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Google Considered Too Big To Fail 366

theodp writes "Doc Searls is worried about the way Google makes money. 'Nearly all of it comes from advertising,' he frets. 'That's what pays for all the infrastructure Google is giving to the rest of us. As our dependency on Google verges on the absolute, this should be a concern.' Have we reched Peak Advertising? Blogger Dave Winer says amen, asking if Google is already 'too big to fail.'"
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Google Considered Too Big To Fail

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  • What a doorknob (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ZeroExistenZ ( 721849 ) on Friday February 12, 2010 @12:12PM (#31114070)

    Nothing is "too big to fail".

    At the current rate, people will shy away from Google as it's becoming an omnipresence on the internet which is raising concern.

    There are numerous examples of things that could not be that happened, like the Titanic, Yahoo and Enron.

    • Re:What a doorknob (Score:5, Insightful)

      by poetmatt ( 793785 ) on Friday February 12, 2010 @12:12PM (#31114090) Journal

      Really, if google were to fail, we'd have lots of alternatives. Saying it's too big to fail just shows that someone is writing horrifically shitty blogposts.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        It gave him a lot of hits. Sounds like a successful article to me. (Which is why I don't trust 'journalism' much, whether it's MSM or blogs.)
      • Either that, or someone who wants yet more bailout guarantees in the future, when some business inevitably fails.
      • Re:What a doorknob (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 12, 2010 @01:05PM (#31114984)

        This I fundamentaly agree with. In my view "too big to fail" actually means "too wedded into the rest of economy to be alowed to fail". The banking system (certainly here in the UK and as I understand it in most of the world) was just that. Not only were individual banks so big that if they collapsed they would bring down vast sections of the economy but they few huge banks there were all made the same stupid mistakes so the same conditions meant they were all about to fail at the same time (the 1930s would have looked like nothing if the governments hadn't stepped in).

        By comparison Google provide:
        - web searching services; but if they disapeared then most of us would just move to Bing or Yahoo.
        - maps and GPS navigation; most of us would get by without it, thouse that wouldn't are probably using TomTom anyway
        - email; this could cause more of a problem for people as email accounts take a while to mature. That said, not many businesses use Google mail so it would people's personal mail boxes that would be effected and people can probably manage their lives without them.
        - other web tools (e.g. blogging, Google Health, YouTube etc) OK; a few people might be a bit upseat and Google Health might have to be sold off but, big deal.

        My gut feeling is if Google disapeared overnight a lot of us would be confused for a few days an then get over it. Hardly too big to fail.

        But... supposing they DID control significant parts of Business communications; or DID manage 50% digital health records; or DID run the most successful micro-payment scheme in the world; etc. Not unlikely scenarios and then I think they might be too big to fail.

        - Christopher

        • Re:What a doorknob (Score:5, Insightful)

          by jc42 ( 318812 ) on Friday February 12, 2010 @02:30PM (#31116270) Homepage Journal

          This I fundamentaly agree with. In my view "too big to fail" actually means "too wedded into the rest of economy to be alowed to fail".

          Yeah, that's one of the common meanings of the phrase. But there's another that might well apply in this case, too: A company is "too big to fail" if it has the clout to, uh, persuade the government to prevent its failure.

          This can be (and has been) done in a number of different ways. In the telecom industry, the traditional approach has been to establish a monopoly position that's enforced by the government. This effectively eliminates competition and guarantees a "regulated" profit margin. You can probably think of examples in other economic fields.

          In the computer field, we saw a good example of another approach during the US's 2000 election. Prior to this, Microsoft had been only marginally active in politics. In 2000, Microsoft became one of the largest campaign "contributors". They contributed to campaigns in both parties, but mostly to Republicans, especially the Bush/Cheney campaign. Shortly after the winners took office, the Justice department effectively settled the lawsuit about Microsoft's monopolistic practices (of which they had been convicted by a lower court) on terms that were very friendly to Microsoft. The "punishment" was minimal, a few hours worth of MS's profits. They were also to be "regulated" by a 3-person committee, with Microsoft appointing one person and having veto power over the other. You haven't heard much about that committee, because they haven't done anything. Part of the "punishment" was that no further indictments would happen without the committee's approval, and none have happened.

