Sunday, April 5, 2009


Henry Porter of the UK's Guardian wrote a piece today about Google as a worldwide menace to civil society, hell bent on taking over the world and bringing us all to our knees. Really?

I admit that I have shuddered at the thought of an all-powerful storehouse of all knowledge, and the algorithm that allows us to find said knowledge. Sure, it is not hard to let our imaginations run wild and envision a future where we are all ruled by those six little rainbow-colored letters. But it is the way Porter attacks Google that puts me off.

To me our esteemed author seems to take more issue with capitalism than with Google, only finding it convenient to paint Google as a profiteering pirate because it changed the way the game was played, and more importantly I believe, the way the author's own game is played. The bulk of his complaint lies in the way that Google is destroying the newspaper model. He seems to think it is somehow wrong that Google makes advertising revenue off of search; apparently only newspapers have the right to make that money. He even goes so far as to say Google has created nothing. I for one constantly use what it has created, and by engaging this technology my life has made all the easier. Doesn't dear Henry know that he too can be Googled?

Monopolies can be scary. It is terrifying to think that one company can control so much. But I would challenge Mr. Porter to think about the sum total.

He writes about music producers who demanded more money from Google for videos streamed on YouTube, prompting Google's refusal to pay and the removal of the content. Well, what's better: not getting more money but giving people greater access to this content, which in the end arguably leads to more revenue, or not being accessible at all?

In the end the article really reads like a newspaper man bitter about how two college students (by virtue of their own creative abilities, by the way) created a better way to deliver information much to the delight of most of the public. He claims this is an amoral menace that will destroy us. Isn't discouraging innovation and progress an equally, if not infinitely worse, proposition? He reminds me of the antagonists in Ayn Rand's We the Living.

My favorite part of the piece actually has nothing to do with the content itself, and one commenter brilliantly points it out. I absolutely loved seeing the "Ads by Google" box directly following his article.

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