The Mother Of All Anti-Google Rants: Comparing Google To The Taliban

from the wow dept

Earlier this year, we wrote about economist Willem Buiter's suggestion that the gov't should be focused on building good banks rather than bad banks. It made a lot of sense, and I remembered thinking I should pay attention to what Buiter has to say. However, after his latest, I'm left scratching my head. Over in the Financial Times, Buiter has written what has to be the mother of all anti-Google rants, trashing the company both on privacy and on intellectual property issues:
Google is to privacy and respect for intellectual property rights what the Taliban are to women's rights and civil liberties: a daunting threat that must be fought relentlessly by all those who value privacy and the right to exercise, within the limits of the law, control over the uses made by others of their intellectual property. The internet search engine company should be regulated rigorously, defanged and if necessary, broken up or put out of business. It would not be missed.

In a nutshell, Google promotes copyright theft and voyeurism and lays the foundations for corporate or even official Big Brotherism.
It goes on along those lines. It's quite a read. There's just one problem: Buiter doesn't seem to understand what he's talking about. First of all, it's hard to believe the statement that if Google went out of business "it would not be missed." If that were the case, why do so many people use it so often? I would suggest plenty of people would miss Google and Buiter presents no evidence to suggest otherwise, other than the fact that he, personally, really dislikes Google. But, he seems to do so solely because he doesn't understand how Google works.

On the copyright front, Buiter's argument is extremely confused:
Google has been making available copyrighted material for download on its websites for years (books through Google Books, music through YouTube, newspaper material through Google News), often without obtaining prior consent of the copyright holder and generally without making any payments to the copyright holders. There is a word for that kind of behaviour: theft. Just because you steal using internet technology does not make it anything other than theft. As an author, this naturally concerns me.
Where to start? First, the three services named are all entirely different. His strongest case might be against Google Books, but even that's a stretch. Google (contrary to Buiter's claim) never "made [books] available for download." That's simply not true. What Google did was index books by scanning them. You could never download them. You could view snippets of those books, limited to just a few pages, based on a search. Basically, all the company did was create a much more effective card catalog. So, Buiter has his facts wrong on Google Books.

As for YouTube, again, Buiter's facts are simply incorrect. Google never made music downloadable. Some users (not Google itself) did upload music videos, but it's wrong (and slightly mixed up) to blame Google for the actions of its users. Second, Google never made the content on YouTube downloadable. It's true that there were some third part apps that allowed stuff to be downloaded, but not that many people use them, and it's a bit twisted to blame Google for third party apps being used to get content from third party users... isn't it?

Google News is the most confused claim here. After all, Google did nothing here other than index content that newspapers put online free themselves, and then Google sent people to those newspaper websites. It never displayed or offered the content itself, except in the rare cases where it had made deals to do exactly that. To claim that it's somehow illegal to send newspapers traffic for content they put online themselves is quite odd.

And, of course, we've discussed at length why copyright infringement isn't theft, and it's somewhat depressing to see an economist claim otherwise, when he should recognize the difference between copying rivalrous goods and copying non-rivalrous ones. But, even that debate is silly, because what Google does isn't even infringement, let alone theft. Buiter simply appears to be almost 100% misinformed about what Google does on this issue, and makes a bunch of false statements to support his highly questionable assertion that Google is somehow involved in theft.
Google Street View, an addition to Google Maps provides panorama images visible from street level in cities around the world. The cameras record details of residents' lives, including pictures of drunk people throwing up, people in intimate clinches with persons with whom they are not officially affiliated, small children playing in a yard, with or without adult supervision, etc. etc. A wonderful database for voyeurs, peeping toms and would-be child molesters.
Again, Buiter appears to be confused and/or misinformed. All of the photos in Google Street View are taken on public streets. It's not a privacy issue at all. And he misses the fact that any questionable or problematic pictures can be (and are) quickly removed by Google. Finally, the ridiculous claim that it's a service for "voyeurs, peeping toms and would-be child molesters" is supported by absolutely nothing. Considering the fact that the content is often weeks or months old, and hardly real time, it's hard to see how it's useful for such purposes at all. Peeping toms and voyeurs are people who view people in private through windows and such. Google Street View does no such thing.
Another way that Google (along with others, including Microsoft and Yahoo) invades our privacy is through the use of tracking cookies or 'third-party persistent cookies' to implement interest-based advertising (a.k.a behavioural targeting).
Really? In 2009? Still complaining about the threat of cookies to privacy? That argument has been out of fashion for nearly a decade, and every browser has pretty clear and easy controls if it's really a problem for Buiter. For most of us, though, we recognize that the cookies are hardly a problem.

