Darrell Hudson

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The Growing Portrait Of Google As A Big, Scary, Expanding Everywhere Copy Monster

What Are You Whining About Now, Google?

Well, boo-hoo. It’s no wonder many probably nodded in agreement when John Gruber fired back that if the patents were so overpriced, why did Google itself bid $3 billion for them, at one point?

I’m not a patent expert. I can’t tell you what in this portfolio might be applicable fairly to Android or not. I have no idea if they were worth $3 billion just for the security of holding them, and perhaps not enforcing them, as Google may have wanted. Maybe Google was going to go all predatory with them.

The Google Monster

What’s far more interesting to me has been the arguments generally about how Google just apparently copies and expands into whatever it wants, something that’s not directly connected with patents.


Reading some of these accusations, you come away with the impression that Google should have sat in its little search box and let other companies expand into new  areas. Moreover, by not sitting in its designated search corner, the company deserves whatever anyone wants to sling at it.

How Does Google Copy? Let Them Count The Ways…

For example, there’s Brian Hall’s post, where he lists Google’s sins:

  • Yelp gets popular? Copy their info, shove Yelp to the bottom of the page and put Google Places and reviews at the top.
  • Groupon won’t sell? Spend billions from other businesses to destroy them.
  • Twitter and Facebook innovate on search? Take their content, whine when they try and stop you then spend billions to prevent their growth and hopefully destroy them.
  • Apple working on a touchscreen smartphone? Spend billions from another business and copy everything you can, down to swipes and apps.
  • Need a smartphone operating system with Java. Take Java and use it for your own ends.
  • Need a location mapping technology and Skyhook won’t sell? Spend billions from your monopoly profits and strongarm your partners and drive Skyhook out of business.
  • Buy up the big travel search sites.
  • Claim you are open source but share nothing related to what your business claims to be about — search, and nothing related to how you make your money — advertising
  • Claim you are open and standards based but control who gets access to your smartphone operating system
  • Like all rich monopolists, they spend millions hiring high priced lobbyists and public relations teams inside the Beltway — for their direct benefit

That feeds into Gruber’s second post on this week’s patent actions, which seems to reassert all these copying facts:

Google seems to feel entitled to copy whatever it wants. Android copies the UI from the iPhone. Places copied data from Yelp. Google+ copies from Facebook. Their coupon thing is a clone of Groupon. And yet it’s Google that acts as though it has been offended when these competitors fight back.

And from MG Siegler today:

Increasingly, Google is trying to do everything. And they have the arrogance to think that they can. And it’s pissing people off.

That goes on to cite examples of various companies behind the scenes who feel like Google just copies everything they do. Apparently, the three remaining people at Yahoo involved with search that haven’t jumped ship to work at Google are among these.

Time for a little push-back. Before I do so, just as I don’t believe that John Gruber is some Apple fanboy who only sees things from a positive Apple point of view, I’d hope that what I’m writing isn’t seen as coming from a Google fanboy.

I’m doing some pushback not out of great love for Google but rather from a great love of balance and reasonable discussion. Right now, we could use some balance on all the copying accusations that are flying around, I’d say.

Hard To See Google As  A Victim

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that Google is perfect and only does the “nice” thing. Google’s just another company, which acts in its own self-interest and can act just as ruthlessly as any of its competitors to get what it wants.

One of the most disturbing areas is the conflict of Google hosting content as opposed to pointing outbound. Its Google Places pages are arguably destinations of their own. Its YouTube pages certainly are. Should a search engine also have destinations sites? If not, then should that standard be applied to all search engines, as Google’s not alone here.

Google’s also a big fan of the “open,” yet despite the Open Handset Alliance, I still can’t get a pure Android phone on Verizon. And despite Open Social, there’s still no API for Google+.

In the tech space, I think many people understand that Google is no longer that scrappy little company of old with the fun beach balls and the quirky founders. It’s not. It’s just like all the others.

By Danny Sullivan


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