Requiem For Google’s Last Honest Dance
In the movie Man In The Iron Mask, the young king spends the night with another in a series of very naïve young women who thinks she is in love by morning. She starts to talk to the king about breakfast and what they might enjoy to which the king replies, “I like to eat alone. By the way, you’re leaving tomorrow.” This in essence, is what Google has done to everyone they drew into the ballroom to dance with them in celebration of Google plus. At the end of the night, we have all been screwed and the illusion is over. One of the biggest incentives to online marketers and bloggers alike to form a new allegiance with Google on their new, if slightly clumsy social network and it’s oddly named similarities to likes and shares, was the promise of increased interactions and click-throughs because of the visibility of authorship images in organic search results.
Now they don’t need us anymore and they don’t want people to see us hanging around the palace. Best to make us invisible.
After two years of apparently feigned courtship to bloggers, marketers and business owners, Google pulled the plug on authorship images in search results.
I am not especially disillusioned and I understand that Google is a business. I am also under no illusion that what I present here is somehow a full representation of the truth about what Google is doing with authorship. The problem it illustrates however is how Google tends more often now, to treat people with disrespect especially as Google grows larger and richer.
What I say here is true, not in the sense that it is true to the exclusion of other truths and bigger truths about why Google made their decision. It is true alongside of those other truths. It well may be that Google’s intent and best effort was to improve their search results but doing so is like damming up the Yellow River in China to get more power. If thousands or tens of thousands of people live along its banks and have lived there for centuries of generations, that’s just too bad. Their homes will now be flooded and destroyed. They will be displaced and forced to live in strange new unwanted environments.
Google CFM “censorship for money” is what is happening. Maybe not from Google’s perspective but definitely from the perspective of everyone they have dismissed and disenfranchised in the course of making their large-scale decision that respects stockholders and profit margins more than they respect the people that helped get them there to enjoy those values.
Google brought all of us into a dance two years ago, promising a world where we had a voice and a means of expression like never before. We could interact with others on the web and retain our identity across search. That was until it somehow got out of their control. Once again, Google decided to take the easy route of censorship in the virtual universe. If you get too visible. If you get too much advantage. If you get out of line. Google will not hesitate to single you out and delegitimize or even punish you as an entity or as an individual. Play by our rules or we will silence you. It may not technically be a universe that they control but it is practically and functionally on a daily basis, an entire virtual universe that they control. It works like a universe and entities live and die there whether Google ever intended that or not. At some point, they began to leverage that reality with Google Plus. The problem is that this is not a universe they created. It’s not really their virtual property but they took control of it anyway. They simply came and took over a very large portion of the World Wide Web. Functionally and perhaps unfortunately, they have positioned themselves as a sole gateway and keeper of this world wide web for the majority of people who go online. They make the rules and enforcement is swift and targeted. They will punish you even if only to make you an example of you to others. They will destroy your entire business just to demonstrate that they can do so to others. This is as if to say “We can’t kill all of you but the next one we see, we will execute. Now, don’t get out of line, the rest of you.”
How many times has Google started out as your friend and turned out to be your enemy or at least your frenemy? Google often starts out promoting themselves as being on the moral high ground but somehow they end up on the strategic high ground only, and then their supporters defend them saying they are just a corporation taking the best course for their business, so morality doesn’t apply. That’s fine as long as morality is on the same level throughout the process from beginning to end and from the start when Google attracts new customers and new subscribers, but that isn’t what they do. They can best be judged not by what they say but what they do next.
In the attraction phase, they naturally acquire and accumulate a small cadre of dedicated defenders. Those defenders are also quick to correct you and are even ready to report you to the authorities if they see you breaking either the old rules or the new ones or even one that they decide are important that they make up themselves. When you get in bed with Google, the end always turns out the same. Just as you are marveling at how cool the king and his palace are, the king says “I like to eat alone. By the way, you are leaving right now.”
As long as we are willing to put up with the behavior of a bad king, the bad behavior we get is Google as it is today. Unilateral, unfettered, unbridled exercise of power regardless of what it does to any or most or even all of us.
Next time Google throws a party, and invites everyone to come in for a great time, I’m at first inclined to say “no thank you” but like most of us, I will probably go, but with my eyes wide open. They have done everything possible to ensure that no other choices are available.