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.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    joe, Jun 11th, 2010 @ 5:23pm

    finally!

    Finally someone thinks with there head and sees that Apple is acting just like every other buisness out their. Its only cause they made it to the top. Everyone hates whos on top. When google is on top the same will happen to them. People naturally go for the underdog, thats not apple anymore. www.loogos.org

     

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      interval (profile), Jun 11th, 2010 @ 8:06pm

      Re: finally!

      "Finally someone thinks with there head and sees that Apple is acting just like every other buisness (sic) out their. Its only cause they made it to the top. Everyone hates whos on top."

      Your statement doesn't make any sense. Its both pro and anti-Apple. While I don't "hate" Apple, I'm not a fan and generally don't buy their crap. But I will say this for them, they didn't trot out a snappy saying like, say, "Don't be evil." and then baldly trample on their own creed.

       

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      illiterate, Jun 12th, 2010 @ 5:05am

      Re: finally!

      there their cause whos thats

       

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    Reed, Jun 11th, 2010 @ 5:33pm

    I think you are comparing apples to oranges here Mike. Google does offer open platforms, just not for their search and the reasons behind that are not totally clear. Although your suggestion about protecting their core business model may very well be true.

    Apple as far as I know offers no "open" platforms. So I think the comparison fails unless I am missing something.

    A big difference between Apple and Google is you could actually have a dialog with Google about this whereas I doubt Apple would be interested in chatting about their reasonings.

    I would agree though that the lack of an open search platform is troubling considering Google's stance on openness. I believe Yahoo is offering a open search platform now so maybe that will encourage Google to think twice about their current practices.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jun 11th, 2010 @ 5:43pm

      Re:

      You have never heard of the Macintosh? Really?

       

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        Reed, Jun 11th, 2010 @ 5:52pm

        Re: Re:hmmm

        I guess that depends on what you mean by a open platform. Can anyone program for OSX? I think that is a yes.

        Is OSX a truly open platform though? I would say not due to the fact that the OS itself is closed source.

        I guess we may be splitting hairs or I am just trying to cover my tracks :)

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Jun 11th, 2010 @ 6:17pm

          Re: Re: Re:hmmm

          Actually, the OSX kernel is open source, so you're wrong on that level as well.

           

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            Reed, Jun 12th, 2010 @ 10:23pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:hmmm

            Because the kernel is so useful without the userland. Give me a break :)

             

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              Anonymous Coward, Jun 13th, 2010 @ 2:42pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:hmmm

              If you're going to change the goal posts (Going from "Open platform" to "open source") then I can as well. And OSX is not closed source. The kernel is open. It's not complete open source and it's certainly not FOSS, but saying it's closed source is wrong. Completely and utterly wrong. And saying it's a closed platform because it's closed source (which it isn't) is dishonest and untrue.

              And plenty of people have made use of the kernel. Both OpenDarwin and PureDarwin use it. Plus there are other projects to port various things to Darwin.

               

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      Allen (profile), Jun 13th, 2010 @ 11:27pm

      Re:

      "Google does offer open platforms, just not for their search and the reasons behind that are not totally clear"

      "Google" didnt become a verb because of open software, it because a verb because their closed algorithm was superior to anyone else's. Why would they open it and invite their competitors to be as good?

       

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    Kurata, Jun 11th, 2010 @ 6:46pm

    I'm pretty sure the OSX really is FreeBSD's kernel.
    If Mac were to be considered opensource, then it'd have to release its whole source code.

    But let's face it, whether it be open or closed sources, both are doomed to eventual failure.
    Why?

    Well, let's put it this way : in a closed environment, development can be slow, and bugs comes to great amounts since not everyone uses a software the same way.
    It is also far less easier to actually make a software as people desire, since not everyone can modify it the way they want, or find what they want in eventual packages or updates.
    Add to that the fact that less idea comes up in a closed environment, even if you get feedback, and you get the idea.
    Another problem is possibilities. If you do everything at once (just like microsoft is trying to do), of course not everything will go the way you want it to go just due to the sheer amount of line of codes.

    Opensource could be an alternative, however it faces some other kind of problems :

    First of all, if no one wants to take care of someone's software, and that somebody wont take care of it, then it dies. OpenSource is mainly fueled by the will of its creator, while a proprietary software is driven by profit. And even if someone did take up upon the work, he might not be able to read and understand the code of the software and thus, might not be able to update it.
    What could end up being troublesome as well, is that a lot (maybe most) opensource coders are usually people from the 70s-80s era, who are now old, and young people does not seem to want to take up to it, as they might not earn much money through open coding. It's good to be willful, but even will requires means, and thus, you require money.

    In my opinion, both closed and opensource are doomed to eventual failure. But then again, I DO admit that I prefer opensource over closed source, even though I am not a coder myself.

     

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    Glitch23, Jun 11th, 2010 @ 6:52pm

    Partially Correct

    Actually Mike is slightly wrong in this post. Apple is preventing 3rd party advertising service providers from collecting analytics from iDevice users, if those providers are associated/partnered/owned by another company that also develops a mobile OS.

    Apple says its for protecting its users. However its most likely that Apple doesn't want its competition in the mobile market to data-mine its users for the competitions benefit.

     

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      Terry W, Jun 13th, 2010 @ 12:27am

      Re: Partially Correct

      @Glitch23

      You too are only partially correct. Only non-independent ad agencies (who are owned by or primarily in the business of competing directly with Apple) are not allowed to collect analytics data.

      A few independent ad agencies have already come out and said they aren't affected in the slightest by the new changes.

       

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      Ven, Jun 14th, 2010 @ 2:03pm

      Re: Partially Correct

      "Apple says its for protecting its users."