          But this example is relevant here mostly because this is a computer-geek forum. Similar examples of "bribery-by-another-name" abound, in other economic fields, and are one of the common meanings of "too big to fail". It means a company that can bribe officials to support it. (You might ask the OLPC folks for more examples. ;-)

          There are still other meanings to the phrase. Back in the late 1970s, there was an incident in which the head of a department of the state of California implemented a switch from the usual IBM computer systems to some other kind of computer. Which kind didn't matter. What mattered was that the department's top official was forced to justify his decision before the state legislature. It was widely reported that he won, i.e., the legislature permitted him to keep his job. Industry analysts also pointed out that IBM had won really big (despite their apparent loss of the one sale). They had demonstrated that if you're sure you can justify a non-IBM purchase before a committee of computer-illiterate politicians, go right ahead and buy what you want. But if you do, IBM can and will have you dragged before those computer-illiterate politicians, and you'll be fighting for your professional life. If you aren't absolutely sure you want to do this, you'd be better off just buying what your IBM rep says you should buy. We can be sure that managers everywhere understood this lesson.

          Anyway, the phrase is a rather elegant way to summarize a wide range of conditions in which the government will guarantee the ongoing success of a giant corporation.

          Anyone got any more examples of yet other meanings (or implementations) of the phrase? It might be fun to generate a list of them, complete with links and explanations of how they differ from each other.

    • Too big to fail = government bailout safety net

      Our banking system and the auto industry have proven that to be the case.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Stook ( 1270928 )
        Not quite. The auto industry was bailed out because of the massive amounts of people it employed that would have lost their jobs. The banks were bailed out because small business and the average Joe didn't have alternatives to go to for credit. With Google, businesses could easily redirect their advertising revenue somewhere else. People could search with someone else. Email is everywhere. Google is massively convenient, but it's not a cornerstone of our economy.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          The farming by hand industry was huge back in the day. It employed massive amounts of people. We should bail that out and bring people to work. Or, better yet, we should have the unemployed build holes in the desert -- image the jumpstart to our economy!
      • Re:What a doorknob (Score:4, Insightful)

        by commodore64_love ( 1445365 ) on Friday February 12, 2010 @12:39PM (#31114536) Journal

        Ever heard of the Depression of 1920? No? Well the stock market crashed to HALF its value, and the GDP dropped by 29% (that's worse than either now or the 1930s). The government did not bail-out anybody. The government took a hands-off policy and let businesses fail.

        By fall 1921 the depression was over.

        THAT'S what the government should have done this time - let businesses fail; clear out the dead weight, and then reboot. The recession would already be over as of right now (one year later). We would be rebuilding on top of AIG's and GM's bones. - Instead they've loaned money to these rotting carcasses (AIG, GM, et cetera) and allowed them to continue lumbering along, and now the recession will last year-after-year-after-year because we have to carry all this dead weight.

        • LOL

          you forgot to mention the grinding pain and poverty of the general population because of that for years

          your attitude seems to be "malaria? well then lie in the bed with fevers and chills until its over. forget this quinine crap, suffer like a man! walk it off!"

          you bail these companies out to save a lot of common people who did nothing to create this horrible mess form a lot of financial pain

          THAT'S the point of the bailouts

          not because we like to save banking asshats from themselves

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            >>>you forgot to mention the grinding pain and poverty of the general population because of that for years

            ???. What pain? The umemployment rate dropped below 2% (lowest point in history) and the decade became known as the Roaring 20s. It was a great time to be an American.

            • the '20s was a bubble, you idiot

              just like the one we are crawling out of now. hello?

              the roaring twenties was borrowing against the future, the bubble collapsed, and we suffered, horribly, for a decade

              that you should be celebrating such financial ignorance and irresponsibility as "a great time to be an american", you are only announcing your abject ignorance. it is because of thinking like yours that we are in the current mess we are in. thanks a lot, shortsighted asshole

        • Re:What a doorknob (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Comboman ( 895500 ) on Friday February 12, 2010 @01:11PM (#31115070)

          Ever heard of the Depression of 1920?

