Say what you will about competitors Microsoft, Samsung, Dell, and HP, it’s the rivalry between old friends– Apple and Google– that has the tech world’s attention these days. It wasn’t always this way. Just a few years ago, Apple and Google were friends and partners. Then, Apple launched the iPhone and war began. So much for friendship, right?
What’s Going On, Google?
Here are a few words for Google’s CEO and co-founder, Larry Page from a concerned internet citizen. Larry, Google’s informal corporate motto was, ‘Don’t be evil.’ Tell that to Apple executives who believe Google is a technology thief of the highest order. There once was a time when Google was much admired by all.
After all, the company is the leader in internet search engines and online advertising and the developer of a dozen or so free applications much loved and used by a few hundred million people.
Something happened at Google at around the time the iPhone was launched in 2007. Maybe the attitude that exemplifies evil had been around a few years, but ‘Don’t be evil’ was shown the door, and the evil under the surface rose to the top.
It is apparent to most industry observers that Google’s Android OS, provided to cell phone makers for free, is a clear ripoff of Apple’s iPhone iOS. Why Google executives felt the need to compete with Apple is an untold story for the history books.
All Is Fine
On the surface, all appears well at Google. Revenue, profits, and stock are at record levels. Android OS populates most of the world’s smartphones. Under the surface the picture is not as pretty.
Some estimate that Google has spent $15-billion dollars to compete with Apple in smartphones and tablet devices and has little to show for the expense. Billions for Motorola. Billions more for patents to protect itself. And more billions to develop and distribute Android.
What does Google have in return? A growing distrust of the company and what it does with data culled from users. Most of Google’s advertising revenue for mobile devices comes from iOS products, and the company competes directly with Android partners with branded smartphones and tablets.
Other than Samsung, Google’s Android partners are mostly profitless which indicates that all is not well in the search engine’s world. Over 95-percent of Google’s profits come from traditional online advertising, which paints the company as one with a single revenue and profit stream.
It’s Not What It Seems
A closer look at Google reveals other problems. Take internet advertising, for example. It’s Google’s bread and butter. The company’s highly touted algorithms match advertisers to what users search for or read.
This is a site about Apple, the Mac, iPhone and iPad apps, which also uses Google advertising. When we write about Windows, readers don’t expect to see advertisements about window manufacturers. When we write about the Mac’s Finder and housecleaning utilities, readers shouldn’t expect to see ads about carpenter stud finders, or housecleaning services, but that’s what Google often delivers.
We’ve reviewed a few thousand apps on Mac360 through the years. A utility named Bartender often delivers an ad aimed at– yes, bartenders. Likewise, a painting app review is sometimes accompanied by an ad for commercial painting services. This kind of juxtaposition is so commonplace it’s laughable.
Maybe I’m the only one, but I don’t think your algorithms are as good as you think they are. Maybe you should try using Google yourself sometime. You might be surprised that very specific search terms return results pages populated with links that have little bearing to the search, or, you might find pages littered with advertising, as times resembling the worst of classified advertising, which forces users do dig deeper for relevant links.
When Interests Conflict
Supposedly, Google’s culture prohibits conflict of interest. Really? These are your own words.
Google users trust our systems to help them with important decisions: medical, financial and many others. Our search results are the best we know how to produce. They are unbiased and objective, and we do not accept payment for them or for inclusion or more frequent updating. We also display advertising, which we work hard to make relevant, and we label it clearly. This is similar to a well-run newspaper, where the advertisements are clear and the articles are not influenced by the advertisers’ payments. We believe it is important for everyone to have access to the best information and research, not only to the information people pay for you to see.
The idea here is that Google will keep the search results from being contaminated by advertisers, much as a newspaper would provide independence to editorial content.
Is that really the case? Here’s a very telling display of Google’s onerous actions from the left hand which benefits the right hand, albeit indirectly. The graph displays traffic referred to Mac360 by Google’s search engine results for the past six years. Notice the dramatic drop? Where Google once referred 6,500 visitors a day to a site about app reviews and Apple news, once Google’s Android OS became competitive with Apple products, referral traffic dropped over time by more than 95-percent, and referral traffic continues to drop.
Click the graphic above for a larger pop up view.
During the past two years we’ve tried everything possible to figure out why Google would initiate and continue such a negative trend. But Google doesn’t like talking to humans, and prefers instead to rely on algorithms and automated responses. As a member of Google’s Webmaster Tools we received an automated email recently which stated Mac360 had run afoul of certain Google paid link policies, which resulted in a dramatic loss of Page Rank. Although we’ve never sold paid links on Mac360 as Google implied, we do have other non-Google advertisers. I appealed the ruling immediately and within days the Page Rank was reinstated as it was obvious the site was not in violation of anything. Unfortunately, Google’s search engine referrals were not reinstated, and traffic continues to drop.
Why is that? Could it be because Mac360 has been critical of Google’s strategy and products in the past three years and how they relate to Apple? Our history of editorial criticism of Google matches up perfectly with the graph above. Or, could it be something else? Could it be that Google doesn’t like websites which have non-Google advertisements, and gives them lower rankings in search results? I suspect that is the case, too. We removed one of our two non-Google advertisers and our Page Rank increased. If we remove the remaining non-Google advertiser will Google reinstate referral traffic?
If so, how does Google justify actions which are clearly in violation of the separation between church and state, between advertiser and content?
It is becoming increasingly apparent that ‘Don’t be evil‘ no longer applies at Google. Instead, the company is working hard to remake the web by punishing websites that display content not approved by Google, while it arbitrarily approves and rewards other sites– so long as the latter are pro-Google. Is it any wonder that Google’s actions in recent years have spawned a growing number of people who object to Google’s policy of public bullying, property theft, and insidious behavior with user data.
Just as Microsoft missed the mobile revolution spawned by the iPhone and iPad and suffers accordingly, it’s possible that Google will suffer degradation and humiliation as many customers learn to hate the company’s policies on privacy, as well as the new motto ‘Don’t get caught being evil.’ I didn’t shed a tear for Microsoft’s misfortunes, and I won’t shed one for Google, either.