Let's Face Facts: Google Isn't So Open At Times Either
from the don't-play-the-open-card-too-much dept
There’s a new battle brewing between Google and Apple over where the internet is headed next. At recent developer conferences for both companies, execs took very clear potshots at each other, and now they’re directly sniping at each other over openness.
Google recently purchased AdMob, a mobile advertising platform, and AdMob execs are upset at Apple for prohibiting the use of other ad providers for the iPhone. Basically, you’re locked into Apple’s own iAds platform. This is a bit ironic, given Apple’s recent claims that it won’t support Flash because the platform is too closed. It seems that Apple is against closed platforms… unless they’re Apple’s closed platforms.
But, while Google plays the open card — and very often is quite open — some of the claims that Google/AdMob execs are making could be pointed right back at Google as well. Take this one, for example:
This change is not in the best interests of users or developers. In the history of technology and innovation, it’s clear that competition delivers the best outcome. Artificial barriers to competition hurt users and developers and, in the long run, stall technological progress.
I agree with this point, wholeheartedly, but Google doesn’t always act that way. Google’s main product, its search engine, is still a very, very closed platform. If a developer wants to innovate off of Google’s search, they currently have two options the AJAX search API and Google’s Custom Search Engine (CSE) — both of which have tremendous limitations. The AJAX API limits results to just 8, and really just keeps trying to drive users back to Google’s properties. For CSE, the terms are quite limiting and only let you display Google ads on the results page — not all that unlike Apple’s limitations. At one point, Google had a SOAP API that let people develop on Google search results, but they killed that off. And, Google has never offered anything like RSS on search feeds.
If Google were truly “open” to “the best interests of users or developers” by encouraging more competition, why not let others build on top of Google’s platform as well? If it were open, then Apple could innovate on top of Google’s search and make money by selling its own ads, just as Google now wants to be able to run ads on iPhone/iPad apps. The reverse is true as well. If Apple were really open, then Google could innovate on top of the iPhone/iPad apps and make money off of its ads.
But the truth is neither company is that open when it comes to products it believes are core to its business. For many years, we’ve wondered if Google would make its search engine into more of a platform that others can build on, but to date, it remains very controlling on that side of its business, which I think is a loss for the wider internet. Now, obviously, this is Google’s call to make, but to whine about Apple not opening its platform while keeping its own just as closed is a bit hypocritical.