          Ever hear of a dead-cat-bounce? It crashed in 1920, recovered by 1922 and crashed again even harder in 1929. That's your definition of a successful recovery?

    • Re:What a doorknob (Score:4, Interesting)

      by houghi ( 78078 ) on Friday February 12, 2010 @12:23PM (#31114258)

      As we know "Too big to fail" does not mean that they can't fail, but that they are so large that failure would mean intervention from the governement on a large scale as it would otherwise take down the country. Which means that if they fail, something will be done to guarantee that somebody must take over the damage.
      Look at the banks that failed and were called "too big to fail."

    • What about your wife?
    • Exactly. If something fails, everything else will fill the space in the blink of an eye. And the new competition will make the new offerings even better! (Especially in case of a [quasi-]monopoly.)

      “Too big to fail.” is just another way of saying “Too powerful to let us let it fail.”

    • Re:What a doorknob (Score:5, Insightful)

      by nine-times ( 778537 ) <> on Friday February 12, 2010 @12:56PM (#31114830) Homepage

      There's a famous quote, "The graveyards are full of indispensable men." We don't have graveyards for companies, and if we did I'm not sure they'd already be full of "too big to fail" corporations, but I think the point can still carry over.

      Companies could fail and human history would carry on. Whole civilizations have fallen while human history carries on. There are consequences, though. The question isn't whether something is "too big to fail", but whether we're better off letting them fail.

      It's complicated.

  • Here it comes. Another company that when it screws up we will have to rescue because they are "too big to fail." Just what we need. Maybe there should be a limit on market cap so that no company is ever allowed to get to be too big to fail.
    • Re:OMG! Bailout. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by fatboy ( 6851 ) on Friday February 12, 2010 @12:19PM (#31114218)

      How about we just let them fail and have other more agile companies take their place? Should have happened with the banks and automakers. Those were political payoffs though. (Think Saturn. They weren't unionized, but profitable.)

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by delinear ( 991444 )

        How about we just let them fail and have other more agile companies take their place? Should have happened with the banks and automakers. Those were political payoffs though. (Think Saturn. They weren't unionized, but profitable.)

        Automotive, maybe. Banks are a trickier proposition, because so many other businesses rely on them for lines of credit, and their model was so incestuous that one or two big failures would bring down a lot of others, and while the banks might have deserved that, the customers arguably didn't. Not shoring up banks is a great way to sit back and watch your economy tank because nobody has the liquidity to move goods and services around.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Grishnakh ( 216268 )

          and while the banks might have deserved that, the customers arguably didn't.

          Right. That's why the government set up the FDIC long ago, to protect bank account holders in case of a run on the banks.

          If we're just going to bail out the banks when they screw up, then what's the point of having an FDIC?

      • Re:OMG! Bailout. (Score:5, Informative)

        by RingDev ( 879105 ) on Friday February 12, 2010 @12:46PM (#31114638) Homepage Journal

        (Think Saturn. They weren't unionized, but profitable.)

        Uhh, Saturn was unionized (UAW) and was only profitable for 1 year out of its entire existence (1993).

        Not to say that the union was the problem, but not having a union does not give you the able to ignore trends, consumer demands, and quality controls and still have a successful company.


      • How about we just let them fail and have other more agile companies take their place?

        Exactly. It's supposed to be survival of the fittest. Bailing out big companies is comparable is like keeping a comatose obese 89 year old man (who's just had his 3rd heart attack) alive on life support. At that point you're doing it for the warm fuzzies of making his family feel better.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Kratisto ( 1080113 )
      Hold on. Let me google if Google is too big to fail...
    • Willem Buiter [] suggested some ideas [] to deal with the problem of "too big to fail". The tax ideas is quite interesting, but as always the problem is enforcing it without just driving the company oversees. There's also the concept of "too big to save", where the company exceeds too big to fail by becoming so expensive to bail out that it can't be saved (see what happened to the defaulting Icelandic banks, for instance), I wonder how long it would take Google to reach this point, and who would bail it out - th

    • by RulerOf ( 975607 )

      Maybe there should be a limit on market cap so that no company is ever allowed to get to be too big to fail.

