Rohit Mishra

Thoughts which don’t fit in 140 characters.

Should Google Be Allowed to Favour Its Affiliate Services on Its Search Engine

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I just watched Tim O’Reilly’s keynote at the MySQL conference, in which he calls for an open data internet operating system. His basic premise is that different companies are cornering away the subsystems of the Internet Operating System – people, payment, search, location etc. He contends that some of these companies like Google, Apple and Microsoft have the capability to keep the complete information loop to themselves by acquiring all these subsystems.

I don’t personally see any company capable of serving all our information needs. Google appears to be a strong contender, but the fact that both Apple and Microsoft are working hard on establishing their shop on the information superhighway will keep Google in check. Apple’s acquisition of Siri – arguably the best mobile app in the world – may completely push Google out of the information loop on iOS products.

In a related event, I came across this New York Times editorial, that suggests that Google is unfairly propping up its own services like Google Maps and Youtube on Google search results – the gateway to web. It says

Still, the potential impact of Google’s algorithm on the Internet economy is such that it is worth exploring ways to ensure that the editorial policy guiding Google’s tweaks is solely intended to improve the quality of the results and not to help Google’s other businesses.

As much as I support fair competition, this is a disastrous proposition. Limiting any enterprise from using its own tools to support its own products goes completely against the free market policies we cherish. I will explain my view with a couple of examples.

Microsoft had antitrust regulators spanking it for including IE with Windows. They said that it was giving it an unfair edge over rival browsers like Netscape/Firefox and Opera. The move ultimately resulted in a specific European edition where users had to select a browser on the initial boot-up. Was it good? No, it was bad. An Operating System without a browser is like a door without a knob. It breaks the experience. Microsoft was within its rights to use its browser on its Operating System. I wonder why the same antitrust regulators don’t force browser selection options for iOS and Android now? There was a bigger fallout of this antitrust move. IE, which was the hotbed of browser development near the turn of the century was put on backburner and other browsers surged ahead in both popularity and usage. We would have had a much stronger web ecosystem if Microsoft would have kept innovating on browsers.

When you search for images on Google, does it point you to Picasa? No, it doesn’t because Google knows that Picasa doesn’t has strong enough userbase. Pushing Picasa results will mean inferior result quality – which might turn users to other services like Bing, This is the balance that choice brings to table. Google pushes Maps and Youtube results on its search only because they have the best results. They also push results from Twitter, a competitor in the social networking space, because it has got the best results.

I hope Governments worldwide keep themselves out of shaping technology decisions. The free markets can take much better care of it.

O’Reilly’s talk at the MySQL conference.