Umair Haque / Bubblegeneration
umair haque  


Design principles for 21st century companies, markets, and economies. Foreword by Gary Hamel. Coming January 4th. Pre-order at Amazon.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The Problems With Gutopia, Pt 13412

When I'm in London, I spend a lot of time at the LBS library doing research.

Lately, I've noticed that when I do a Google search, I no longer have the option to see Google's cached version of a page/article/whatever.

Why not? Well, the reason's simple. Cached versions offer people like me in libraries free access to a lot of stuff that the library should otherwise pay for - at least in a Googleverse. In the Googleverse, I should only be able to access certain articles if the library has deals with the right publishers (for example, Reed's ScienceDirect).

Now, this is very interesting. Because it directly supports my old argument that Google is basically the next RIAA. It will increasingly face exactly the same tensions as any publisher does, because it hasn't innovated new kinds of property rights for a post-network economy.

The natural result will be a Googleverse where information is less and less free - not a Gutopia where info is universally accessible at the click of a mouse. Like the RIAA, the more deals Google strikes, the worse off consumers will be.

Don't buy the hype that comes from Google, the O'Reilly guys, Wired, etc - the truth is that Google is now heading down a path which has been well trodden in media history.

-- umair // 6:57 PM // 8 comments


but...why is it a bad thing for google to respect the wishes of people who publish content? if someone wants their writing to be available fine. if someone wants to require a subscription and/or a visit to their actual webpage to view their writing then that should be okay too, right?

i'm missing where the incentive structure will turn Google into another RIAA. and even if you're right,the YouTubes of the world create a lot of pressure on Google not to be too closed. this isn't the desktop OS market where competition can (could) just be shut down by the platform owner.
// Blogger Dr. Chadblog // 9:20 PM

another example of google's RIAA-esque policy is that google penalizes web sites in their search results listings that have duplicate content issues -- i.e. if they copy the site, html code, site architecture and just put a new domain on it. that is considered "spam" and is bad, could get you banned from google's index.

that's the kind of policy that reinforces old school property mentality. youtube on the other hand allows you to put videos on your site and thus faciliates duplication of content.

IMO a publisher that does create create the "new kinds of property rights for a post-network economy" will be in a good position to give google a run for their money regarding competing in the ad network space.
// Anonymous kid mercury // 9:34 PM

As publishers are able to opt-out of the cache, are your examples of not being able to access cached articles the result of deal making or the publishers simply opting out? The difference might not be important to the point your making, but might be.
// Blogger Henrik // 9:39 PM

The keywords here are "it hasn't innovated." The issue isn't one of google respecting the wishes of content publishers. It is an issue of google, in an era of cheap coordination and Reed's law, not innovating in terms of distribution, compensation and access.

Instead it simply gathers up all of the world's free content and regulates it according to the old models, which leads to friction and decreasing levels of freedom of movement (intellectually and creatively, that is).

Focusing on the individual features or non-features of google as well as the level of participation in those features is missing the point.

Google has created only one economic content innovation, adsense, and it is one that provides the spammers and scumbags of the world with their business model.

Give it a few years and Google will have the same image as IBM did in the eighties and Microsoft did in the nineties. Its entire business model is driving it in that direction and it isn't doing enough innovation to escape that fate.

People will eventually see how conservative Google is, especially in terms of creativity and creation.
// Anonymous Baldur Bjarnason // 10:47 PM

I'm afraid that for once I don't agree with the opinion. I guess diversity is what makes the world beautiful though.

Google is obviously under immense pressure, mainly to balance its offering and innovation with a profitable business model. Of course as the company grows the pressure will increase. Obviously there are also external pressures (think of google print that go beyond Google's will but are regulated by the way the market functions)

Said that, Google is innovation, above all from a cultural perspective: Google has changed the way we search, access and consume and use not information but knowledge. Google is a cultural shift. A shift that has also challenged other companies like Microsoft to adapt and change.

Innovation is not only in AD Sense, but think of Gmail, google maps, google local, froogle, spreadsheets, pages, writerly, blogger, video, mobile, scholar, news, mash-ups, access to apis, hosting for open source, talk, mobilizer, tools for your own sites (google code) etc... and think of all these as nodes within a comprehenisve strategy. The innovation is in the overall picture, in "getting it" and making it all function together. Obviously some are internal developments others aquisitions (these need to be effectively integrated within a business model and practices though).

Never before have people had access to such tools or knowledge at their fingertips, at no cost. Think of the Internet five years ago. Most of the services above came at a cost and never have they been available all together from one source.

Above all don't think of this only in the context of the developed world, but also within the framework of the developing world or of the less fortunate and resourced. For example the implications of google mobilizer in countries where the Internet is accessed mainly via mobile phones or all those people using in African countries and now have proper email, or of start-ups that can integrate tools into their own hosting, of google providing hosting space to OS projects, or of the acessibility of tools (like spreadsheets) for all, or of Google's role in hurricane katrina help:

Finally - the youtube example is totally something different, what Google removes from its index is when someone exactly mirrors a website or has loads of re-directs and sub-domains all pointing to the same place: this is spam. Google has no problems with bits of content from a website (like a video) being also placed on other websites.
// Blogger alberot // 12:02 PM

forgot to add: Google's investment in opening premises in Michigan and the positive implications that will have in the area...

Innovation is also about generating positive impact in new ways and fostering an effective strategy for current offerings not only "newness".
// Blogger alberot // 12:08 PM

Alberot, did you even read the post? Your myopic fawning of Google sounds the same as Wired, O'Reilly, etc. Your comment reads like a Google press release.

Sometimes I wonder how many of these commenters actually read the posts.
// Anonymous Zack // 2:41 AM

Yup, I did read the post... I guess it's called having a different opinion?

I also guess it's about being realistic in understanding innovation within a context of market practicalities... for me a company that enables wifi in a city (i.e. provides access) and is also capable of making a profit is in some way innovative...
// Blogger alberot // 9:40 AM
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