Or, alternatively, Buiter is free to not use Google. Considering he claims the company wouldn't be missed, I'm confused why he appears to use the site in the first place. At least, at the end of his article, he claims he's planning to get rid of Google, though he still seems to think that regulations are needed to shut the site down:
It is time for people to take a stand, as individual consumers and internet users, and collectively through laws and regulations, to tame this new Leviathan. When I get back from this trip, I will do my best to remove every trace of Google from my computers, even the tracking cookies (if I can!).
The good news is that in the comments to his article on the FT.com site, people take him to task on pretty much every point he raised. One hopes that he actually bothers to read the comments, because he seems to have based his opinions on factually inaccurate information, and that makes his conclusions quite troubling. For a respected economist, you would expect better.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    yozoo, May 4th, 2009 @ 10:43am

    yeah

    well he was all wet about the banks too . . .

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 4th, 2009 @ 10:44am

    Hey, Willem, what happened? Did someone show you one of your writings excerpted on Google Books, possibly imply that the whole thing was available, hand you a short list of talking points and "suggest" you come up with an article (for suitable compensation, no doubt) decrying the process? Surely not!

     

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  3.  
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    ShawnK, May 4th, 2009 @ 10:52am

    He Doesnt get it

    "It is time for people to take a stand, as individual consumers and internet users,"

    we have taken a stand, he just doesnt like the stand we have taken.

     

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  4.  
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    Lonnie E. Holder, May 4th, 2009 @ 10:55am

    I use Google...a lot...

    I have seen a survey somewhere in the past that Google has become the most visited web site on planet Earth. I know it has become my #1 resource. Even if I am unable to download the information because of a pay site, I often get just enough information to direct me to a free site, or, in the most dire situation, I will buy the document from the pay site. Regardless, I would absolutely miss Google if it disappeared. So, when this person says that "it would not be missed," he does not speak for me.

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 4th, 2009 @ 11:01am

    Re: I use Google...a lot...

    for many everyday internet users, GOOGLE IS the internet

     

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  6.  
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    Ima Fish, May 4th, 2009 @ 11:01am

    We've got to start looking at these senseless attacks in the aggregate. I don't know who's behind them, Microsoft? The newspaper industry? But there is an organized and systematic astroturf campaign to destroy Google.

    These types of articles/editorials/op ed pieces are laying the foundation. They're trying to change the otherwise favorable opinion of Google through these continual attacks.

    Once the public opinion changes, then laws will be able to be written and passed to eliminate Google.

    I personally believe it being driven by Microsoft with the help of the old media. With Microsoft, winning is not enough. It's a zero sum game. Even if Microsoft can't win, the other side still has to lose.

     

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  7.  
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    Ima Fish, May 4th, 2009 @ 11:09am

    Re: Re: I use Google...a lot...

    "GOOGLE IS the internet"

    Remember in the old days when most people thought Internet Explorer was the internet? Yech!

     

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  8.  
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    Jacopo, May 4th, 2009 @ 11:11am

    Re: Paranoid Delusions

    Ima, you're more paranoid than Buiter is.

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 4th, 2009 @ 11:16am

    Re: Re: Re: I use Google...a lot...

    I'd say most still think IE is the internet.

