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Dave Frets over Google

http://scriptingnews.userland.com/backissues/2003/03/06#weaningOffGoogle

Google buys Pyra (developers of popular Blogger software), and now suddenly they're too powerful and scary to be trusted?

It's as if Google can't just be a talented and run a good company, they also have to put a smiley face on and make promises to everyone that they'll behave nice and predictably. If not, they must be hatching a plot to become the next Microsoft.

Dave Winer will now use his Scripting.com pulpit to lead a pseudo groundswell of opinion against Google.

Makes me wonder if Joel had to kiss Dave's ring before the launch of CityDesk.

John Stossel impression: Give me a break!

Zak
Thursday, March 06, 2003

Newsflash: All companies want to become the next Microsoft.

John Rosenberg
Thursday, March 06, 2003

Google's been garnering ire for awhile now an it just seems to be coming to a head. With Yahoo taking it's 30% of Google's traffic to its newly acquired Inktomi, Overture snapping up FAST (which is more or less usable as a primary search engine) and Alta Vista and Microsoft and AOL with cards to play, I suspect Google's marketshare is near its peak. In fact, they may have waited too long to IPO.

pb
Thursday, March 06, 2003

C'mon, Pb, this doesn't look like something that's been brewing for all that long. I didn't hear this kind of uproar when Google added its News page. It was clear at that time that Google was experimenting with more than search.

Dave enjoyed the influence that blogdom had on Google results ("blogrolling"). As long as the Pyra guys were a tiny outfit and charting a linear course, Dave was pretty comfortable with them.   

Now that Google has taken a major stake in blogdom, there may be a shift in the balance of power. From what I can see, what irks Dave most is that he was taken by surprise-- Google crossed a line.

I hope Dave is able to put it aside for a while before over-reacting. It's a bit premature to form an anti-Google crusade. After all, what would be the point? Because Google got became more powerful than Dave wanted them to be?

Zak
Thursday, March 06, 2003

That's the way dave winer always reacts. he's worth reading because he usually discusses interesting topics. but he goes all over the place on topics he discusses.

There's even an anti-blog called "winerlog". Search for it if you wish to see invective thrown his way.

ummm
Thursday, March 06, 2003

Uhmmm, yes it has. Stretching back a year or more there have been issues related to paid results, privacy, PageRank adjustments, competition with partners, portalization, news, arrogance, cached pages, renewed search competition, googlebombing, etc.

pb
Friday, March 07, 2003

pb, these issues you speak of - why are they considered to be issues?  A company can't be everything to everyone, and on the internet, it's difficult for a company that is so high profile not to get attacked by kooks.

At the end of the day, it's a great search engine - my opinion is that it doesn't owe anyone anything.  If I've missed the point please illuminate!

Konrad
Friday, March 07, 2003

If Google bought one of your competitors, wouldn't you be a bit nervous?  Especially if you've been cheerleading them a lot, and now they seem to have a conflict of interest by indexing you but also competing against you?

In the absence of any official word from Google, I'd consider the worst.  Before now, it seemed Google's programs were all about increasing traffic to other sites, rather than competing against them.  (Aside from other search engines.)

Tj
Friday, March 07, 2003

It seems that people have this problem with other people being too successful. Why is that?

Thats the problem here isn't it? We all like google when they are small but they get too large and all of a sudden we have: "Hey, look how big that company has gotten. They must be evil now. I can't believe I used to support them, I feel so violated and I must go and wash away the stain."

Rob Moir
Friday, March 07, 2003

Yes, I would be nervous. But then I'd also try not to inflame the situation until I had a better strategic/business response than "Google-free Fridays". Dave is playing the victim.

What Google has done is not at all unusual, it's normal business strategy. Maybe it would've been nice if Google stayed out of the blogging realm, or if they had teamed up with Userland instead of Pyra.

Having seen Google's Pyra-play, perhaps Teoma or AlltheWeb would be interested in an alliance. Not sure if their search algos rely as heavily on cross-linking, though.

Zak
Friday, March 07, 2003

Konrad, Google makes me nervous too, and it has nothing to do with success and everything to do with the "issues" pb mentioned.

