative search engine to today’s market leader Google but would also completely open sources search algorithms and allow any third party to build their own search engine based technologies and products on the back of Apple’s core infrastructure. In a move that surprised many industry insiders Jobs unveiled ‘one more thing’ which was the offer of free advertising. Apple will not charge for companies who sign up to place advertising using the the search generated data, and will pay web sites and third parties hosting Apple Open Search ads the same rates as Google currently offers through it’s AdSense product, funded from Apple’s huge cash mountain.

    Jobs, standing in front of huge graphic showing 1984′s Big Brother, said “the search business is too important to leave in the hands of one company’

    …………………………..

    Following last week’s announcement of Apple’s Open Search Google held a special staff conference at which Google CEO Larry Page is reported to have said “Apple wants to kill Google’s search business and we are not going to let them’

    ………………………………….

    It emerged today that the Apple’s Open Search initiative may not be as open as it was made out. It has been confirmed that not all third parties interested in deploying Open Search technology will be able to do so. Although Apple claims Open Search is a truly open piece of software all the core code is controlled by Apple and not all of those who were interested in using Open Search have been approved to deploy the new search engine tools. At least one Apple competitor, RIM, have been told they will not be getting the Open Search technology to use on their handsets.

    ……………………………………………

    There were more revelations today concerning the nature of the openness of Apple’s Open Search initiative. It has emerged that third parties hoping to deploy Open Search technologies must first agree that their companies will offer special premium versions of their software and products which will offer additional functionality exclusively to Apple products such as Macs and iOS devices. In order to get access to the Open Search technologies companies also have to agree to not offer the most up to date versions of their products to any of Apple’s competitors.

    …………………………………………………..

    Google today announced it is suing Apple for breaching it’s core software patents including the key Page Rank patent. Google released a series of internal emails from Apple revealing senior executives of the tech giant freely discussed the need to secure a license from Google for using it’s search algorithms, concerns that were overruled by CEO Steve Jobs who insisted no license was necessary. Google is seeking an injunction to prevent further deployment of Apple’s Open Search technologies and is seeking punitive damages. Apple today submitted a legal motion claiming that the internal Apple emails, including those from CEO Steve Jobs dismissing licensing concerns, are legally inadmissible and should be excluded from the evidence.

    An Apple spokesman rejected the accusations from Google and said Google’s actions were part of plot to hold back innovation and announced it was starting a campaign to overturn software patents not linked to specific hardware platforms. The move was greeted by several prominent adherents of open source software. Apple is believed to spending large sums from its vast cash reserves in a fierce lobbying campaign in Washington and on a broader PR campaign in support of it’s Open Search and attacking Google.

    …………………………………………………

    Apple today released iOffice, a completely free suite of office productivity apps that mirror the functionality, and in some cases the appearance, of Microsoft’s well established Office productivity suite. Apple also revealed the support mechanisms that will help enterprises make the transition to iOffice. Although free an iOffice license does require that the end user make Apple’s Open Search their default search engine and early adopters say that any attempt to change the search default back to another search provider such as Google or Bing disables iOffice. Microsoft were unavailable for comment but are believed to be considering legal action over the ‘look and feel’ similarities between iOffice and MS Office. Apple, with the support of the open source community, claimed such a move would turn Microsoft into a ‘patent troll’.

    …………………………………………..

    Nuance, the makers of widely used speech recognition software, today started a legal action against Serpentine, the new asian start up that has seen a massive take up of it’s speech recognition software package ‘Conversation’ which costs a fraction of the price of Nuance products and which following an announcement last week will come bundled free with all iOS devices. Nuance claims that Serpentine is using software code that Nuance has patents over. In a related development Nuance claimed that Apple had has built specific speech related software API’s into it’s Open Search and iOS technologies allowing the deep Serpentine speech functionality integration and that these APIs were clones of Nuance APIs.

    …………………………………………………………

    Apple today announced that Apple’s Open Search has just passed the 50% mark of all internet searches just 18 months after it’s launch. Google claimed recently that Apple was inflating the percentage of searches it claimed used Apple technology. The ‘open source’ search technology Apple is offering third parties has proved very popular particularly as it means many companies no longer have to pay for their advertising, a development that has impacted Google’s business significantly. Many supporters of open source software welcomed Apple’s announcement as a landmark in the history of the open source movement, however some adherents of open source software are complaining that Apple’s Open Search is not truly open as the source code is not released freely to all who want access to it.