     

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  10.  
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    Ryan, May 4th, 2009 @ 11:18am

    Re: I use Google...a lot...

    Planet Earth? That's nothing, wake me up when Google is #1 on planet Jupiter...

     

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  11.  
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    Ima Fish, May 4th, 2009 @ 11:20am

    Re: Re: Paranoid Delusions

    "Ima, you're more paranoid than Buiter is."

    Thanks, I guess. But seriously, when something doesn't make sense overtly, it must then make sense covertly.

     

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  12.  
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    Lucretious, May 4th, 2009 @ 11:23am

    Good God! How OLD is this guy anyway?


    It reads like the ravings of an Alzheimer patient.

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 4th, 2009 @ 11:30am

    I think he just bought GOOG at $711 and is bitter now along with the bank that foreclosed on his house.

     

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  14.  
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    ChrisB (profile), May 4th, 2009 @ 11:34am

    Re:

    As an engineer, I have actually bought technical books I found first using Google Books. So I think these book-sellers should be paying Google for all the free work Google did for them.

    To me, calling the downloading of top 40 songs "piracy" and "theft" is idiotic. Hey, remember the radio? How many of us (the older ones) made mix tapes from the radio?

    Buiter better calm down, pour himself a Sanka, and watch Matlock.

     

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  15.  
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    R. Miles, May 4th, 2009 @ 11:34am

    Wow.

    I'm... at a loss for words on this.

    I would sign up to ft.com and inject my two cents, but I'm afraid their tracking cookie prevents me from doing so.
    /sarcasm

    It's quite obvious, from the comments, quite a few reject his position. Except for the one commenter who whined about a song and "no one" got paid.

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 4th, 2009 @ 11:34am

    I use Google and love their services and I agree with each point that you make, but I think you do have to think about how much information Google does hold for each of its users. You don't just need to be worried about what Google will do with the data now, but what any of its CEO's will do with it in the future. Google has a lot of services that they could cross reference and discover a lot about a person, Chat/Email/Calendar/Docs/Searches/etc... I mean its their business to analyze their data to target ads to you, that data in the wrong hands could be bad.

    So this guy may have his panties in a bunch for the wrong reasons but I do believe we need to closely watch what Google is doing with our habitual data.

     

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  17.  
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    Ima Fish, May 4th, 2009 @ 11:45am

    Re:

    "So this guy may have his panties in a bunch for the wrong reasons but I do believe we need to closely watch what Google is doing with our habitual data."

    So, even though he's completely wrong, he might be right, for reasons he never raised. Great.

     

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  18.  
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    Adam, May 4th, 2009 @ 11:49am

    I would Miss Google

    "Second, Google never made the content on YouTube downloadable." - Um.. Obviously you've never gone to YouTube on a PSP a few months ago, the feature has since been removed but there was a Download To Ipod / PSP button that appeared if your browser sent the right information to it.

    also to do a little scare mongering since that new terminator movie came out - They Who Were Google, Business 2.0 article from 2006

    Skynet Anyone??

    Seriously though, I use GMail, AdSense, Webmaster, Documents, Calendar, Blogger, etc... I would seriously miss Google if it was gone =(

     

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  19.  
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    StronArm, May 4th, 2009 @ 11:53am

    Don't use the technology then!!

    If Mr. whatever his name is is so upset about the wonderful technology that enhances so many of our lives, I suggest he makes the move to a third world country, get himself some banana leaves scribe his writing on them. What a TOOL!! Unhappy people make me laugh!!

     

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  20.  
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    Ima Fish, May 4th, 2009 @ 11:54am

    Re: I would Miss Google

    "Download To Ipod / PSP button that appeared if your browser sent the right information to it."

    Are you sure you're not thinking about Google Video? I don't ever remember seeing that feature on YouTube.

     

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  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 4th, 2009 @ 11:59am

    Re: Re: Re: Paranoid Delusions

    Or it just doesn't make sense. "Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity."

