It’s official. Google had has finally turned evil.
The dot com do-gooder has finally given into the fact that it’s a corporate monolith and as a corporate monolith there are certain things you need to do. Like make defensive plays, even when it compromises pretty much everything that you’ve stood for.
Today, Google invested a $1 billion in AOL in order to stop Microsoft getting a leg-up in the search advertising market and in doing so, it cut a deal that even Microsoft has decribed as unethical.
Sure, the stock market loved it. The stock market loves big, bad corporate monoliths but in the past Google hasn’t really given two tosses about what the stock market thinks. It’s done its thing and it just so happens that its thing has mostly been on the money.
Like not plastering big, fugly advertising over its home pages. Like not bending its search results to favour advertisers. For the most part, it has actually lived up to the Larry and Sergey’s “do no evil” philosophy.
John Batelle couldn’t have better summed up the change that this move represents when he said in a NYT article: “Until now, Google has said, ‘We don’t think about our competitors. We spend all our time building better products for our users.’
The NYT report said that: “Google has agreed to give AOL ads special placement on its site, something it has not done before. Until now, Google prided itself on its auction system for ads, which treated small businesses on an equal footing with its largest customers”. Evil.
But what Google has really given up in this deal is its independence. With a billion dollar investment in AOL you’d now have to say the company is officially in the content game. The content game that is the lifeblood of its content partners, who run Google’s AdSense advertising and are largely the reason that Google has become the behemoth it is today.
The big, bad corporate world talks about co-opetition – that is when businesses claim to be able to both compete and co-operate. It’s a phrase corporate monoliths like to latch onto, because it gives them license to ride rough-shod over any one they choose. “This is the new business paradigm,” they say, “I can compete with whoever the frick I like”. More often than not the smaller guy getting smacked up in the process has to grin and bear it because they generally don’t have a choice. But this is online. Things happen quickly. Choices pop up all over the place all the time. How long will publishers/content providers keep sleeping with the enemy? How long will users tolerate an aggregation/search facility that blatantly favours one content source?