No, I haven't stopped using Google (like Dave Winer, I still think it's "the" authoritative source).  But, I'm not thrilled about the amount of data they track about me and my search results, and I worry about what they could do with this data.  This is unlike the paranoid ravings of people who worry about banks and tracking of purchases on credit cards - because unlike most banks, Google not only is capable of tracking your search results and matching them to an individual, but can (and is actively working on) draw meaningful conclusions from the results - which they then sell (have sold) to other people.  It's like Statistics Canada on steroids, because the info is personally identifiable.  I more or less trust Statistics Canada because it is subject to specific guidelines and regulations, theoretically controlled by people I can vote against, and it does not sell personally identifiable information. 

I don't trust Google - mainly because I don't think they have any business in tying particular searches to an individual.

I also worry about their increased emphasis on geo-location based searching, which is often annoying if you are looking for something specific that recommended to you by someone who is not in your location, and invisible if you don't know what result set to look for.  A heavy reliance on Google long-term gives them the power to turn on and off parts of the Internet depending on where you live (and they have the technology to do it).  Again, and based on their actions to date (eg. why do they need to set a cookie that effectively never expires when you visit?), I'm just not sure how much I trust them with that level of power. 

As a webmaster, I find the opt-out vs opt-in model of caching to be somewhat annoying (although I like the concept of a cache).  Getting Google to update what it has in its index is also like pulling teeth.  If there is an article that was modified, changes don't take effect for weeks (if at all), which can lead to many problems. 

Google has done a lot of things right - no banner ads, clean interface, fast searching, text-only ads based on context of the search.  I don't even have a problem with their analysis of search trends, nor the sale of search trends.

But I think returning results based on your location is a bad thing (unless you specifically turn on that option), tracking personally identifiable information is also bad, as is the lack of any control over the articles I own. 

This is why I find myself agreeing with Dave Winer.  It's not a new thought (rumblings of discontent with Google have been getting louder and louder for the last year and a half).  It also has nothing to do with their success.  They could be bleeding money, and I would still be looking for alternatives.

MaisOui
Friday, March 07, 2003

"Local shopkeeper urges protest against Walmart, news at 11."  I might like how Walmart saves me from local stores, but in the abstract a free person should be suspicious about successful, dominating entities that can control your world.  Google did something suspicious, and it's good to respond, "Uh-oh, let's think about this and get some answers."  Perhaps Google's entry will actually help the field, and playing a squeaky wheel is the best a blogger can do to bring things along.

If Google was just doing business as usual, Dave is too.

Tj
Friday, March 07, 2003

This has been a common theme for the past 2 decades.

Small company releases decent technology, said company becomes popular, grows and commands increasing influence in the marketplace.

This doesn't bother most folks, but programmers, engineers and computer professionals tend to consist of more rugged individualists than the rest of the population. As soon as the technology is broadly recognized as sufficiently powerful", an undercurrent of fear and distrust begins to emerge.

This group dislikes being "dependent" on any commercial technology and resents power concentrated in the hand of a single player. Any company sufficiently big enough, popular or successful enough becomes suspect.

I think what happens next is up to Google. As a young company, they probably need to make more efforts at gaining trust. But other than that, I wouldn't go crying about Google not being a flawless or open-source technology.

Everyone wants technology to be like gettin' something for nothin', like rays of sunshine from the sky.

Griz
Friday, March 07, 2003

Google has become a competitor to Dave. He's protecting his investments by attempting to minimize the influence of a competitor.

Dave had a huge hand in creating the blogging industry. Used to be you couldn't do much in blogging without having to work with Dave. Now he's facing the difficult situation of having the industry outgrow the influence of any one individual. That can't be easy to see your baby grow up and say it doesn't need you anymore.

BC

BC
Friday, March 07, 2003

Maybe all companies want to become the next Microsoft ...

But having tried Radio Userland and found it ludicrously buggy and poorly designed, I would have to say that Dave Winer's company is in no danger of becoming "too powerful and scary to be trusted" (to quote an earlier poster here).

In other words, Dave Winer has ensured that his company will continue to remain small and trustworthy.

programmer
Friday, March 07, 2003

I'm reminded of indie music fans.  They love their favorite bands but if the bands become popular ...

tk
Friday, March 07, 2003

He sounds like a sour-grapes whiner to me.  Also he seems to suffer from delusions of grandeur as far as thinking he had a big part in making Google as popular as it is.  Please...

