It used to be that Google was constantly in the news; now Google constantly is the news.
A huge portion of the stories we generally hear about concern the search giant; and we also increasingly hear about those stories because the algorithms of Google News, the company’s news service, have selected them for us. Most of the traffic that goes to, say, independent.co.uk comes via Google searches. And if you’ve followed the news recently, you’ll have noticed both that this very young American company is dominating the news, and that the coverage is mostly very critical.
There was the tale, for instance, of a bust-up between Google and Sweden over the meaning of the word “ungoogleable”. The Swedes wanted to include it in their annual list of new words, but defined it to mean a term that cannot be found in any search engine. Google quite reasonably said that is unfair, and the term should refer only to Google searches. It all came to nought and the Swedes dropped the idea.
In recent weeks, we’ve had horror stories, too, about: Google Glasses, which apparently turn the material world into a virtual soup; Google Shoes, which send people mad when they find their feet talking to them; and Google’s smart watch, which will cause Time to fold in on itself and the universe to collapse under pressure from the fourth dimension.
Yesterday, Evgeny Morozov, an academic with a book to promote, lambasted Google as a company “run by adolescents”, apparently oblivious to the fact that Eric Schmidt, Larry Page and Sergey Brin are 57, 40, and 39 respectively.
This is all pure codswallop, of course. Google is the most powerful and successful company in the world – poorer than Apple, but much more influential – because no firm anywhere, ever, has more cleverly innovated to give consumers precisely what they want at an astonishingly low price (ie free). They are, in other words, the best example of entrepreneurship and capitalism yet invented, and it strikes me as weird, to put it mildly, that people who usually applaud those things have taken against this particular firm.
Still, let’s humour them briefly to address those concerns in full:
- Google destroys privacy: Well, only if you let it, for instance by dancing topless when you see one of its Street View cars charging towards you. Otherwise, you’re usually ok.
- Google destroys conversation: A conversation has to be real bad for you to be on your, say, iPhone instead. Maybe talk to somebody else? Also: if anyone is to blame for this, it’s Steve Jobs.
- Google makes us depend on “augmented reality”: That sounds pretty fly. Where do I sign up?
- Google searches are a substitute for real thinking: Yes, but thinking is tiring, and takes much longer.
And, er, that’s about it. Most of the people who don’t like Google avail themselves of its services for free, constantly. I bet moody Mr Morozov searched thousands of times on Google’s engine in the course of writing his latest tome. Like other Googlephobes, he ought to try boycotting the company’s products for a while, before preaching hypocritically about its sins.