     

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  22.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), May 4th, 2009 @ 12:04pm

    If you think this is bad...

    Wait 'til he discovers 'libraries.'

    Seriously, the ages-old Vampire Lestat was more media-savvy.

     

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  23.  
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    Adam, May 4th, 2009 @ 12:05pm

    Re: Re: I would Miss Google

    Google Video = YouTube Results, do remeber Google does own YouTube, so searching for videos playable on Google gives you YouTube + More.

     

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  24.  
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    Curtis Cooley, May 4th, 2009 @ 12:06pm

    Where did he go

    "when I get back from this trip ..."

    Where did he go besides on what appears to be a huge bender.

     

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  25.  
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    Ima Fish, May 4th, 2009 @ 12:09pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Paranoid Delusions

    "Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity."

    If this was the only stupid editorial, I'd agree. But when there are so many of these sort of ignorant attacks against Google, mere stupidity can no longer be a valid basis.

    We're faced with the possibility that all of these otherwise intelligent people are suddenly utterly stupid and ignorant when it comes to writing about Google. We're left with asking: What makes these otherwise intellectual people so ignorant? Why are these people so oblivious to the facts? This possibility simply does not make any sense.

    The other possibility is that these writers know what they're saying is BS, but they're trying to change public opinion about Google. That makes sense. It's called propaganda and people, corporations, and governments have been doing it since the beginning of humanity.

     

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  26.  
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    Ima Fish, May 4th, 2009 @ 12:12pm

    Re: Re: Re: I would Miss Google

    "do remeber Google does own YouTube"

    I do know. My point is that if I go to a page on Google Video I'll see the download option. However, I've never seen such options on a YouTube page. I'm not saying YouTube has never had them. I don't check it out every day. I'm just saying I've never seen them.

     

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  27.  
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    The infamous Joe, May 4th, 2009 @ 12:14pm

    Re: He Doesnt get it

    we have taken a stand, he just doesnt like the stand we have taken.

    QFT.

     

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  28.  
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    Ryan, May 4th, 2009 @ 12:17pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Paranoid Delusions

    Stupidity knows no bounds; perhaps ignorance is a better word here. A bunch of technological illiterates are resistant to change and adopt the popular mob sentiment among aging incumbents that new technology is undesirable? You could be describing my grandparents. Sounds like human nature to me.

    Doesn't mean you're wrong, but I think Hanlon's Razor is perfectly applicable here.

     

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  29.  
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    The infamous Joe, May 4th, 2009 @ 12:20pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Paranoid Delusions

    Actually, combined with the above "google is the internet" posts, I'd say that these people (writers, newspapers, musicans, actors, etc) see that the internet means the end of their legacy business models and in their minds google is the King. If you can take down Google, a silly thing like btjunkie.com will be a breeze.

    So, a combination of fear, jealousy, entitlement and greed are most probably spurring the systematic attack of Google from almost every front. (Google Street View? Really?)

    That's just my thoughts.

     

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  30.  
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    guy #1, May 4th, 2009 @ 12:23pm

    And also

    on top of everything you said google blurs out everyones faces in street view so I don't see how anyone could think that it is "A wonderful database for voyeurs, peeping toms and would-be child molesters." why wont people shut up about google and live with it, google is great!

     

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  31.  
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    Ryan, May 4th, 2009 @ 12:25pm

    Re: And also

    I bet you're running the anti-astroturfing campaign for Google, aren't you?

     

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  32.  
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    James Reginald Harris, Jr., May 4th, 2009 @ 12:27pm

    Surpressed news about Google

    If the Whole Truth will be told about Google,

    ("CADIE")

    the management has made such horrific offense against the world public that no one should have anything good to say about the company for the balance of its existance. If you are not aware of what they have done, then you are obviously out of the loop and should consider giving up as a reporter, as you have no tallent.

    Everyone knows but you. If there is a newsfreeze on the real news about Google, then there should be a newsfreeze on all news about Google. ("Pundit supporters") of google are taking their reputations and their reputations in history's own hands at this point.