Flippy the Binhead
Friday, March 07, 2003

I felt almost kinda a tiny bit sorry for Dave, and then I read the next story about him moving and having to let the gardener and pool guy go.

Life just kicks you when you're down, don't it! ;-)

Shrinky
Friday, March 07, 2003

---"Life just kicks you when you're down, don't it! ;-) "----

Certainly does if you're a gardner or a pool guy.

Stephen Jones
Saturday, March 08, 2003

Erm.  If you actually read about why he's moving, it ain't because he can't afford the pool guy and the gardener.

He's been blogging for ages about how he's going to Harvard to start their blogging program, and as part of that he sold his house (so he doesn't need the pool guy in California to come since he's changing states!), and is throwing out several dumpsters full of accumulated junk.  Although I fail to see why this is even relevant to the commentary about Google.

Anyway.  Fretting over Google isn't just a Dave thing (as usual he's jumping on a bandwagon that is gathering noise).  And, unlike some of the suggestions above, most of the fretting is coming from non-techies at the moment.

I find it fascinating that the concerns being raised are airily dismissed by this group as "sour grapes" by "anti-business techie early adopters". 


Saturday, March 08, 2003

I didn't realize there were blogs that talked about anything but blogs - I must be missing out. Bloggers do seem to think blogs are hugely important, but that would be the case for anyone if their life consisted of blog feeds talking about how blogs have affected google searches (especially if you use the keyword 'blog' in your search, but then again, who doesn't?).

Google took over the internet, and then tried the news world - but only now, having bought a mighty blogging company, have they crossed the line and shown their true desire for world domination. Ha! That is funny. Please, the tears...

Robin Debreuil
Saturday, March 08, 2003

Uh, who the hell is "Dave"? Oh, Dave Winer.

Who's that?

Why, he invented blogging and he runs a (self indulgent?) blog of his own.
Why are people getting irate over Dave Winer and his opinions? Because he's immersed in sour grapes? Or because he's semi successful but has a huge ego?

The way people here are talking, he's manipulating the oil price on world markets, from his blog, for sinister motives known only to the Trilateral Commission. He must have THAT much power.

He DOESN'T? My bad.

Gee, he sounds just like 90% of the people I run into on a local level in the IT business. The techie success track as it seems to me: bitch about unfair, cheap bosses; leave and start company; become successful; then spend 1/2 your energy and time putting down and belittling competitors and people more experienced than you that apply to you for a job at your company. And become incredibly pompous about how your inherent goodness makes you levitate bodily. In other words, become the worst of everyone you hated to work for in the "before time", but smirk about it as a personal triumph of your own and a failure of others.

Hey, it's what I aspire to. (Joel's missing out on the fun of gratuitous ego stuff and putdowns, IMO... he's stayed a normal human ... huh...)

So, why the hell should I begrudge Dave Winer (whoever the heck he IS?!) the satisfaction of fulfilling the canonical, court-mandated techie success story? I ask you...

And blogs? I read Joel, of course. And Drudge. And a few others. But they are talk and opinions, nothing reliable or substantial, and nothing that can make me a penny. I've checked out blogs. Fulfilling Sturgeon's Law handily, most are 99% CRAP.

And blogs about blogs? Recursion on something of no value is still. ... of no value?

Frankly, I'm much more concerned about: N. Korea or Iraq going upside down pear shaped; my own ability to get the next contract or job; the headlong race of this industry deep into the sewer. For starters.
My advice: find something more substantial to fret over.  Something that threatens your livelihood, your personal security, or your life or the lives of loved ones.

There's LOTS of great material out there to go neurotic over, trust me... a thread like this reads like the Slashdot infants pillorying Microsoft or the music industry.

Bored Bystander
Saturday, March 08, 2003

I liked the comment about trying radio userland and finding it too buggy to use. I did the same, and actually spoke to a friend I knew who worked there about the problems I found, and was told that it was my fault I was having problems.

I don't think that company will EVER see any of my money because of that.

Robert Moir
Sunday, March 09, 2003

All's been said about Dave Winer years ago:

http://www.mackido.com/Press/ai_DaveWiner.html

MA10D
Monday, March 10, 2003

The Blogger stuff is just the tip of the ice-berg which I couldn't care less about.

http://www.google-watch.org

pb
Monday, March 10, 2003

That "Google Watch" web site is very amusing.