      Perhaps we should repeal Sarbanes-Oxley [] instead and save some money on companies' bottom lines. I've heard that SOX adds 4% to operating costs, and the funny thing about it is that it was enacted, reflexively I may add, in the wake of Enron and Worldcom, which, when looked back upon under the light of SOX, would have likely happened the same way anyway.

  • by hey ( 83763 ) on Friday February 12, 2010 @12:12PM (#31114084) Journal

    ... but he probably doesn't.

  • I mean, the world functioned without Google, and its competitors are as strong as ever before, (I'm looking at you, Bing and Yahoo).

    But if you're asking if they'd be getting a bailout from the government, like all those other companies that were "too big to fail" (though really, they shouldn't be either) - than yeah they'd fall in that category.

    I think we need to abolish the idea of "too big to fail". If a company can't handle it, they can't handle it, they deserve to be shut down, and everyone invested in

    • by Narpak ( 961733 )

      I think we need to abolish the idea of "too big to fail". If a company can't handle it, they can't handle it, they deserve to be shut down, and everyone invested in it can lose all the money they invested in that risk, and everyone stuck owing debts to it can finally be debt free.

      That's class warfare! It's the duty of the working, and middle, classes to absorb the risk and losses, cushioning the rich against potential bankruptcy. After all it's the corporations and banks that make the world go around! (and soon they'll demand a nickel from everyone for every rotation).

      On a totally unrelated note I am going to live on fat and sugar from now on so I can get Too Fat To Die!

      • Speaking of classes, isn't it funny how we so desperately try to avoid the Caste System that foreign nations use only to have created one ourselves under a different name?

        • isn't it funny how we so desperately try to avoid the Caste System that foreign nations use only to have created one ourselves under a different name?

          Caste is by birth. Class is at least supposed to be based in part on effort.

    • (I'm looking at you, Bing and Yahoo).

      I think you mean Bing-Yahoo. Yahoo dumped their search engine and now contracts with Microsoft to serve up Bing results with Yahoo ads.

  • by NevarMore ( 248971 ) on Friday February 12, 2010 @12:14PM (#31114122) Homepage Journal


    $PUNDIT says $COMPANY has utilized its $PRODUCT too much and $GOVERNMENT needs to do something about it. $BUZZWORD happened to $OTHER_COMPANY and $COMPANY is on the same path.


    $CEO says $COMPANY is responsbile. $OTHER_PUNDIT disagrees.

  • by TheLink ( 130905 ) on Friday February 12, 2010 @12:15PM (#31114136) Journal
    Just because lots of people use Google doesn't mean they can't and won't switch to something.

    I'll miss Google if it goes, but really I'm not dependent on it - Yahoo search and Bing search are actually OK.

    If your business or life is dependent on Google, then either you accept that, or you take measures to not be so dependent.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Oooh! "Populatiry is not dependency" Sounds good.

      Yeah, you're full of incite you are. Just because we watch television, sit on chairs, wipe our bums with toilet paper doesn't mean we're dependent on them. What are these fools talking about. Google? I only spend about an hour a day using it. I could go to the library or ask my mate Dave the same questions if it went belly up.

      We're not dependent on Google. We don't need no stinking Google.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by NatasRevol ( 731260 )

        I think you're the one that's full of incite.

        You might need that toilet paper sooner than you think.

  • by nweaver ( 113078 ) on Friday February 12, 2010 @12:19PM (#31114206) Homepage

    If we've reached "peak advertising" its not Google which will suffer but TV and print...

    Part of the beauty of what Google has done is made advertising cheap, quantifiable, and universal. Anyone can do it, anyone can measure it, and its cheap.

    If a company wants to spend advertisement money efficiently, they spend it through Google. If they don't, they throw it away on the Superbowl, where the audience is 100M, and $3M an add, so that costs $.03 for each person who sees the add, regardless of whether they are interested, paying attention, or relevant.