    Major media outlets should rightfully be stearing clear.

    It is a frighteningly irresponsible company.

    Not at all Cute, Not at all Funny.

    Horrifying.

     

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  33.  
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    Ryan, May 4th, 2009 @ 12:40pm

    Re: Surpressed news about Google

    Does this read like one of those Nigerian 409 emails to anybody else?

     

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  34.  
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    DJ, May 4th, 2009 @ 1:07pm

    Re: Re:

    Muldavi is better. But that's hard to get outside Hawaii.

     

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  35.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 4th, 2009 @ 1:08pm

    Re:

    You bring up some valid points that make sense. Many of our elected senators and house members holding big company shares, including Microsoft.

    So by being owners in the company, elected leadership could naturally have a bias and favor legislation that favors the company they have ownership in.

    Then there's John Locke who has always been super chummy with Redmond. Good theory, may be a good deal of truth to it.

     

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  36.  
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    DJ, May 4th, 2009 @ 1:11pm

    Re: Re: Re: I use Google...a lot...

    My first internet xp was through AOL (::gasp::)

    When I finally ditched AOL I actually asked someone wherethe table of contents for the internet was......

    I finally got my answer....GOOGLE!!

     

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  37.  
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    DJ, May 4th, 2009 @ 1:14pm

    Re:

    "With Microsoft, winning is not enough. It's a zero sum game."

    You seem to the good ol' Bill wants a Monopoly. Clearly you are mistaken. I think the evidence i've offered speaks for itself.

    (just thought I'd use the same type of logic as Buiter for a sec)

     

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  38.  
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    Killer_Tofu (profile), May 4th, 2009 @ 1:15pm

    Whaaaatt?????

    Is this guy serious?
    If he thinks Google is laying the groundwork for big brotherism he must have been under a rock this whole time and just came out.
    If he calls that trying to act like big brother what the hell does he call what big content is always pushing and trying to do with copyright? Protecting the children or something? I think he has it all backwards.

     

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  39.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 4th, 2009 @ 1:20pm

    Re: Surpressed news about Google

    Find me some links, without using Google, to back up these claims.

     

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  40.  
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    DJ, May 4th, 2009 @ 1:22pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Paranoid Delusions

    I agree with Fish that it's no longer "adequately explained by stupidity."
    Malice? Maybe. Maybe not.
    Greed? A contributor, at least.
    Conspiracy? Well, if they really ARE after you does that make your paranoia no longer delusional?

     

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  41.  
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    Andrew, May 4th, 2009 @ 1:23pm

    google books

    I have downloaded pdf copies of books from google books.

     

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  42.  
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    DJ, May 4th, 2009 @ 1:25pm

    Re:

    Ever tried to google yourself? It's no longer a question of CAN you be found, it's how difficult is it to find you?

     

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  43.  
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    DJ, May 4th, 2009 @ 1:27pm

    Re: Re:

    Oddly enough I really can't find myself on google...but I CAN find my dopplegangers (yes that's plural)

     

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  44.  
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    DJ, May 4th, 2009 @ 1:35pm

    Re: Surpressed news about Google

    "horrific offense against the world public "??????????

    So they've accosted people? Placed the world public in concentration camps? What do you mean by "horrific"?

    Or are you still bitching about tracking cookies?

     

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  45.  
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    DJ, May 4th, 2009 @ 1:38pm

    Re: google books

    and I can copy letterhead and trademark logos of different companies and create "official" documents.

    No one is saying that it CAN'T be done, so what's your point?

     

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  46.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 4th, 2009 @ 1:46pm

    Re: Re:

    You bring up some valid points that make sense. Many of our elected senators and house members holding big company shares, including Microsoft. So by having an equity stake in the company, elected leadership could naturally have a bias and subsequently a fundamental attribution error that favors legislation that lawmakers have equity ownership in.

