"Google's a complete f--ing mess on the inside. A total f—ing trainwreck. They don't talk to each other. They fight constantly. A lot is being pissed away. In three or four years you'll be looking back at this company and wondering what happened." -- Peter Kafka quoting a Valley insider
On November 20th 2010, one of the great scholars of the past 50 years died. His name was Chalmers Johnson. Beloved by paleoconservatives and progressives alike, this third generation Navy scholar chronicled the decline of empires and specifically how and why the American Empire was crumbling.
Johnson did this through a trilogy of books, the last of the three entitled Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic. And whereas Johnson doesn't address the Google situation per se, if we pay attention to the themes he writes about we will see how and why the Google Empire may be past its zenith and in decline.
So what are the telltale signs of an empire in decline?
"There is no safety in unlimited technological hubris"-- McGeorge Bundy
Google burst onto the scene with the motto "do no evil" (as opposed to "do only good"). But has that attitude sustained itself? Witness Eric Schmidt touting the latest Google algorithm as able to predict what people will search for before they search for it. Not only is this pure hubris, it is 100% "bull Schmidt".
One report has Google penetrating 85% of the Internet's websites. How does Google treat its publishers? Arrogant disdain could be one way to describe it. Complete opacity rules the day as it is up to Google alone to decide what publishers get for their clicks, irrespective of the percentage split between them. Publishers were content to settle for Google's imperial droppings as long as the bills got paid, but most publishers agree that these droppings have become smaller and smaller -- with only imperial Google's profits increasing.
As the lone online search superpower (sorry, Bing, you don't qualify), Google does what it wants when it wants -- pure imperial hubris.
But Google's haughtiness towards publishers PALES in comparison to its attitude toward the great unwashed (that's you and me). Its behavioral targeting imperative hinges on the complete stalking of our every virtual move. Every click and search is chronicled in the quest to monitor our behavior for economic gain.
And all of this information is a short subpoena away from being handed over to a government ever more inclined to monitor and track its own citizens. In fact, the government abandoned its Carnivore program in favor of having the private sector do its bidding.
Below is how Eric Schmidt dismisses privacy with all the casual disregard of Marie Antoinette suggesting that we eat cake:
"If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place, but if you really need that kind of privacy, the reality is that search engines including Google do retain this information for some time, and it's important, for example that we are all subject in the United States to the Patriot Act. It is possible that that information could be made available to the authorities." Eric Schmidt -- December 2009
Simply stated, Google's view of privacy is a prime example of unbridled arrogance and a blatant disregard for anything espoused either in the Bill of Rights to our Constitution or in their own pledge to do no harm.
It's the inevitable price of imperial arrogance making leaders feel invulnerable till they no longer are, and it's too late. -- Stephen Lendman
Chalmers Johnson outlined how this feeling of invincibility can catch empires blindly unaware as they spread themselves too thin. Case in point, US forces are now in over 170 countries, a clear indication of overreach without commensurate return. In fact, any sane person knows that the $1 trillion a year we spend on our military, including billions earmarked to defend Japan, Germany and South Korea, now generates diminishing returns to the American Empire.
So where is Google overreaching? How much does Google Maps make? Google Books? After five years, how much has You Tube brought to the bottom line? Or how about Google Video for that matter? Google's attempt at transforming television advertising can probably now be called a failure as prospective partners reconsider and bail. Do you think Gmail makes money? Does anybody even remember Google Wave?
While I am not a rabid Google watcher, one does not need to look very far to see its tentacles extending in every online direction, illustrated most recently in its failed bid to purchase Groupon. By turning down Google's $6 billion offer, Groupon may actually have helped save Google from itself.
Google's finances will eventually follow its attitude. One can see Google further alienating publishers to maintain their lofty profits. One can also see Google further alienating its audience while pursuing an "all knowing" algorithm. In the end, it is the attitude or Gestalt of a company that defines it. In Google's case, this attitude boils down to the existential difference between a self-serving pledge to Do No Evil and the simple promise to Do Only Good.
Jaffer Ali is the CEO of Vidsense, an online video network and the CEO of PulseTV.com, an online e-commerce company. Feel free to contact him at j.ali@Vidsense.com .
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