      Because only Apple should have the right to violate the privacy of it's users.

      The real root cause of this rule is when one analytics firm outed the iPad before launch because of ad tracking in an app tested on a prototype iPad. This is purely an move by Apple to have a way to keep secrets from competitors. It does noting to really protect end users.

      A way to protect both Apple's secrets and end users would be to include a setting to disable all ad tracking, Apple included. Apple could then just disable tracking on their prototypes and consumers would gain the ability protect some of their privacy.

       

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    jj (profile), Jun 11th, 2010 @ 7:13pm

    Wrong thinking on platforms

    Fairly, you should be comparing the iphone to the internet as platforms. Apple is locking google (and others) out of the iphone for advertising. They have the only keys to the castle in that world. On the other hand, who says I need to create custom search using only google? Bing and Yahoo offer similar choices. Google might be the giant, but they don't have singular control of the internet.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jun 11th, 2010 @ 8:08pm

      Re: Wrong thinking on platforms

      Actually people are making this exact argument against Google.

      Apple isn't preventing google from putting ads on the iPhone. However, they do prevent them from getting device information. Google is essentially saying they can't sell ads if they don't have this information.

      Well, this is exactly what people complain about Google. They say because of it's massive amount of information about what people search, they have an unfair advantage in selling ads that other companies who don't have that information cannot compete in the Ad market because of it. I don't really believe this claim either.

       

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      Terry W, Jun 11th, 2010 @ 10:24pm

      Re: Wrong thinking on platforms

      Apple is only locking Google (and other device/OS manufacturers) out iPhone for in-app ANALYTICS DATA-MINING. They can still advertise.

      Also, worth pointing out there is no way Apple could prevent them advertising and collecting analytics data on the web, so they'll just have to do that won't they.

      Google can hardly claim that web advertising/analytics isn't that good or useful, after all it's where nearly all their profit comes from.

       

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      SS, Jun 12th, 2010 @ 5:12am

      Re: Wrong thinking on platforms

      Then with a similar comaprison If you are able to build custom search with Yahoo and Bing ... GO ahead and distribute mobile ads on Windows Mobile or Android....Why are you dying to be on an Apple phone. Its not necessary for the whole world to open their technology to others. I can ask why I cant use Honda Accecories/Components with a Ferrari ... I know a silly comparison...but same applies to IT.Those who create a platform should be allowed to decide what they want to do with it. If people want to see Google ads they will stop buying iphone...Simple as that. From : www.grohyr.com

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Jun 14th, 2010 @ 5:12am

        Re: Re: Wrong thinking on platforms

        honda accessories won't work because they're not compatible. if they were, then actually, yes, you could use them on a Ferrari. your analogy is absolutely wrong on every level that is somewhat meaningful.

         

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    George, Jun 11th, 2010 @ 7:37pm

    You are wrong

    One big factual error; Apple does not prohibit other ad providers. They prohibit 3rd party analytics. AdMob can and does have their ads on the iPhone.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 11th, 2010 @ 11:17pm

    Apple is only locking Google (and other device/OS manufacturers) out iPhone for in-app ANALYTICS DATA-MINING. They can still advertise.


    Yeah, they can still advertise, they just can't collect the necessary data to get paid for advertising.

    As for Google's search business, it's in the public's best interests that the details of exactly how its search algorithm works are secret (SEO is a big enough problem as is). And what exactly are these innovative useful new tools that could be created with a better search API?

    Sure, Google and Apple both keep some things closed, but it seems to me that what Apple has been doing with its smartphone semi-monopoly power has been far more anti-consumer than what Google has been doing with its search semi-monopoly.

     

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      masquisieras, Jun 12th, 2010 @ 7:28am

      Re:

      You do not need analytics to know when a add is shown or when is click that is what you need to get paid for advertising. you use analytics to try to increase how much you can charge for that advertising

      While Google has a dominant cuasi-monopoly market presence in search and web advertisement Apple has a integrated product with no monopoly power in any market.

      What has make apple that is anti-consumer?

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Jun 14th, 2010 @ 5:14am

        Re: Re:

        if you're going to say that Google has a quasi-monopoly, you HAVE to say Apple has a quasi-monopoly too.

         

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    the difference is, Jun 12th, 2010 @ 5:15am

    The difference is that google search is a service, and the ipod and iphones are products. Once a person buys an ipod/iphone, it is their property. It would be nice if the owner of an item could do whatever he wants with it -- for example, install any particular piece of software on it, without needing for Apple, who no longer owns the device, to approve that action.

    Google search, on the other hand, is a service provided by Google, not a product to be purchased. Google runs it at enormous expense. For you to be able to use google results to make money by running your own ads, without paying google for the use of their service, is not at all the same as the situation with the ipod/iphone.

    You _can_ use google results and run your own ads, of course, you just have to partner with Google to do it and pay them for the use of their service.

    I think the author is confusing "open" with "no cost".

     

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      masquisieras, Jun 12th, 2010 @ 7:08am

      Re:

      You can do what you like with your ipod/iphone that does not mean Apple has to help you do it.

      "You _can_ use google results and run your own ads, of course, you just have to partner with Google to do it and pay them for the use of their service."

      and Google can decide they aren't interested and not partner with you.

      Apple has decided that they are not interested in partner with analytic firms that are trying at the same time to take their clients, so is not going to sell apps in its store that use that analytic firms. Google is saying that without the analytic they aren't interested in the ad business and that is going to be very bad so Apple should let them keep collecting data in their clients.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 13th, 2010 @ 11:52am

    googles saving grace is that they are not getting in between users and others by a physical product. if they made changes to android that did something like this, they would certainly be in a different boat.

     

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