    An Apple spokesman said that Apple is deeply committed to openness and contrasted it to the way that Google’s search system is ‘closed and opaque’.

  • http://artiefannetwork.com/ NotMyBro

    Danny, the incurable Google PR tool. It’s sad what you’ve become.

  • http://colinpape.com colin pape

    Some great points, Danny, but I think the difference between Google, Microsoft, and everyone else for that matter, is that Google controls the vast majority of information flow.

    We as users, businesses and legislators have placed a lot of trust in Google, based primarily on their initial ethos and position as more of an academic search engine.

    Unfortunately, since the early days, they have become like ‘everyone else’ and in the process of doing so, seem to have lost sight of the tremendous responsibility they have as gatekeeper of the internet.

    They owe themselves, and all of us, a better job than they are currently doing. Anyone who has been at the fringes of Google’s systems knows just how poorly they are setup to handle edge cases. I dare say that it’s pathetic.

    A company making $10m in profit per day has no excuse not to develop a robust dispute/issue resolution process and to hire 250 or so customer support reps.

    The fact that they have not done so leads people to assume the worst – it’s because they don’t want to talk to us, because they have something to hide. It’s not a matter of resources or capability, so it’s got to be a matter of will. Why is that?

    Come on Google – you had so much potential! While you still do a great job, you are missing the big picture and because you have marginalized so many people by treating them poorly, and by disrupting industries just because you can that you are going to have to face the consequences.

    I once thought Google would be a 100-year business, but now I’m wondering if they’ll even make it to 20 years. If they keep going at the rate they are, I don’t see how it’ll be possible.

    People will begin organizing against them, the government will step in and regulate them, and they’ll lose trust.

    They have done so much for the world that I’d hate to see that happen, but any organization with that much power, that proves it cannot regulate itself, will be held accountable one way or another.

  • http://www.unison.com Rurik Bradbury

    Many fair points, but the ‘Windows Mobile like iPhone’ thing can’t stand — even seems disingenuous. I had a WinMo device: it had no multitouch and no capacitative screen, which is the core of the iOS experience. Instead you had an awful stylus with no gestures or natural interaction at all. It was just awful, and the iPhone was a quantum leap, a ‘paradigm shift’.

    Android was a cheap and direct knockoff of iOS; iOS was not a knockoff (in almost any sense) of WinMo.

  • http://www.ratdiary.com SpragueD

    You don’t see yourself as a “Google fan boy”. Would you cop to “Google apologist”?

    I read your post and won’t delve into each defense you proffer except one — something I see repeatedly from apologists — Re: Yelp (and other brands that have their content commoditized and re-purposed by Google), if they don’t like Google’s practices just don’t participate in Google! Imagine if, in the late 90′s people had said, “If you don’t like Microsoft’s practices, don’t play in their sandbox!” My point: Google and the issues you address will look very different once Google comes out the other end of their anti-trust ordeal.

  • Jason Grimm

    I hate conglomerates as much as the next guy; but, I am just not that upset with Google. Google is good at what it does and it offers it’s services up for free. They also add competition to the market, real competition, which is what really has these other companies worked up. I Joe Schmoe started a social networking site Facebook and the others wouldn’t care because they are already the big dogs, what threat does Joe pose to them? Let Google get into it and all of a sudden everyone has their knockers in a knot.

    As far as I see it; if Google poses a threat to Facebook it’s because Google did it better. The same can be said for the rest. Any advantage on Google’s part that comes from them being the largest search provider on the net and having one of the most visited websites is courtesy of you, me and anyone else that has participated in putting them on top. Google does it better and when they don’t they leave. Microsoft and the rest could take some lessons from them. If you want to be a bigger player then you need to be more aggressive. Apple restricts itself by choice, Microsoft became complacent and waited to long to expand and many of the others are just small fish in a big pond. If they can’t get ahead because the big fish are holding them back, then welcome to the world of the majority. We are all feeding off the scraps of the big fish, that’s capitalism in America.

    Anti-trust = LOL. Microsoft was killed by it, just look @ Windows 7 :)

  • Robert Newberry

    I will not sacrifice the Internet. We’ve made too many compromises already; too many retreats. They invade our space and we fall back. They assimilate entire URL’s and we fall back. Not again. The line must be drawn here! This far, no further! And *I* will make them pay for what they’ve done.

