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Google's recipe: to serve man?

The odds are pretty good that many of you found this article with the help of a large technology firm based on the West Coast. The odds also suggest that many of you will move on from this page to sites or services operated by the same company -- and that you may also use this firm's software to do so.


Ten years ago, the company in question could easily have been Microsoft. Back then, I wrote a long, somewhat angst-ridden column decrying the extent of this Redmond, Wash.-based empire: "It's easy to spend your entire day using Microsoft software and content, with every dime you spend going through a Microsoft server somewhere. Where does it all stop?"

Today's column uses similar language -- "You can easily spend a full day on the Web without leaving its sites or applications" -- to assess the reach and influence of a technology firm that only merited a one-paragraph review in January 1999.

That corporation, of course, is Google. Since my first, cheery description (its closing line "Bonus: Google, still in testing, has no ads" now seems unintentionally hilarious, given where Google makes its money), this Mountain View, Calif., firm has taken up an ever-increasing share of my coverage.

This week, Google announced improved, turn-by-turn Google Maps navigation software for upcoming smartphones running Google's Android software. The subsequent beat-down that stock markets administered to shares of GPS vendors started me thinking about Google's influence over the rest of the tech industry: When it says "jump," do other companies run a Web search for "how high?"

My answer, as you can read in today's piece, is that Google has yet to reach a Microsoft-esque dominance over the technology business. In some cases, it can knock out competitors in a hurry; in others, its product remains in third or fourth place. Here are the ComScore numbers I alluded to in the story; these cover the U.S. Internet audience at home, work and school in September, rounded to the nearest thousand:

  • Yahoo! Mail: 105,458,000
  • Windows Live Hotmail: 48,962,000
  • Gmail: 39,251,000


  • Google Maps: 51,996,000

  • MapQuest: 39,801,000

  • Yahoo! Maps: 10,457,000

Photo sharing:

  • Photos: 44,796,000

  • Flickr: 24,657,000

  • 22,171,000

  • Picasa Network: 9,701,000

So for now, I'm comfortable relying on Google for some, but not all, of my Internet services. (My major exceptions are personal and work e-mail, photo sharing, travel searches, personal finance and social networking -- but note that Google doesn't even have a viable product in some of those categories. Well, yet.)


Are you actually worried about any of this stuff, or have you learned to stop worrying and love Google? Is fretting over this company's success just a hobby of pointy-headed liberal media elites? Talk to me in the comments -- and in my Web chat, starting today at noon.

By Rob Pegoraro  |  October 30, 2009; 11:07 AM ET
Categories:  Digital culture , Policy and politics  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Cutting costs by cutting the cord: an experiment with free TV
Next: A second look at Apple's Snow Leopard


"It's a cookbook!"

Posted by: baldricbear | October 30, 2009 11:53 AM | Report abuse

You left out Youtube, which must be at the top of its category, as well as being another great way to obtain personal information. And cloud computing (a top hacker's dream, as well as a cyber-terrorist's dream).

Count me as one of the people who doesn't trust Google at all. For privacy reasons as well as multi-billion dollar corporate bullying reasons.

Google, a Kanamit in sheep's clothing.

Posted by: buckdharma | October 31, 2009 2:02 AM | Report abuse

Google is a good corporate citizen. They are so rare that critics find it hard to believe.

Posted by: Desertstraw | October 31, 2009 8:43 AM | Report abuse

Google's dominance, especially in web search and ads, is quite concerning. Government anti-competitive enforcement lags a decade behind, not to mention the question of even if it has a place to enforce in many cases. It is up to YOU to self enforce as part of the user community. I still "google" sometimes, but consciously support Bing and Yahoo more for the pure intent of encouraging a healthier competitive environment! We all must take responsibilty for this with our actions.

Posted by: Tim6555 | October 31, 2009 9:31 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: katavo | October 31, 2009 9:41 AM | Report abuse

FYI, I'm one who found this article via it's showing up in a newsreader.

I use a mixture of services but, as I have posted in response to other articles, am extremely reluctant to trust very much personal stuff to the cloud. I'll probably be the last one to give in.

