Looking at the World with Google Blinkers On
The world more and more depends on the Internet to go about even its most basic everyday business; and this would be a good time to begin thinking about how effectively the Internet is regulated. The FCC in the US is beginning to put together a set of conventions for the Internet, that aim to make sure that Internet infrastructure providers, are never given the freedom to discriminate among different kinds of services in the setting of prices for the use of infrastructure. They call it the network neutrality rules. Any kind of Internet service or website needs to be given the same terms of service as anyone else. But these rules are only mainly aimed at Internet giants – the Warners and AOL’s of this world, and the FCC needs to expand the scope of its rules.
It isn’t just the service providers that own the Internet’s hardware that need to be regulated this way; the software and services that form the backbone of the Internet, the search giants Google, Bing and Yahoo, need to be brought in as well. New companies and services are discovered by users through these gatekeepers of the Internet; and little startups have their entire survival controlled by how well they are visible on these search engines. Any kind of discrimination they face, would be their undoing. The FCC needs to make sure of this.
So do any of the major search engines actually use active discrimination? Google is a company that has a finger in all kinds of pies at the same time: maps and directions, e-mail, Internet payments, among others. Google doesn’t feel any compunction plugging its own products with top billing on its search results with no mind paid to what its own algorithms think of it. Without a doubt, Google is not impartial; and for a basic service that ought to belong right up there with the other human rights, this is intolerable.There is also the Google sandbox that lots of companies and get permanently lost in, because they can never make out what rules Google has that they have broken.Google has near-complete domination of the Internet; if something doesn’t appear on Google, chances are it will never be found. And this is not good for innovation.
Most of Google’s greatest services, YouTube, Google Maps, or even AdSense, were developed by others,and when they became popular, Google acquired them one way or another. What if a Google stranglehold over the Internet prevents new services like this from ever having a fair chance?