  • Robert Newberry

    BTW, that’s a quote from Star Trek: First Contact, I couldn’t resist. I don’t mind Google too much I guess. Don’t want people who don’t watch movies, even Star Trek *gasp*, to think I’m a hacker or something intent on Google’s destruction.

    Relax people. It’s only a movie.

  • Zato Gibson

    The comments about Apple and Microsoft by the Google Lawyer show that Google is not run by smart people. The comments were almost certainly planned and executed right from the top of the Googleplex and yet they make Google sound just another 2-digit a-hole corp.

  • http://zhamid.ca Zeeshan Hamid

    Re: Yelp – You can’t not be on Google in this day and age. If you’re an online business (like Yelp) and you can’t be on Google then you might as well pack up.

    Essentially what you’re saying is that all online businesses need to put up with Google using their content at will (since you can’t not be on Google).

    That’s not “business as usual”, that’s a monopoly at its worst. That’s precisely why antitrust legislations exist.

    Imagine if I owned all the roads. You opened a store and I said “if your customers want to use my roads then you’ll have to put up with me taking your merchendise (without compensation) and selling it. Don’t like it? Fine, I wont let your customers use my roads then.

  • Jan Larsson

    Apple is very unlikely to compete with Instagram. They understand how to build and cultivate an ecosystem. Yes, sometimes the platform owner does need to expand but only to strengthen the platform.

    Google would not be able to stand Instagram. It would threaten the oxygen supply to their ad-business so they would immediately move to include the functionality.

    Maybe Instagram is to small as an example. But you get the picture. Google very much reminds me of the aggressive Microsoft of the late 90′s that moved in on any and every small utility – killing its own third party support.

    And since Google today is the gatekeeper of the web (monopoly on search) their power is just as damning as Microsofts. It has little to do with these companies – it is their monopoly position that makes their actions evil.

    No site today can disregard Google and make it on the web. It is not as easy as ‘just remove your listing’ and of course the Google-fanboys know this but still they never acknowledge it.

    Personally I think the move from web-internet to the app-internet has a good portion of Google-fatigue included. I started to exit Google services after learning the details of the Google Books project. And the more I exited their reach the worse their search engine became so in the end – moving to other search-services was no big deal. But then I am mostly on the app-internet today.

  • http://www.paulserra.com Paul Serra

    If facebook integrated Bing search in a way it wasn’t hidden I may not use Google at all (for search). I hope they do, it will give Google a taste of their own medicine. Good article as always.

    P.S. 5 years from now I can’t see Google #1 in this area. There will be other innovations by then.

  • Jon Burrell

    Excellent post, my thoughts exactly and about time some intelligence and balance were brought to this discussion, hear, hear dannington.

  • http://www.mangopirate.com Siddharth Surana

    People need to have room to conduct, start and grow businesses in a fair manner. The older players with deeper pockets, should be prohibited by law from turning into octopuses with their tentacles in every possible pie.

    It’s dis-heartening to think that “if” I were to come out with a big idea or something unique, it could be copies (even without patents) by a big company which could throw huge resources behind it. To a sense, smaller or newer people copying (ideas without IP) and trying to make their own.

    I will go with John Gruber over this one, though your logic is sound in itself. My main concern being big businesses driving any possible new businesses to the verge of bankruptcy. This is not healthy and will in the long term destroy the innovative eco-system. And it’s not limited to Google.

  • jaymack

    I really like google and all it’s services. Chrome is so incredible I’ve abandoned firefox for it. Android feels grown up compared to iOS, which after 2 years of use iOS still is not working out for me.

    Had a pretty good laugh at the android is a direct cheap knock off of iOS. I guess when you don’t know much and / or can’t get past the whole icons on a mobile device make magics happen, you can sit there spewing garbage and not worry about it.

    A little disappointed with this article. Sounds like a massive whine.

    The quality of article has really dropped here. I guess it’s a good time to move on.

  • https://plus.google.com/101012099901747349794/ Michael Krause

    All I know is Google takes things that look to be worthy investments and then produces something better. Gmail? Google Docs? Google Chrome? Google Search? What does it cost me? Nothing. The company that is offering me free tools and services is being whined about over its whining due to companies attacking Google with patent infringement. Maybe Google’s responses weren’t the best but what is more important is that Google is trying to innovate and hitting a brick wall with patent law.