    Compare that with advertising through Google, where if you say, advertise on slashdot, not only is it cheaper per person, but its only geeks who may be interested in the ads presented.

    • To me, as an advertiser, Google is the best solution because they let me make highly targeted advertisements. I can literally say I only want to show up on Monday afternoons in Bobstown,NY for middleage men searching for "Frobs Widget 203B" and that is where my ad money will go. I can use these tight settings to compare which demographic and keywords get the most clicks or even the most revenue. About 70% of my business comes from natural listings on Google and another 15% from AdWords. No other search engi
    • If they don't, they throw it away on the Superbowl, where the audience is 100M, and $3M an add, so that costs $.03 for each person who sees the add

      The advantage of advertising on television is that it's interstitial and therefore demands more of the viewer's attention than a web ad. TV users are far less likely to avoid channels that use interstitial ads than web users. To extend the analogy to televised sports, the common web ads are more like the billboards on the sidelines: easy to ignore.

  • by jimicus ( 737525 ) on Friday February 12, 2010 @12:19PM (#31114208)

    That's why there's no such thing as Google for Domains. No such thing as the Google Search Appliance. Google Checkout? Figment of the imagination.

    And as for advertising not being a sustainable form of revenue - you'd better tell that to all the world's television and radio stations. They think that's formed their core business for decades.

  • Short Answer: No, nothing is to big to fail.

    Long Answer: There are OVER 1,000 search engines publicly available, one of them has your answer.
  • by dkleinsc ( 563838 ) on Friday February 12, 2010 @12:21PM (#31114234) Homepage

    Really? How dependent are you on Google?

    For searching, you can always use Yahoo or Bing, or a few others. For replacing GMail, you can always use POP access to download your mail and keep it locally, run your own mailserver (after informing people of your new address), use your ISP's mail system, or another free email service. If you're using Google Maps for something, you could make do with Mapquest. If you're an advertiser on Google, there are lots of sites that would be happy to have you advertise on their sites instead. If you're doing SEO, you can follow Yahoo or Bing's rules at least as easily as Google's. If you had no Android phones, you'd still have iPhones. The list goes on for the vast majority of their offerings.

    In all cases, Google has its dominant position not via lock-in, but by delivering services that are on par with or better than its competitors. Either that or sheer habit. But that's significantly different from, say, a Windows user's dependency on Microsoft.

    • by 2obvious4u ( 871996 ) on Friday February 12, 2010 @12:37PM (#31114488)
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jschen ( 1249578 )

      Agreed. Furthermore, for e-mail, you can make switching providers completely transparent to the people with whom you communicate. I've been using my alma mater's forwarding service for the last decade. During that time, I have switched from Hotmail to my (former) ISP's e-mail service to GMail. The last move occurred only because I was switching ISPs. With all three services, I used IMAP or POP and a local mail program, using web access only when away from my own computers, so nothing really changed on my en

    • For replacing GMail, you can always use POP access to download your mail and keep it locally

      And loosing all your precious information, like in which folder it is, is it tagged as read, important, etc. ? No way.

      The only way to properly copy/move your GMail box is to use IMAPSync [] (or something alike, but IMAPSync is the best).

      For the truly paranoids, you can even regularly backup all your mail from GMail to another IMAP server (say, your own Cyrus imapd), so you can't be taken by surprise when Google pulls the plug.

      • I resent your accusation, sir/ma'am, and hereby challenge you to fisticuffs.

        More to the point, your comment, while quite useful, doesn't in any way take away from my original point, namely that you shouldn't even need to depend on Google to keep your Google Mail. And since I manage my mail almost entirely locally to begin with, I never really concerned myself with copying tags or folders, I went with the simplest solution for what I was trying to do.

    • I am absolutely dependent on Google.

      Google is on top for a reason. When I heard Bing's shopping/product search was supposed to be bitchin', I went and tried it with something I was interested in at the time... think it was a graphics card. Anyway, I searched for two models, one Bing returned NO results where Google returned half a dozen, for another model Bing returned a dozen and Google returned about a hundred. Consequently, if there were no Google, I would suffer a ten-fold or more reduction in my abil
  • by jchawk ( 127686 ) on Friday February 12, 2010 @12:24PM (#31114268) Homepage Journal

    Google has positioned itself to survive on the Internet once we move past point and click ads, pop-ups and direct marketed emails.

