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Google needs dismantling

28 September 2020

Google was a great idea and a great company, many years ago.

The clearly stated mantra "Don't be evil" was a fantastic one and through this statement and a willingness to swim against the tide with such things as its totally minimalist, no-advertising front page, the company's search engine soon became the internet's favourite.

Not only were there some very clever algorithms used to rank webpages but, unlike most of the other similar services "back in the day", Google didn't constantly assault your eyes with gaudy banners and ads at every turn.

We loved Google and because of this, other sites such as AltaVista, Seek, Yahoo and such simply faded into oblivion.

All was well with the world, and as Google wormed its way into our hearts they also began to roll out a raft of other services -- such as Google Mail.

Even then, they were smart enough to label many of these new services as "beta" and access was initially by invitation-only. This made those who had a GMail address feel very "special" and privileged... something that further strengthened the public's affection for Google.

Then, slowly but surely, things began to change, and not for the better.

As the corporatisation of Google took place, the company turned from a customer-centric organisation into a totally different beast.

Without a word, that belived mantra "Don't be evil" was quietly dropped from all the official statements and documentation.

This should have been a sage warning to the world: Google was about to become evil.

Thanks to its previous years of currying favour with internet users, Google had become a trusted and revered name so, at least at first, people were willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and have faith that they were doing the right thing.

Behind the scenes however, Google was focused on just two things: money and power.

No matter where you live in the world, money and power are intextricably linked. He who has the power will automatically end up with the money, and Google had both.

Through growth and acquisition, Google has now positioned itself as the leading player on the internet. It effectively "owns" many markets, including search, webmail, user-generated video on demand content, advertising and a raft of other services that are pivotal to most people's use of the internet.

They have however, gone far beyond this.

Google now has a fingers in a huge share of the mobile device market, thanks to Android, and that is where we should now be very worried.

The reality is that the vast majority of internet access is now done from smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices. We are a highly mobile society and we use our phones far more than our desktop PCs these days. He who owns the mobile device market, owns the internet user.

There really are only two players in the mobile market Google (Android) and Apple. That's a duopoly ripe for exploiting if ever I saw one and the vehicle that both Apple and Google are using to reap rich rewards are their app stores.

Apple has been in conflict with a growing number of companies for extorting far too much money from those who place apps in their store. The very strict terms and conditions of app store use effectively allow Apple to take a commission on every cent that those apps earn and there is nothing app-makers can do about it.

Meanwhile, over in the Google camp another very worrying abuse of an effective monopoly has surfaced.

With huge levels of complaint now being leveled at YouTube by creators and users alike, a number of alternative platforms have surfaced and some are doing very well at creating true competition. It seems that Google has started feeling the heat and has responded as only a true monopoly can.

Google has barred the app of at least one of these services (LBRY) from its app store.

Without an app, the huge swathe of Android-based mobile devices can no longer easily and seemlessly access this competitor to YouTube.

And how did Google justify this ban?

It claimed that there was some objectionable content available to users of the app.

Seriously Google? Seriously?

Have you seen what you can access on the internet using your own Chrome browser -- yet that remains in your app store.

Have you seen the levels of nudity and violence that appear on some Netflix content -- yet the Netflix app remains in your store.

Have you seen the objectionable material that people can create and share with some of the tools in your app store... but those are still available for download.

No, it is abundantly clear that Google is simply "being evil" and choosing to ankle-tap any competitor that might dare challenge its dominance in any market. Yes, technically I guess Google can delist any app it wants for whatever reason it wants -- but eventually antitrust laws must be invoked because of its massive market dominance and the unreasonable amount of power that gives a corporation such as Google.

Will anything be done?

I doubt it.

After all, if you or I arrange our finances so as to minimise our tax burden, even by a few thousand dollars, we can be ripped a new one by the IRD yet, with only a very few exceptions, tax-collectors from around the world won't dare to challenge Google when they do this to the tune of billions.

Sure, we've seen Google fined some pretty large sums by various countries for breaches of their laws but, when compared to their immense wealth, even these numbers are insignificant -- just a drop in the ocean at the end of the day.

Google seems to have decided that "anything goes" when it comes to protecting its profits and until such time as its omnipotence is dismantled, we are stuck with it.

How do you deal with a company that, through the removal of its ground-breaking mantra, has effectively declared itself to be "evil" and which has "dirt" on every single internet user in the world -- including all those easily lead politicians?

The levels of censorship, some of it clearly driven by political idiologies, that Google is now inflicting on YouTube is the very reason that people are supporting alternative platforms -- and Google's not having that. How dare "mere people" challenge the might of Google in this way? Cast them from the app-store!

What do readers think?

Has Google become so large, powerful and omnipresent that it is, for all intents and purposes, now "untouchable"?

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