  • SteveL

    Remember a little program called Netscape Navigator? It was a brilliant piece of software. But a company called Microsoft had control over most of the PCs out there, and they had a LOT of cash. So, they developed something called Internet Explorer which most agreed was not as polished as Netscape Navigator. But because the vast majority of people used their Operating System, they could push their software by giving it away for free. Even if the software didn’t work as well, it worked “good enough” that no one had to use the competition. Slowly, Netscape Navigator couldn’t make money, because Microsoft was getting its products adopted using its dominant market share while young companies with greater innovation struggled to even get the word out about their product. Microsoft had the deep pockets to embrace, extend, extinguish anyone who got in their way. Anyone daring to compete with them either had to follow their way or go out of business.

    Now, replace…

    Netscape Navigator with Yelp (or Facebook or Groupon)
    software with Web site
    Microsoft with Google
    Internet Explorer with Google Places (or Google Plus or Google Offers)
    Operating System with Search Engine

    Google says don’t be evil. They say that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Google loves money. You do the math.

  • demeck

    i see a lot of misguided and frail arguments in this article.
    google is on the hot water because they infringe certain intellectual properties owned by other companies. is that difficult to understand? and to add to seriousness to that statement, evidence has been made public stating google did infringe knowingly and with intent. how could you guys scape that overwhelming issue?

    we want competition, we like to see better mobile gadgets, and we like have different options. but we also would like to protect our properties, and we hate it when somebody steals our property – that’s why we have property rights. now if google think ok let’s join the competition and build comparable mobile infrastructure so that consumers will have different options, then ok, let them bleed money by investing on their own R&D and make an infrastructure based on their sweat and blood (that honest “don’t be evil” kind of investment). they shouldn’t be allowed to just steal with impunity technologies they do not own and then when they get caught pretend to be the victim in front of the public. it’s disgusting.

  • http://azzlsoft.com Azzl

    And how many whining blog posts have those other companies written? You think the “technosphere” would react differently if Microsoft had written a blog post complaining about Google giving away ChromeOS being “unfair”. Of course not because it would be hypocritical. In fact, I imagine the attacks would be even more vicious.

    Of course the other companies aren’t angelic and they make no such claims — unlike Google, who seems to think that its **** don’t stink. The point is that they have zero ground to stand on and yet they continue to whine everytime someone does something to gain ground on them.

    Google should be embarrassed of themselves and they deserve every ounce of venom that is thrown their way.

  • Robert Newberry

    I do disagree wholeheartedly that Chrome is better than any other browser. It’s an invasive nightmare and the first time it wound up on my computer I removed it almost immediately. Of course this morning I looked up an article which was supposed to be scholarly and once again Chrome was downloading. Naturally, I canceled it. I’ll stick to the college databases for scholarly articles.

  • DTS

    I picked up on this phenomena when techmeme linked to a Business Insider copy of a post from Brian Hall’s blog. So I had a modest dialogue with him there. Thing is, of the sources you mention, Brian Hall, MG Siegler, and Daring Fireball are all pretty obvious and hardcore Apple fanboy types. Mr. Hall, who seems to be a leader in the current \dialogue\, in addition to the obvious pro-Apple advocacy bent of his blog, seemed to be quite proud of his , um, intemperate and lengthy diatribes on Google, and the response they got. Even threatened to write a novel in that pleasing style. Also quite pleased to have been picked up by Siegler aat Techcrunch and Gruber on Daring Fireball. The comment traffic on his blog seems to be falling off fast, though. The flaming style seems to wear thin quickly.

    Apple, Microsoft, and Oracle have pretty clearly declared war on Google on the Android front., and seem to be doing whatever they can to kill Android. That’s their right, but it doesn’t exactly seem to be a good thing on the consumer front. Less choice, higher costs, who could object to that? Though I have an Android phone, my main interest in this particular battle is the patent angle. I, along with many others, think software patents in particular and the current patent system in general is pretty hosed and counterproductive. Software patents aren’t even the worst, somebody has to explain gene patents to me sometimes, because I have no idea why anybody should be entitled to a patent on a naturally occurring DNA sequence.

