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Is Google the next Microsoft?

Who thinks Google is evil? Hands up. Rory O'Connor of Wired is one of you.

It’s bad enough when you run a search company in an increasingly social world. It’s worse when anti-trust regulators say you have unfairly and illegally used your dominance in search to promote your own products over those of competitors. Now Google executives, who like to boast of their company’s informal motto, “Don’t Be Evil,” also stand accused of being just that — and rightly so. What other interpretation is possible in light of persistent allegations that the internet titan deliberately engaged in “the single greatest breach in the history of privacy” and “one of the biggest violations of data protection laws that we had ever seen?”

Google’s history of anti-social social networks and anti-trust trust relations that deceptively breach online consumer privacy and trust has already begun to threaten its longstanding web hegemony and its vaunted brand. Now the company’s repeatedly defensive and dishonest responses to charges that its specially equipped Street View cars surreptitiously collected private internet communications — including emails, photographs, passwords, chat messages, and postings on websites and social networks — could signal a tipping point.

With the phenomenally successful and profitable internet giant being newly scrutinised by consumers, competitors, regulators and elected officials alike, all concerned about basic issues of privacy, trust and anti-trust, the question must be raised: Is Google facing an existential threat? With government regulators nipping at its heels on both sides of the Atlantic, Facebook leading in the race for attention and prestige, and “social” beginning to replace “search” as a focus of online activity, the company that revolutionised our means of finding information just a decade ago now finds itself increasingly under siege and in danger of fading from prominence to become, in essence, the “next Microsoft".

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