    At the end of the day people need marketed to because they don't know where to go for the things they want/need. Google is positioning itself to do this directly with its overly large suite of products.

    When businesses stop spending traditional advertising dollars they won't be able to bank them they'll just be forced to redirect them into Google.

    Handsets, Buzz, GMAIL, Search engine data it all rolls up into a marketing profile so Google can predict what you're looking for. If Google can help get you to the right place and you buy something they will ultimately get a piece of the final sale.

    Driving to work and need a coffee? Google has the data to get you to a Starbucks or a local Mom and Pop. Do you really think this will stay free for the businesses?

    As a small business owner I am happy to turn them over a commission on sales I would have otherwise not received without their help.

    I truly believe Google will become just another cost of doing business similar to how Visa/Mastercard charges are.

    • At the end of the day people need marketed to because they don't know where to go for the things they want/need.

      Can't they just Google it?

    • people need marketed to because they don't know where to go for the things they want/need

      Really? I don't watch TV. I don't click on internet ads. I ignore billboards. I still manage to find things that I need and want. I honestly can't think of one advert that I have recently paid attention to or one product that I have bought that I was informed of through marketing.

      I think it's the companies that need the marketing to survive.

      • by Voyager529 ( 1363959 ) <{voyager529} {at} {}> on Friday February 12, 2010 @01:32PM (#31115348)

        That might not be entirely true. Suppose for a minute that I completely believe that you have been able to 100% elude yourself from all mass media. I'd then imagine that you choose to buy products based on one of a few things:

        1.) Location, Location, Location. If you pass by a Starbucks and get your coffee there, then their convenient, prominent location constitutes a form of advertising. How'd you know it was there? I'm guessing it had something to to with the highly recognizable green mermaid logo. You didn't just waltz into an unlabeled building saying "I hope they serve coffee here", you knew that Starbucks sells coffee. Location-based advertising.

        2.) Word of Mouth. This is essentially indirect advertising. The person your heard it from had to have heard of the product from somewhere. If you both buy Windex because your friend saw the commercial and liked it enough to recommend, then you bought some yourself. Indirect advertising.

        3.) Browse-and-Buy. Many companies pay for retailers to prominently place their products in retail stores with the intent of increasing the awareness of a product. You might hunt for a particular item that's on sale, but if you go to Staples for an SD card, a prominent display containing competitively priced Sandisk memory cards is likely to influence your purchase for Sandisk over PNY or Lexar. Retail placement advertising.

        4.) I bought a Creative Sound Blaster Extigy back in 2001. It came with a limited edition of Mixmeister 3. After all, I was buying a high quality sound card, presumably for a laptop (it was the only USB audio interface I could find at the time), so DJ software was a fairly logical thing to bundle. Over the past decade, I've bought four upgrades to that product, earning Mixmeister plenty of coin. I didn't know I needed their product, but I had it, so I tried it and found out how great it is, and my wallet soon followed. Product bundling advertisement.

        5.) 7-11 is open 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, 46.05 seconds a year. Where I live, going three miles out of range of one must be intentional. Do you think that all these stores are profitable at 2:30 Christmas morning? of course not? Heck, after 10ish I see the clerks watching videos on their Blackberries, because I'm the only customer they're going to see for the next three hours. The reason why 7-11 is open all the time is because they intend to make sure that it's in my head that if I need coffee, any time, day or night, bank holiday or not, I can get my coffee, cigarettes, lottery tickets, beer, or motor oil. They don't need to advertise on a billboard to make people aware of them. They just need to be the only place that's open and carries the item they need at midnight, and they've made it much more likely for the customer to return. Mindshare advertising.

        These are just a handful of examples of advertising I can think of that requires no billboards, magazine spreads, TV spots, or product placement in movies. Saying that advertising doesn't affect you is foolish and untrue - you're lying to yourself.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Chris Burke ( 6130 )

          You didn't just waltz into an unlabeled building saying "I hope they serve coffee here"

          I think I have a new hobby!

