A few weeks ago, I wrote about the possibility of Google going evil. At that time, I was talking mostly about the fact that Google has free or cheap applications in many different areas. However, I did not really talk about standards they were developing. One commenter, Ed Richardson, mentioned this as a reason why they were not evil:
The interesting situation is whether they abuse their position in relation to the setting of standards for the industry…
At that time, there really was no evidence of this kind of thing except for their development of Google Wave, PubSubHubbub and the new Salmon protocol. I did not think these items were much of an “evil leaning” until I read some news this week.
First we have the release of the Google Go programming language. Go is described as “a systems programming language, expressive, concurrent, garbage-collected”. In the announcement, they talk about what go could do:
Go is a great language for systems programming with support for multi-processing, a fresh and lightweight take on object-oriented design, plus some cool features like true closures and reflection.
Want to write a server with thousands of communicating threads?
New languages are created all the time, so you would not think this is a big deal. However, it comes from a company that has a vested interest in the way you develop applications and websites. At least it did not seem like a big deal until I put it together with the announcement of SPDY:
SPDY is at its core an application-layer protocol for transporting content over the web. It is designed specifically for minimizing latency through features such as multiplexed streams, request prioritization and HTTP header compression.
So over the last few months, a few of us here at Google have been experimenting with new ways for web browsers and servers to speak to each other, resulting in a prototype web server and Google Chrome client with SPDY support.
This definitely puts Google into the territory of uncomfortable developments. If Google was not a major search engine that cared about how quickly they can crawl sites or a major web application provider that cared about how quickly the application responds to user actions, I would feel much better. However, they have a very significant interest in how quickly things move on the web. I can understand that everyone benefits from this, but Google probably benefits more than the user. This still does not really push them into evil territory though.
At the end of the week, I read about the one thing that made this all very possibly, damned close to evil. Your PageRank may soon depend on how fast your site loads:
Not long after that Google’s Matt Cutts has an interview with Mike McDonald from WebProNews were Matt lets the world know that Google is seriously looking at making the page load time a part of the algorithm used to calculate a web site’s PageRank. The idea being that the faster your site loads the better that will affect your overall score as calculated by Google and the better placement you’ll have in search results.
Now let’s look at Ed Richardson’s comment again, “The interesting situation is whether they abuse their position in relation to the setting of standards for the industry.” So, if you own over 70% of the search market, you are planning to release a new language that allows you to build faster and more concurrent servers that all talk this new faster SPDY standard, and you are saying that speed will be a part of your ranking algorithm for search results, you are using the monopoly hammer. There is another side issue to this problem that comes from a quote in the Inquisitr post:
Douglas Karr from Marketing Tech Blog doesn’t think so and he goes as far as to suggest that this is leaning to being evil.
How does a small personal blog hosted on GoDaddy for a few dollars compete with a company hosted on a platform that costs thousands of dollars with loadsharing, caching, web acceleration or cloud technologies?
This means that smaller bloggers may be pushed down in the rankings because of these new developments and not given the same chance to compete against larger companies when it comes to search. Now, I am not Google-hating, but I am trying to raise awareness of what is happening. Google is using their dominant position in search and the internet in general to move things in the direction they see fit. We need to be very careful about this trend of events.
Disclosure: I use Google Search, GMail, Google Reader and Google Apps on a regular basis. I also do not see this changing anytime soon as they are the best products for me right now.