Unfortunately, this page -- http://cryptome.org/google-spy.htm -- appears to have been removed.

It's still in Google's cache at the moment; you can find it by searching for "I wonder if there are federal troops discreetly protecting google facilities", a sentence which I think provides a valuable insight into this critic's credibility, in case the absurdity of his arguments wasn't enough.

Amazingly, almost every single one of his criticisms misses the target. He complains that Google is a potentially valuable source of intelligence for the US government, but fails to realise that it if Google is required to disclose this information to the government, Congress is to blame, not a private company which has no choice but to comply with the law.

He fears the "undemocratic" nature of Google's PageRank algorithm. I would certainly be interested in a technical debate about the value of Google's algorithm -- Raph Levien's diary at http://advogato.org/person/raph/ and Bram Cohen's http://advogato.org/person/Bram/ often features discussions on trust metrics, including PageRank -- but Brandt offers no such argument. Instead he bizarrely likens the algorithm to "pay for placement" -- a preposterous position, not only because he fails to recognise why a rating based on links is valuable, but because he dubiously associates a content- and author-neutral algorithm with selective favoritism.

In addition, Google quite clearly and unambiguously differentiates between paid-for links and normal search results (something its competitors are often less willing to do) making the claim look even sillier.

The site says that Google's staff includes a former NSA employee. Again, this suggests paranoia rather than being a concern of any substance.

Brandt claims that Google has ignored requests for clarification of its privacy policy. Their privacy policy does say that they only provide aggregate data to other organisations, and do not release personally identifiable except where required by law. I think this is an entirely reasonable position; unless his site specifically mentions what privacy concerns Google has failed to address, this complaint only adds to Google Watch's hot air.

He claims that it is unreasonable for Google to penalize sites which attempt to subvert its algorithm! Detecting and correcting weaknesses in the algorithm is fundamental to maintaining its integrity -- it is worthless if it is easily abused.

One criticism which isn't completely without merit is that on Google's 2038 cookie expiration date. I agree that it is an absurdly long time to hold on to a cookie, but he has chosen to completely ignore the fact that browsers are free to completely ignore this date, or indeed the cookie itself entirely. My browser does not accept cookies from .google.com, because I have seen no detrimental effect arising from their absence. (If I wanted to use Google's preferences, I would have a problem, but I can't say I've missed having that feature available to me.)

The only claim I can't find fault with is that Google's cached pages are almost certainly illegal.

His proposed remedies for his concerns are just silly:

* His first suggestion is to stop talking about PageRank. I simply don't see why disposing of the name "PageRank" will have any substantive effect on anything. He claims to want transparency from Google, but he recommends de-emphasising PageRank to "mute the awareness of PageRank among optimizers and webmasters". I can't reconcile these two positions.
* "PageRank must be streamlined so that the "tyranny of the rich" characteristics are scaled down in favor of a more egalitarian approach to link popularity." This would completely _destroy_ PageRank's attack resistance, which is what makes Google useful!
* Brandt proposes that Google be made a public utility, because its use is so widespread. First of all, if his earlier recommendations would make Google useless, thus reducing its popularity among users, eliminating his concern over its dominance.
* The site argues that using the GET HTTP method results in a referrer log provided to web sites which contains the search terms used, and recommends using POST instead. Unfortunately, this would make it impossible to provide hyperlinks to search results. The exposure of referrer information is in the browser's control; anyone concerned about this information being exposed to third parties should deal with it at that level.

ajf

Adam Fitzpatrick
Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Somebody completely unconnected with IT had forwarded me the article, or a variation of it, about a week ago for comment, so it certainly has made waves.

I told him it was the kind of artilce iI detested because it combined incredibly stupid stuff with genuine concerns.

I find the cookie complaint a waste of time. Why should your cookie expire? Also I disagree with the arguments over Google cache. If an article is published and the author later retracts you are under no obligation to tear up or retun the old copy of the newspaper you possess. To suggest the online equivalent of this seems a lot more big-brotherly to me.

The real worry though is that because of Google's phenomenal and deserved success we are leaving lots and lots of infomration about ourselves at one centralized source, which just happens to be a private country under a foreign jurisidiction as far as most of the world is concnerned. This is however hardly the fault of the company.

Stephen Jones
Wednesday, March 12, 2003

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