  • by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Friday February 12, 2010 @12:25PM (#31114286) Journal

    My gawd! Did I actually say that? I....must....shower....NOW...

  • *If* google fails, it won't be around one day and gone the next. In any case, there are other search engines that do a nearly as good a job as google, so we would still be able to do search. Migrating from Gmail would be slightly more complicated, but would still be doable, especially considering that all other free email providers would love to, and actively encourage and help anyone wanting to migrate. Generally, if google stumbles, there are plenty of others ready and willing to pick up the slack. -- Far
  • Alarmest BS (Score:2, Insightful)

    How much is Google paying you to say this? Is Yahoo, Bing, not to mention startpage [] not capable of filling the void?
  • by theshowmecanuck ( 703852 ) on Friday February 12, 2010 @12:33PM (#31114424) Journal

    When you search on almost anything on Google, all you get is a listing of people who sell some item with your search term in the product name. Sometimes it isn't even that. Sometimes it a page that is another advertising search page.

    At least when you search for something in Wikipedia you get to a topic, not an advert. The fact that people select Wikipedia to go to so often is likely why a Wikipedia search result is almost always near the top of a Google search. Most of the time, it is the only type of information a person is looking for. 'Tell me about subject xyz', I don't want to fucking buy it, just learn about it. A lot of the time now, except when looking for product (one I have already bought) or programming forums I just search Wikipedia immediately. The articles also usually have enough external links to get me surfing for more info without needing to use Google too much.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Friday February 12, 2010 @12:36PM (#31114466) Journal
    If, in fact, the efficacy and saleability of online ads is crumbling, then we are currently enjoying a period where assorted google services and development initiatives are being subsidized for us by the suckers at various firms with advertising budgets. Presumably, if they catch on to the fact that they aren't getting bang for their buck, that subsidy will dry up.

    It is always a sad occasion to lose a subsidy that was previously benefiting you; but it is only a disaster if there aren't other ways of paying for whatever it is that you need. In the case of Google, they have already been playing with pricing schemes for enterprise versions of various of their services, and it wouldn't be rocket surgery for them to roll out retail equivalents if the ad market really tanks(Frankly, I for one would in some respects be relieved to be paying straight, rather than in personal data). Given their years of experience running their services on the comparatively thin sauce of advertising money, Google could still easily offer very competitive pricing.

    The people I would be much more worried about are the huge number of random third party websites that run ads in order to more-or-less break even on bandwidth/hosting. Because Google is big, and comparatively trusted, and offers services that most of its users use more or less continually(ie. I might visit "" once, or once every few months, but I'm likely to check a gmail account or do a bunch of google searches every day to every few days). If the ad market does in fact tank, Google, and similar large entities, will be able to just start billing directly without transaction costs eating them alive. Since micropayments are still more or less a pipe dream, the little guys won't be able to do the same.

    Having to pay $X/year for gmail would be a minor nuisance. Having large numbers of ideosyncratic 3rd party sites either dry up or move into walled gardens who would act as payment processors/aggregators(Hello iTunes!) would be a serious and negative change to the web.

    This is particularly a concern because, while Google is quite good at what it does, most of its offerings are in substantially commodified markets. Gmail is one of the better free webmail services out there; but it is hardly the only one. Even if all free webmail services dried up, pay webmail services of quite modest cost are also a dime a dozen. Our only "absolute dependence" on Google is exactly the same dependence on any email provider, the fact that switching email addresses sucks. In search, again, Google is good at search; but switching to a different search page isn't terribly difficult. A few legacy devices/programs that depend on some search API and cannot be usefully updated might be up shit creek; but everybody else would be fine. Android would probably suffer if its primary developer/main unifying backer disappeared or defunded the project; but there would be nothing stopping the core OSS components moving forward on the devices of whoever wanted to use them. The fact that all this has traditionally been free is handy; but switching to paying for it, either from Google or from somebody else, would be doable.