    Then there's John Locke who has always been super chummy with Redmond. Good theory, may be a good deal of truth to it.


    Sorry, Did I say John Locke? I meant to say Gary. I guess you know what's on my bookshelf!!

    But there may be something of a problem with lawmakers having equity ownership in businesses: as it can present something of an unintended bias. Does anyone else see this?

     

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  47.  
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    DJ, May 4th, 2009 @ 1:46pm

    Re: Re: google books

    Oh yeah and I have friends who have 10+ "official" PhD degrees from Harvard AND Yale....

     

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  48.  
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    Tgeigs, May 4th, 2009 @ 1:47pm

    Re: Re:

    Please see Aspartame, Searl, and Donald Rumsfeld

     

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  49.  
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    Bored, May 4th, 2009 @ 2:49pm

    Uh huh

    Yawn...wake me when something interesting happens...

     

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  50.  
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    trilobug, May 4th, 2009 @ 3:28pm

    "For a respected economist, you would expect better."

    Hmm....Really?

     

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  51.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 4th, 2009 @ 3:33pm

    Re: Surpressed news about Google

    What the FUCK are you talking about? Did you forget to take your meds and just go on the internet to ramble incoherent thoughts to anyone that has the misfortune of stumbling onto them?

     

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  52.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 4th, 2009 @ 5:42pm

    Re: Re: I use Google...a lot...

    100% of the residence on the space station use Google...we are getting closer to Jupiter.

     

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  53.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 4th, 2009 @ 7:00pm

    I have all kinds of google-related news streaming into my rss, and Google is pretty much facing a full-on assault from many outlets. I'm sure readers of this blog are well aware as techdirt articles crop up all the time in my feeds. Have a look at this:

    http://boycottnovell.com/2009/05/04/consumer-watchdog-exposed/

    Of course Roy is quick to connect the dots to a possible Microsoft link, which is fair enough as they've funded consumer watchdog anti-googlists before, but even if not, in truth it doesn't really matter who is doing all this, only that it is very real, and very devious.

     

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  54.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 4th, 2009 @ 7:38pm

    Re: Surpressed news about Google

    Cadie was an April Fools Joke.

     

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  55.  
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    MadJo (profile), May 5th, 2009 @ 1:15am

    The only thing you could accuse Google of doing 'illegal' (though it's a stretch) is its caching function.
    That takes entire pages, and makes a copy of it.
    It's a questionable but useful feature of Google, and you can opt-out from it.

     

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  56.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 5th, 2009 @ 3:13am

    Perhaps he did not express himself as best he could...

    There are quite a few things wrong with Google from their search engine to their digitizing of books. Perhaps you ought to start here before you continue on the wrong path: http://www.democracynow.org/2009/4/30/google_faces_antitrust_investigation_for_agreement

    "The Justice Department has launched an investigation into whether Google is violating antitrust laws by reaching an agreement with authors and publishers to digitize millions of printed books and post the contents online. We speak to Brewster Kahle, founder of the non-profit internet library Archive.org. He’s among critics warning Google could end up with a monopoly of access to information and exclusive license to profit from millions of books. [includes rush transcript]"

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  57.  
    icon
    jeadly (profile), May 5th, 2009 @ 5:41am

    Re: I would Miss Google

    I would miss Google too. I started making a list of services I use on a daily basis. gmail calendar chat docs reader maps earth picasa web search youtube groups sites hosted domain analytics blogger google voice android But this dude can't figure out how to dump his cookies, so I'm going to write him off by saying Willem made a miscalculation. No one would miss him.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  58.  
    identicon
    DB, May 5th, 2009 @ 8:30am

    Cookies are still fashionable

    "Still complaining about the threat of cookies to privacy? That argument has been out of fashion for nearly a decade, and every browser has pretty clear and easy controls if it's really a problem for Buiter. For most of us, though, we recognize that the cookies are hardly a problem."

    Somebody better tell Congress and the FTC...I don't think they got the message.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  59.  
    identicon
    Dale Harrison, May 7th, 2009 @ 6:23pm

    Faster Horses...