As to the central question you raise, I use Picasa Web photo sharing because it is one of the very few services that leaves me at risk that my photos will end up in the "attic" because I did not buy or view them for an extended period. I also use to quickly post something to be displayed in a forum somewhere because it is quicker to use. I have a gmail account that I do not use for email because I want my email on clients on my PCs. I usually use MapQuest out of force of habit. I do use Google Maps on my phone sometimes as well as on PCs. Google is my preferred search engine. For now, I see Google as relatively benign and, as you suggest, not looking as threatening as Microsoft, many of whose products I use regularly. That said, I'm prepared to change allegiances and spread them around to Linux, Firefox, Bing,, and others as the landscape changes and to avoid the dominance of Microsoft, Google and whoever else might pop up in the future in any given category.

Posted by: Arlington4 | October 31, 2009 10:07 AM | Report abuse

should have said that Picasa does NOT leave me at risk to losing access to photos - also, I agree that you overlooked YouTube as a segment where Google dominates.

Posted by: Arlington4 | October 31, 2009 10:10 AM | Report abuse

I avoid Google products, for the same reason I avoid MS products, to the extent possible with a WIN OS. That is because they are the gorillas of the IT industry.

Posted by: ChrisBrown11 | October 31, 2009 12:23 PM | Report abuse

Try all MS stuff not these people people!

Posted by: SteveBallmer | October 31, 2009 2:25 PM | Report abuse

Google already has a greater sphere of influence than Microsoft ever had. My technology column in InfoWorld -- along with several other columns written by authors who dared to raise concerns about Microsoft's anticompetitive behavior -- was terminated because Microsoft threatened to pull advertising from the publication if it was not. But Google doesn't just place advertising for one company, but for dozens. In fact, it's a bit perturbing that Google's logo appears twice on this page, and all of the ads here are placed by Google. (Those ads also serve up Google's spyware tracking cookies, invading visitors' privacy unless they've taken precautions that most do not know how to take.) If Google refused to place ads on it, would doubtless have to shut down. Should we be complacent in the face of such market power?

--Brett Glass

Posted by: squirma | October 31, 2009 4:28 PM | Report abuse

I think Google has farmed out the responsibility for their maps to people who don't know what they are doing. I live on one of the small Southern Gulf Islands near Victoria, British Columbia. Our Island is mislabeled, as are the road on it, the various waters around it,and several nearby islands.

Does anyone know how to contact Google about errors in Maps Google? The instructions they give for doing this don't work for me.


Posted by: Coasthaole | November 1, 2009 12:19 PM | Report abuse

Two weeks ago I bought a Garmin GPS for my geography-challenged wife. So far, I've sent in five error reports. The Garmin twice sent me on the wrong road when two routes came together then split. It directed me to a non-existent movie theater. It couldn't find an address at all. It sent me to a vacant lot instead of my wife's doctor's office.
In each case, there were no recent changes to roads, addresses, or locations that would justify the errors. Garmin's response was to try to sell me lifetime updates to their flawed mapping service.
But in each case, my clunky Palm Centro used Google Maps to find the correct route and correct location every time. I will definitely buy an Android phone next time and trash the Garmin.

Posted by: h22com | November 1, 2009 1:07 PM | Report abuse

On the back of their resounding success, Google has re-invested much of their profit in technology innovation. And the benefit is immeasurable – enabling consumers and small businesses access to technology that makes them more informed and productive in the hyper-competitive, knowledge-driven, global economy.

China and cash rich oil-producing countries build sovereign wealth funds to fortify their long-term economic prospects. In contrast, the US has innovators like Google who create products and services that enable a sustainable competitive position in the global economy. The US “sovereign innovation fund”, made up of the free market principles and balanced regulation that support it, is a concept that differentiates this country. It is an advantage we should be extremely careful not to cede.

Google is a national asset and I hope we don't give it the Microsoft/Judge Jackson treatment for a long, long time. There's a couple kids in elementary school right now who will surely knock Google down a peg or two once their brilliant company that does God-knows-what takes off in 2025.

Posted by: restondad | November 2, 2009 3:42 AM | Report abuse

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