    It is the thousands of random little guys, occupying all the weird little unique niches, that would be more of an issue. Few of them are large enough to make subscription pricing reasonable, even if people would stand for that, and micropayment is going nowhere outside of walled gardens that aggregate the micropayments, which aren't a terribly encouraging development.
  • kdawson posts the stupidest stories on /. I'm going to categorically skip anything posted.

  • They said the same thing about the Titanic...

  • You do not see stories like this worrying about TV and it is all supported by advertising.
  • Yo momma so fat, Obama said she's too big to fail.
  • Hmm, unlikely (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jbb999 ( 758019 )
    The whole article depends on this statement which is presented without any evidence, and in fact I don't even have any clear idea what it even means?

    Eventually advertising will evolve into information, companies with products will go direct, they won't need go pay Google to reach them

    It all seems rather unlikely, I can imagine someone slowly taking away google's advertisign business but I don't see that advertising will suddenly disapear which is what this article seems to be based on

  • Most innovation appears to come from small and medium companies. Larger companies tend to spend most of their resources protecting their turf using their size as their main weapon, not innovation. Microsoft, GM, and IBM (of 70's) are probably the poster-boys of big-but-stagnant companies. Sure, IBM of the 70's pioneered some novel ideas, but not in proportion to their size. Mini's and micro's were where most of the action was. Microsoft gets a lot of credit for ideas that they actually stole or bought from

  • Really, people, get over yourselves, stop the hand wringing and cries that the sky is falling. Big companies have failed. Countries have failed. Empires have failed. We rebuild. In fact, we build something better.

    The alternative is propping up things that actually aren't working. GM. Most of the airline industry. If Google fails, it will introduce a massive wave of opportunity for entrepreneurs out there who have ideas that they can't pursue now because the threat that Google will eat their lunch is

  • The concept of "too big to fail" pertains only to those financial concerns that have been allowed to get so large that their failure would have catastrophic affects on the economy. While we saw many financial giants fail this year, the "too big to fail" aspects came into play in the way regulators and the Federal Government worked out deals to stem total collapse of our financial system. With Google, that will never happen because the nature of the business is completely different.

    Google is not critical
  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Friday February 12, 2010 @01:27PM (#31115272) Homepage

    Read "Natural Born Clickers [], the ComScore study referenced in the article. "Only 8% of Internet users now account for 85% of all clicks". And that 8% has lower than average income and doesn't buy much on line.

    The basic problem with Google's business model is not a killer problem for Google. It's for all those sites sucking off the "Google Content Network" teat. Ads on search results have value because they're presented at when the user is looking for something. Random ads on web pages aren't that valuable to advertisers. Most advertisers run them because Google's AdWords systems bundles them with search ads. (Advertisers can opt out, but the opt-out checkbox is hidden and doesn't opt you out of everything.) Worse, Google charges the same price for a click on a search result ad and a Google ad on some random site, while studies show that the search result ad is worth maybe 20x the value of the ad on some random site.

    Amusingly, Google offers a lower price for the "content network" ads, but they only tell advertisers about it when they try to opt out of the "content network" program. []

    The big advertisers have figured this out. Note how few Google ads on random web sites are for major brands. Google tries to keep advertisers from developing metrics to measure click-through value; the AdWords contract prohibits advertisers from sharing their click stats. But enough information has leaked out that advertisers are getting wise to this. There's now a Content Network Cleanser [] product to kick bottom-feeder sites out of an advertiser's campaign. But it's retrospective; you pay for useless clicks, then find out about them and block those sites.

    A shakeout is coming. As more advertisers get wise to the uselessness of the "Google Content Network", they'll opt out, while keeping their search ads. Google will have to cut the price for ads on third-party sites. This will put the screws on all the sites whose entire revenue stream comes from those ads. (Like Slashdot.)

    This won't kill Google, but it may cut into their revenue.

  • by melted ( 227442 ) on Friday February 12, 2010 @05:12PM (#31119178) Homepage

    Rather, Dave Winer is considered too stupid for us to read the click-bait drivel he throws up on his blog.

"You can have my Unix system when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers." -- Cal Keegan