Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Rostradamus: Prediction I - Google Shall Rule The World

It's sort of dawned upon me over the last year or so that all these super-villains we see in movies have been massively overcomplicating stuff for decades. You don't need a giant space laser, or nuclear warheads, or any of that shit to have complete control of the Earth. All you actually need to achieve global domination is a good business team, some innovation, and the best search engine on the internet.

The fact is that Google are creeping closer and closer to just owning every aspect of our lives. We live in a world where we are dominated by the internet, moving towards a wireless way of living where virtually everything we do uses the internet in some way. Google already have an absolute shitload of online services, and they own YouTube. All they really need is Wikipedia and Facebook and they've got 90% of my internet usage right there. Google is my primary search engine, YouTube is where I get mah video streemz, I get my email on Google Mail, I have text files and spreadsheets on Google Docs, I consult Google Calendar to find out where I need to be in my life... even this blog is on Blogger (run by Google), uses Google's Feedburner for the Atom feed, is followed by people on Google Reader, viewed using Google Chrome, uses Google Ads and I check pageview stats and the like using Google Analytics. My homepage?, of course.

It's actually a little startling that what was originally a small group of students who made a pretty tidy search engine has become both a global brand, and in my opinion probably one of the most valuable corporations in the world. If they keep up their innovation and remain where they are, then in twenty or thirty years when the internet will probably be wirelessly accessible from anywhere, and virtually everything we use will connect to it, then Google should probably be the most recognised and richest company on the planet. To have expanded to the point of making operating systems and mobile phones, they could utterly dominate the market when cloud computing takes off.

The other thing is, that because the internet transverses continents, it has no authoritative body. There are no monopoly laws for things that don't tangibly exist. Do people in the west seriously use search engines other than Google? Considering that "to google" is now actually a verb, with a meaning along the lines of 'to look something up on the internet', I can't see anyone stealing their share away from them. Maybe if Microsoft's Bing search engine wasn't stupidly named and utterly shit, then they'd have succeeded in cutting a bit more of a share away given the slightly aggressive and disgraceful way it gets wired into Internet Explorer (though not much better than how much Google advertise Chrome).There's nobody to rein in Google as they start to utterly dominate the market.

The fact is that they're already so heavily ingrained with the daily lives of people who are heavy users of the internet and technology, and as more people become like that I can't see it changing. We could easily get to the point where all our videos, photos, documents, emails, appointments and browsing habits, all the technological representations of our lives, are stored in Google's servers somewhere.

It's a little scary to think how much information one company might possibly have of so many people, how bad things could get if Google suddenly stops being a forefront of innovation and a company which represents the good side of the internet, and is generally extremely good-faced and reputable, and becomes evil instead. We're all fucked if Google breaks the trust that it's users place in it. I had enough trouble last summer when my Google account got suspended (by mistake seemingly). I didn't use it much back then, so it wasn't an issue, but if it got suspended now I'd be pretty screwed until it came back online, because I rely on it fairly heavily.

Yet the thing is, while recognising this, I don't really feel like I want to do anything about it. I'm not one of these people (David Cobbledick) who refuses to give Google any more information than absolutely necessary, because in giving Google information I'm usually getting some sort of incredibly useful service in return. Google Calendar is fucking useful, GMail is the best webmail service you can get, Blogger is far better to use than Livejournal and the various other blogging sites, and Google's search engine just rips the shit out of the competition.

I might not be comfortable with placing personal information into the hands of a company, but for the stuff I get in return I don't see why I wouldn't. And for now at least, Google are nice, especially by the standards of global corporations. They have quite a friendly front, and I can't help but like a company when I open my web browser to see they've changed their logo to include Wallace & Gromit or the cookie monster from sesame street. Who couldn't help but like and trust a company that does that?

 So yeah, the day that Google changes hands, or reveals that it was actually plotting world domination from the offset, we're fucked like mankind never has before. But until then there's not much we can really do other than to continue to use and bask in the light of the fantastic services they provide. Because I'd rather live under a dictatorship than use Bing as my fucking main search engine.

Slightly related, but I don't really get the hype over Google Wave. I'll say firstly that I've used it a bit, and I think that it's technologically fantastic, and a really novel and useful way to do stuff. My main issue is that I don't really see a use for it. It's fantastic to play around with, but I just feel that it's actual functionality is limited from the point of view that the only things it really does well are extremely specific. It's useful if you're trying to plan something, but I just feel that for most things that regular email and forums do a better job. They're not as shiny, but you can do a bit more with it. I'll wait to see if they add more features to Wave, but right now I don't use it that much purely because I have no real use for it - I don't need to do any of the things it's actually good for.

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