On Mobilegeddon: Why Google’s Free & Open Web Kind Of Sucks
A free and open world depends on a free and open web.
The Internet empowers everyone to speak, create, learn, and share.
It is controlled by no single organization, individual, or government.
It connects the world, and we should protect it.
Heartwarming, Google. We’re actually on the same page for once.The Internet is best when it is free and open and accessible. I owe a lot to the Internet and the freely available information that can be found. I wouldn’t know how to hang heavy things on the wall or fix a leaky faucet. I wouldn’t know what books to add to my reading list or the best travel route for a vacation. I wouldn’t have a job without a free and open Internet. The Internet rules.
Google’s message hits home for me but it’s also awash with irony, especially this part:
It is controlled by no single organization
Well, not yet at least.
Google themselves are forcefully taking more and more control of the Internet as we know it. Yes, the “don’t be evil” protect-the-Internet-at-all-costs Google is also the master-of-lobbyists Google and scrape-and-displace Google.
Google may not control the Internet yet but they arguably control something just as important: the flow of information around the Internet. They control how we find information online. Google and it’s properties interact with over 60% of web-enabled devices in the world each day.
Imagine the Internet as a real world place. Google might not own the land but they control the roads, rivers, highways, airports, etc. (And with Google Fiber the are starting to own the oxygen!) The masses don’t get anywhere without Google.
Google fanboys (“SEO = clean code brah”) like to point out that you don’t _have_ to use Google . You can use another search engine. You can block Google from crawling your site.
If you are selling anything or actually care about people discovering your information, those simply aren’t realistic options nowadays. You’re cutting off access to over 50% of the web. Google’s the highway of the Internet and blocking them is a death sentence for a business.
Google’s ironclad grip on the Internet continues to tighten with every passing update. I’ve written about Google’s Panda update — the search engine’s giant red pen that decides if your website’s content is up to their quality standards. Google appointed themselves the web’s editor-in-chief position.
Google’s editorial hand has gotten even heavier recently with their mobile-friendly update that made waves across the business world. Make your site responsive or suffer the consequences. Even if your site has miniscule amounts of mobile traffic, you probably ponied up and went responsive because Google actually could have a negative impact on your business if your site’s rankings tanked. The fear put in owners of non-responsive sites is in large part justified because of the firehouse of traffic Google sends to most every website….so live responsive or die it is. Google’s free and open Internet that they claim to long for sounds like a great place but the reality they are creating every day is much different.
In fact, mobile-friendly design is just the tip of the iceberg. Google’s Internet is free and open as long as you keep a few simple rules in mind:
– All pages need to be of substantial length no matter what or they aren’t important.
– Your best content will be scraped by Google and shown on their servers so people don’t ever have to visit your site
– Your site needs to have SSL, responsive design
– You need to set up a verified profile on Google+. Actually, just kidding.
– Don’t allow other websites to link to yours. Only spammers do that.
– Don’t write on other people’s blogs.
– Don’t get mentioned on another website that isn’t in the same vertical as yours.
– Only publish content that aligns with Google’s List Of Facts (C)
– Don’t operate a business or website within any of the arbitrarily banned verticals.
– Don’t operate a business or website that may overlap with any of Google’s many products
There’s a fine line between pushing for web standards and pushing for $tandard$. It might feel like we have control of our websites but the ever-growing cost of admission to Google’s Internet gives them more of a say over how our websites are built from the ground up. It’s a scary place when the leading voice in web standards is a for-profit advertising company with a horrible track record when it comes to privacy.
Every standards change Google pushes for the good of users also aligns nicely with their earnings. Google’s heartwarming stories about Internet balloons or free laptops in 3rd world countries are nice and all, but are every bit about earning more ad impressions from untapped markets as they are enriching the world. When you interact with over 60% of web-enabled devices each day, growing Internet usage is great for your bottom line.
Google’s actions show their ideal Internet is a walled garden where everybody plays by their rules, updates their Google+ status via their Google Fiber connection and keeps the almighty $GOOG moving up and to the right. Free and open? Not so much.