Over the weekend, in the relative peace and quiet of a typically newsless period, Threadwatch members continued to chew over the implications of the new Google Toolbar Beta that sports the much talked about Autolink feature. In fact, we've talked about it a lot:
- Google pulling Smart Tags Caper with Toolbar
- Trust, Betrayal and the Google Brand
- Winer says Google's AutoLink is Adware
- Confirmation: Google's AutoLink created by Smart Tag Inventor this was later found to be false.
- Barnes & Noble move to Thwart Google AutoLink
- Google's Statements on Toolbar Autolink
- Code for Killing Google AutoLink
What i'd like to do here, is summarize some of the more interesting points made about Google Autolink in our latest discussion: Google's Statements on Toolbar Autolink. In particular, the comparisons made to Google's statements and those of Gator, which was eventually forced to rebrand as Claria
Comparing Google's Statements to Gator's
Jill Whalen first broached the idea that Ms Mayer, Googles consumer products manager, statements on the Autolink feature were particularly reminicent of Scott Eagle's statements of a few years back with the so dubbed Spyware program Gator.
Gator says its practices are legal because consumers agree to receive the ads when they download and install its software
We tell people it's not the 'usual yada yada' and we are very up front, we make sure our users are really informed that something going to happen, because we want to have the trust of our users."
Does the consumer have the right to download and use software that gives him alternatives and could save him money? Or does the wireless phone provider get the right to control that consumer's computer screen? It is the user's computer, the user invited the wireless carrier site onto his screen, the user invited Gator to help with forms/passwords. The user in this case valued the alternative promotion Gator offered on behalf of the advertiser
"Are we really taking traffic away from them? Think about what they've [users] have done. They've been looking at the page. They've decided there's a piece of information on the page. They had to get the idea that they wanted to get more information some way. They clicked a toolbar button, and then they clicked a link. That's a pretty determined series of user actions. It seems to me that that user is going elsewhere anyway,"
"We get lots of angry calls; maybe even an attorney calls up because they're angry," said Gator's Eagle. "We explain it's the consumers' right because we're invited onto the desktop. We're not changing their content; we're popping up on the consumers' desktop. Don't they advertise on TV showing competitor comparisons? The only difference is that we're more effective.
"It's an interesting balance to strike, but we're going to weigh more heavily on the user side," Mayer said. "We think we struck the initial balance in a reasonable way. The publisher's page is seen as intended in the browser. It's a user-elected action that changes things. Beyond that, we aren't driving all traffic to Google."
That's very telling in my opinion. The same arguments were used by Gator a few years back, they too playd the "it's for the users" card for all it was worth. It's a shame that some otherwise seemingly intelligent people do not seem to be able to get past the "Google is all pink and fluffy" idea. Wake up boys, this is about business, not the user.
Step away from the Toolbar, and nobody will get hurt...
Google is a business. Let me just repeat that for the terminally stupid: Google is a business - There, got that?
Almost all of Google's revenue and growth rely on Adwords and Adsense. As again pointed out by cornwall they cannot sustain, or maintain that level of growth, and now that they have investors to worry about, they must. Im not a business analyst, far from it, but it seems reasonable to me that having such an enormous proportion of revenue dependent on such a narrow stream is undesireable. Google needs to find alternate revenue streams, and this move seems likely to be a precursor to monetizing publishers websites in a remarkably similar way to that of Gator.
As was pointed out in the previous discussion over and over again, if Google get away with this infringement, it will not be long before Microsoft and Yahoo follow suit. They'll have no choice but to do so. And in that scenario, Google will then be free to stop pretending that this is "all for the user" and move to monetize the Autolink madness.
The Tip of the Iceberg
Personally i feel betrayed by Google, though im not in the least surprised. It had to happen. Google have, since the IPO, understandably become "more evil". In fact, their rather myopic tagline has been biting them in the arse more and more over the last few months and they're most likely regretting they'd ever said it.
If this is allowed to happen, by you, the webmaster, and you the blogger, and you the user, i truly fear for what the internet will become. Google have the power to change the way the web works on a whim, and it appears, that like Gator, they want to play the "for the user" card - well great, go ahead and bullshit your users and supporters Google - Go ahead and follow them Microsoft and Yahoo, when this is all over, and a web publisher cannot make money on the web, and when small ecommerce shops go bankrupt you can say that it's okay, we did it for the user.
In my opinion this does not serve the user, it insults them, and robs them of choice. If Google are so intent on the user, as Rubel points out, why are they not listening to them?