    The future of media will not be anything that looks like the current structures... A lesson worth remembering is that at the turn of the 20th century, people had a transportation problem...and the solution turned out not to be a "faster horse"...but a Ford. And one should note that the Ford didn't arise out of the "horse industry's" R&D efforts, nor the "Horse Industry Revitalization Act" nor the horse industry's attempts to experiment with new Business Models. I think the future of the media business will look as different as Ford and Toyota's operations look from horse traders and blacksmiths. ------ What's historically given value to editorial content is the relative scarcity of distribution versus readers (not the Kindle kind). Newspapers have historically enjoyed natural localized economic monopolies that allowed each of them to exercise monopoly control over the amount of content (and advertising) they allowed into their local marketplace. Monopoly constraint of distribution and supply will always lead to prices (and profits) significantly above open market rates. Newspapers then built costly organizational structures commensurate with that stream of monopoly profits (think AT&T in the 1970's). Unfortunately the Internet came along and changed all the rules! ------ The dynamics of content replication and distribution on the Internet destroys this artificial constraint of distribution and re-aligns advertising (and subscription) prices back down to competitive open market rates. The often heard complaint of Internet ad rates being "too low" is inverted...the real issue is that traditional ad rates have been artificially boosted for enough decades for participants to assume this represents the long-term norm. An individual reader now has access to essentially an infinite amount of content on any given topic or story. All those silos of isolated editorial content have been dumped into the giant Internet bucket. Once there, any given piece of content can be infinitely replicated and re-distributed to thousands of sites at zero marginal costs. This breaks the back of old media's monopoly control of distribution and supply. To paraphrase Nietzsche, "God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him with the Internet..." ------ The core problem for the newspapers is that in a world of infinite supply, the ability to monetize the value in any piece of editorial content will be driven to zero...infinite supply pushes price levels to zero! What this implies is that no one can marshal enough market power to monetize the value of content in the face of such an infinite supply and such massively fragmented distribution. Pay-walls, lawsuits and ill conceived legislation won't allow the monopoly conditions to be re-constructed because only ONE VERSION each story has to leak out to start the cycle all over again. ------ Another way to think about this is that once data becomes publicly visible on the Internet, its monetizable value rapidly dissipates to zero. This is at the core of why Google can extract $25B a year from the economy without creating ANY content...what they create is meta-data about content (which CAN be monetized)...and all that meta-data remains non-visible. Only the results of decisions based on that meta-data by their search and advertising platforms is made publicly visible. The lesson is that Google DOES NOT monetize other people's content...it monetizes its OWN meta-data. This is certainly one path to making the news profitable...not search per se...but various other approaches to the monetization of meta-data that's within the reach of publishers. So the exquisite irony is this: In the future, the only content that will have monetizable value is content that no one is ever allowed to read! (i.e. the meta-data) ------ There are certainly ways to make online news profitable...and many of us are working to develop such approaches...but I can assure you they don't involve inventing a "faster horse"... Dale Harrison dale.harrison@inforda.com

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  60.  
    identicon
    Dale Harrison, May 7th, 2009 @ 6:24pm

    Faster Horses...

    The future of media will not be anything that looks like the current structures...

    A lesson worth remembering is that at the turn of the 20th century, people had a transportation problem...and the solution turned out not to be a "faster horse"...but a Ford.

    And one should note that the Ford didn't arise out of the "horse industry's" R&D efforts, nor the "Horse Industry Revitalization Act" nor the horse industry's attempts to experiment with new Business Models.

    I think the future of the media business will look as different as Ford and Toyota's operations look from horse traders and blacksmiths.

    ------
    What's historically given value to editorial content is the relative scarcity of distribution versus readers (not the Kindle kind). Newspapers have historically enjoyed natural localized economic monopolies that allowed each of them to exercise monopoly control over the amount of content (and advertising) they allowed into their local marketplace.