    A lot of the problems with patents, including the software and gene patent things, seem to have been driven by the courts, not the patent office. I have no idea if any kind of reform is possible in the current political environment, but it’d be nice.

  • TimmyTime

    “Let’s be clear here. Yelp argues that Google’s use of its reviews in Google Places has been harmful. Yet, Yelp argues that it can’t leave Google because Google sends its so much free traffic. So which is it? Google is killing Yelp or essential to Yelp’s survival? It’s hard to have it both ways.”
    —————-
    Danny, this is a new low for you. I don’t think you understood it well, or I hope you didn’t.

    1. Yelp gets ‘free’ traffic from Google because it’s a useful site.
    2. That traffic, is not free because it takes resources to make the site useful.
    3. Google is almost a monopoly and can’t use search to blackmail others into giving Google free content. Only you seem to think that this is actually cool.

    Next time tell us about Google innovations…I mean they let us believe that the smartest people on earth work there and all I see is clones or bought ideas being promoted via their search. That’s all.

  • http://siddy.in Sidharth Dassani

    One thing I like about Danny is that he can be objective while writing about Google . The same cant be said about about either Gruber or Siegler . Great rebuttal Danny

  • Benjamin

    As a former Newton user, the idea of touch screen and apps were there long before Microsoft even think of the name “windows mobile”.

  • Matt Wright

    Amazing how many people just don’t get it. They like to say Apple did not invent the smart phone, they did invent the PDA. (The term did not even exist to Sculley said it one day several years after the Newton’s release.)

    All Smart Phones derive from the Newton. It is undeniable. People who say Apple did not invent anything have no idea how this industry evolved.

    The HTC Patents case is based on patents going back to the Newton.

    That is all interesting, but a bit technical. Google blatantly copied Android from iOS, Google knowingly used Java without a license, Samsung blatantly stole the iPhone UI for the sole purpose of making their phone seem just like the iPhone all your friends have.

    There was never a windows mobile phone with a capitative touch screen before the iPhone existed anyway.

  • http://www.brianshall.com Brian S Hall

    Thank you for referencing my post, Danny. I think you make a number of valid points and correct some of my mistakes. But — I think we have our biggest disagreement in the area of ‘size’. I think Google’s size, and ability to leverage search profits and enter into new markets is harmful to innovation and users. Yes, I can leave Google. The barriers to leave are certainly far lower than they were when so many of us were locked into using Microsoft products. Still, Google’s size has become an issue, I think.

  • http://roshanjoshi.com.np Roshan Joshi

    Not to forget the buying of DoubleClick (that itself was shady) that has helped in Google monopoly today.

  • Steff

    No offense, but this is a pretty sorry article. If an “objective” expert can’t acknowledge the obvious and gross copycat culture at Google, one has to wonder if perhaps that expert has become a little (or lot) too “subjective” or maybe even “biased.” And if so, then why and how?

    Some previously-objective experts cross the line and discover that that’s where the money is. It wouldn’t be the first time.

    I mean, what if Google decided to clone Search Engine Land and put you out of business? Better not to risk it.

  • http://www.wiredfractal.com nate legaspi

    Microsoft, Apple and Oracle have all the rights to attack Android. This is business. Don’t forget that Google entered the mobile business to compete against Windows Mobile and Apple iOS by giving Android for FREE. Let’s not also forget that Google is also using JAVA to develop Android and have openly infringed upon it. I say pay whatever is due and stop whining, this is business.

    Stop arguing that Google is giving the community FREE OS and services because the community is giving you their personal infos and you are making money out of it.

  • Colin

    As most often is the case, Danny is spot-on with this well-considered analysis of how the land lies. Like many others who’ll be reading this post, we have a business because of Google. We get enormously annoyed at The ‘G’ several times a day … but, c’est la vie! The ‘G’ is a behemoth and that’s how behemoths behave. If you don’t like it – move away.

  • http://hauntingthunder.wordpress.com/ Maurice Walshe

    re smartphone Jerry Purnell described one in the mote in gods eye long before newton.

  • Jonas Gabrielson

    Just one comment: you mention that a business should be allowed to branch out into new directions, and I agree. However, many of the examples you bring up, like the iPod or the XBox, are now real businesses of their own, that for the most part bring revenue to the company. Granted, the initial investment and research was paid for by the parent company, but since then they have paid for themselves (i.e the product is sold for a profit).

