Monday, June 29, 2015

Google's anti-trust problem: users

Many news agencies reported on a new study about Google search results, painting it in anti-trust tones, e.g.,
(BloombergBusiness, June 29, 2015) The new study, which was presented at the Antitrust Enforcement Symposium in Oxford, U.K., over the weekend, says the content Google displays at the top of many search results pages is inferior to material on competing websites. For this reason, the paper asserts, the practice has the effect of harming consumers.
In reality, Google's biggest anti-trust problem is its users who believe that Google search engine can provide them with best results. The belief still holds true for the web because Google has the ability to access, index, and rank web pages. As information and (more importantly!) user interactions shift toward the social world and proprietary mobile applications, Google gradually loses its ability to access the data and make best judgements. In Scalable Innovation (Chapter 22: Google vs Facebook) we identify at least three major consequences of this shift: no full access to social feedback, e.g. "likes"; the reactive nature of the web search itself; Google's lack of access to app-specific data. As a result, people who use search to ask questions like “What’s the best pediatrician in San Francisco?” are not going to get the best answer because Google simply doesn't have it.

On the surface, it looks as if a big monopoly is trying to hurt consumers. That's not the case. The study presented in Oxford assumes that Google is omnipotent and omnipresent. That is, the authors seem not to realize that the information world has changed and our information habits have to change accordingly. Today, consumers hurt themselves by thinking that googling will give them the right answers. Although this powerful illusion works on the web, it begins to fall apart as we enmesh ourself in social networks and mobile apps.

tags: innovation, search, google, facebook, science, technology, 3x3, world

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