The average web user might not think about it very often, but they’re caught in a bubble. Google’s dominance as the most-used search engine for the first fifth of the 21st century has shaped the way we experience the Internet. That’s an inevitable effect of giving 100% of the market to a volunteered monopoly. Of course, if you let one company control the information, it’s going to be filtered.
Google has fallen under legal scrutiny several times for antitrust and abusive monopolistic practices. While they have always been cautious to toe the line when they get slapped with a penalty, they still manage to take up as much legal slack as they’re given. Among the many complaints and controversy with Google are…
- Biased results – Websites that Google doesn’t like are open to not being indexed.
- Result manipulation – Results of search queries can be biased by Google’s profit margin.
- Privacy – Google mines user data while you search, and uses it for targeted ads.
- Censorship – Various nations around the world influence Google to bias their service according to some authoritarian powers’ orders.
- Filtering – Customizing results depending on the user creates a filter bubble where the user may never see certain information.
It is perhaps inevitable that we would come to this point. Throughout technology history, companies such as AT&T, IBM, Microsoft, and Facebook have all had to deal with their charges as monopolistic companies controlling the flow of information in their respective markets.
The tech industry loves its behemoths. We want a world-wide standard that everybody can use without compatibility hassles, but when it leads to monopolies controlling our utility, we can’t have that luxury. Unfortunately, the days of https://www.yahoo.com/ as a major competitor are long gone.
Back in the 1990s when the World Wide Web was still a novelty, a monopolized search engine market wasn’t such an issue. But the Internet has become an essential utility. It is arguably necessary for survival because it’s difficult to impossible to apply for a job, buy goods, or launch a start-up business without it. If we allow one mega-corporation to control all of that, it becomes an intrusive influence in our lives.
Nothing is really stopping another search engine from picking up market share. Sites like HotBot or Dogpile return results just as good as Google’s, and in some cases better. Sites like DuckDuckGo and https://gibiru.com/ are addressing user’s concerns about privacy and censorship, and they’re attracting a rallied following of activists and advocates.
Every new technology standard in history has gone through a phase when it was controlled by a monopoly. Usually when these end, we discover that the monopoly was stagnating progress. Google tries hard to be an innovative company and even addresses the charges of abusive practices. But it’s still painted into a corner by its own business model. If it radically changes what it does, it risks losing what got it to the top in the first place.
That’s what they say about monopolies – when you’ve reached the top, there’s nowhere to go but down.