    Google is not like that. They create a new product, but they offer it for free, and all costs involved in making this product will forever be paid for by the parent company and their search revenue. Google Docs or Gmail and the other side products do not contribute directly to that revenue, they are simply profiling tools to let the search tool work better. By offering their products for free, and funding continued development with their monopoly revenue stream, they are making it more and more difficult to “vote with your dollar”. Eventually, their products become good enough that other competing products made for profit (paying for their own development) cannot compete. This is already happening with Google Docs vs MS Office.

  • http://www.mijnwebwinkel.nl Christian Waijers

    Google benefits a lot from that their most important services tend to flow in the ‘grey area’ when it comes to legislation issues. Therefor it has a lot of freedom in using these services in ways that might be legally questionable.

    Microsoft for instance was penalized for abusing it’s dominent position and forcing products as Windows Media Player and Internet Explorer to Windows users (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Union_Microsoft_competition_case).

    At this point of the digital evolution I believe that a search engine as popular as Google is even more dominant then a popular OS as when it comes to the potential (mis)use of it’s influence/position. Together with what I mentioned above about mostly finding itself in a grey area, I think this is a dangerous combination and for this, Google should be monitored closely.

    BTW, Danny, it seems that in all posts where you mention something negative about Google, you feel the need to add some positive notes or links on the side (and vice versa). Are you affraid of losing your prominent status @ Google if you don’t? ;)

  • mesel

    Oh danny, of course you are a google fanboy — you get first dibs from google overlords on any breaking news or get to “moderate” an inside google search session. I am just amazed how you continue to write these posts with a straight face.

    But that’s not the point. You of all people should know what it takes to make a product or business successful. Distribution. After all the ideas have been implemented, without any distribution it’s as good as non existent. Google clearly has abused it’s search distribution to push others (chrome, YouTube, places, products, Docs, and now g+). No, saying m$ also did so with ie doesn’t count. So as long as google is competent at basic copying, it’s current search distribution works well to push out any other incumbent in the market.

    Please don’t post such Ill balanced post again, it reflects poorly on you.

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    Mesel, no, I don’t get first dibs on breaking news on Google. Sometimes we’re prebriefed along with other publications. Sometimes we’re prebriefed alone, especially on search news, because we’re the only journalism outlet that covers search in such depth, I’d guess. Sometimes we’re not prebriefed about things at all, when other are.

    All of that is equally true of Bing, too. And I’ve also moderated panels at Bing — probably because as with Google, they were looking for someone outside the company who has expertise about search.

    In terms of distribution, Google’s biggest distribution channel, I’m virtually certain, are people who deliberately type in http://www.google.com into their browsers. And, in fact, the dominance you suggest they gained by pushing people out couldn’t have happened if people hadn’t made that deliberate choice. They came into an extremely crowded search market. They didn’t have distribution deals or deep pockets to buy search. So how did they manage to push out those incumbents?

    Yes — they had a really good search engine.

  • mesel

    Danny, first: you aren’t the only journalism that covers search. Yes you do cover google search well. To drive my point home please count the number of articles you’ve written on google vs bing vs baidu vs yandex everything else. Yes I get it Google’s the dominant player and most your customers want to know how to get in bed with Google.

    Absolutely Google has a good search engine. Just like microsoft had a good browser or intel had great processors. Don’t mix the issues.

    Getting to distribution: My point isn’t how Google became the dominant search engine, but how that helped propel it’s subsequent businesses. Some would say it was unfair, I’d let FTC and EU decide formally. Since you do seem to know about what distribution deals they made, you do know that Google paid significant amount of money to get the toolbar distribution deals until couple years back? And google continues to promote setting google.com as the default homepage? And they built a browser to make sure that the users don’t need to think about where to go to search, the big URL bar keeps google in the loop? And that buying motorola was critical to safeguard the mobile search distribution, as Google’s search and other products were deeply integrated in the OS? And finally, humans tend to use whatever is right in front of them?

    Bottom line: you are right, 6 years back many users were typing google.com to get to google. That’s no longer the case. Please check your facts again. And yes, I know very well what I am talking about.

  • TimmyTime

    “Like many others who’ll be reading this post, we have a business because of Google.”

    You must be a spammer and figured out how to fool Google’s algo. I have a very good website and would have had a business even without Google, just as I did before Google showed up.

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