    Monopoly constraint of distribution and supply will always lead to prices (and profits) significantly above open market rates. Newspapers then built costly organizational structures commensurate with that stream of monopoly profits (think AT&T in the 1970's).

    Unfortunately the Internet came along and changed all the rules!

    ------
    The dynamics of content replication and distribution on the Internet destroys this artificial constraint of distribution and re-aligns advertising (and subscription) prices back down to competitive open market rates. The often heard complaint of Internet ad rates being "too low" is inverted...the real issue is that traditional ad rates have been artificially boosted for enough decades for participants to assume this represents the long-term norm.

    An individual reader now has access to essentially an infinite amount of content on any given topic or story. All those silos of isolated editorial content have been dumped into the giant Internet bucket. Once there, any given piece of content can be infinitely replicated and re-distributed to thousands of sites at zero marginal costs. This breaks the back of old media's monopoly control of distribution and supply.

    To paraphrase Nietzsche, "God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him with the Internet..."

    ------
    The core problem for the newspapers is that in a world of infinite supply, the ability to monetize the value in any piece of editorial content will be driven to zero...infinite supply pushes price levels to zero!

    What this implies is that no one can marshal enough market power to monetize the value of content in the face of such an infinite supply and such massively fragmented distribution. Pay-walls, lawsuits and ill conceived legislation won't allow the monopoly conditions to be re-constructed because only ONE VERSION each story has to leak out to start the cycle all over again.

    ------
    Another way to think about this is that once data becomes publicly visible on the Internet, its monetizable value rapidly dissipates to zero.

    This is at the core of why Google can extract $25B a year from the economy without creating ANY content...what they create is meta-data about content (which CAN be monetized)...and all that meta-data remains non-visible. Only the results of decisions based on that meta-data by their search and advertising platforms is made publicly visible.

    The lesson is that Google DOES NOT monetize other people's content...it monetizes its OWN meta-data. This is certainly one path to making the news profitable...not search per se...but various other approaches to the monetization of meta-data that's within the reach of publishers.

    So the exquisite irony is this:
    In the future, the only content that will have monetizable value is content that no one is ever allowed to read! (i.e. the meta-data)

    ------
    There are certainly ways to make online news profitable...and many of us are working to develop such approaches...but I can assure you they don't involve inventing a "faster horse"...

    Dale Harrison
    dale.harrison@inforda.com

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  61.  
    identicon
    J.Meyer, Oct 14th, 2010 @ 3:12pm

    Something to hide?

    Seriously, I think Bill has some diiirrty secrets! I am, like many, a self-proclaimed google junkie and have read plenty about the prospect of Google going being bad for the planet. Even if all of this was true, I don't care. I don't have anything to hide. I'm not saying that I haven't Googled some questionable material (who hasn't), but you know what, let the world know it! Let them draw the curtain! Let us all be HONEST about ourselves. Sure, it would be shocking at first but eventually it would lead to an enlightened society OR the downfall of mankind. But who are we kidding, that wouldn't be so bad either, it would finally bring us world peace. ;)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  62.  
    identicon
    mickey, Feb 24th, 2013 @ 1:53am

    Time has revealed William to be correct in this case

    Techdirt are taking a hit on this one, because google are infringing other peoples content even more clearly today than when the article was written. Page previews on the SERP search results are a clear example of website screenshots being used by google without consent. Google images, same deal. People should not have to opt-out, they should have to provide explicit permission for google to use their content. Also, what about the loss of revenue from ads incurred by website previews? Guess who the winner is again? Yep, google not having to payup Adsense clicks, by showing screenshots in the search list instead of directing users to the real website.

    Also, try to screenscrape google and "index" their content on SERP results, eg scroogle.com and see how they responsd. Hypocrites will tell you you are breaching their IP, which they claim they are doing for Google News (indexing the news). What a hypocritical joke Google are! The only different between average Joe screenscraper and Google is the number of lawyers working for them.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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