How Powerful Does Google Want to Be?
2 min read

How Powerful Does Google Want to Be?

In the firestorm over my article that looked at Google through an Orwellian lens, I heard many apologists argue that Google is not really that powerful because there are plenty of competitors, and because users have the option to switch. This from Danny Sullivan at SearchEngineWatch:

Yep, a huge amount of traffic flows through Google. A huge amount also does NOT. Yahoo, MSN and Ask Jeeves are all independent search voices that have a lot of usage. Google is merely one search “newspaper� among them � a big one, but not the only one.

The ink was still drying on these “Google is not so powerful” comments when the news broke that Google is negotiating a Microsoft-like deal with Dell to be pre-installed on Dell PCs:

Bob Kaufman, a spokesman for Dell, the world’s leading personal computer maker, said his company is evaluating Google Inc. software that PC customers could use to search both the public Web and for local information stored on their PCs.

“We can confirm that we are running a test with Google that could include a Google-powered Dell home page, Google desktop search and a Google Toolbar,” Kaufman told Reuters.

“We are conducting a test of distribution of some of our software via Dell,” Google spokesman Jon Murchinson said.

Dell and Google spokesmen were responding to a report in the Wall Street Journal that described the inroads Google appears to be making with personal computer makers including Dell and No. 2 vendor Hewlett-Packard Co..

The report, citing unnamed sources, said Dell and Google are in exclusive talks to install Google software on as many as 100 million new Dell PCs following a bidding process in which Google edged out Microsoft and after Yahoo Inc. withdrew.

(Here’s the original Wall Street Journal article, if you subscribe.)

So don’t worry about Google — they’re just another competitor. Like Microsoft was just another competitor in the 1990s.

The difference between Google dominance and Microsoft dominance is that with Google’s ASP model, they only need the pre-install tactic to hook users — then, even if users switch PCs, they will likely retain their attachment to Google services.

We also just learned about Google’s chat feature, yet one more example of their ambition to be the provider of choice for anything and everything.

I always come back to Google’s mission statement:

Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.

How far is the leap from “organize” to “control”? I’m sure the Google apologists will be quick to explain the difference.

My point about Orwell is that history has shown how difficult it is for institutions that acquire great power to live by the motto “Don’t be evil.” If you want to believe that Google is “different,” and that history doesn’t repeat itself, well then more power to you.