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Google posts manifesto on open Internet

Google has come to symbolize a crusade by some in the high-tech sector for open Internet policies. But even within the Silicon Valley search giant, the concept of open Internet practices isn’t always clear.

Yesterday, Google’s senior vice president for product management, Jonathan Rosenberg, cleared the air. In a letter to employees posted on the company’s official blog, Rosenberg wrote what read like a manifesto of the company’s philosophy on what open Internet means to Google.

“Even though most everyone in the room believes in open we don't necessarily agree on what it means in practice,” he wrote.

Google has been a leading corporate proponent of net neutrality -- an idea being pursued with new policies at the Federal Communications Commission to prevent Internet service providers such as Verizon and Comcast from becoming gatekeepers of content.

As reported last week, Google is also planning to launch a mobile phone that may come unlocked. That means it may be developed to work on the networks of various carriers and not be distributed under the exclusive handset agreements that dominate today between carriers and phone makers such as AT&T and Apple.

Those exclusive handset deals have come under fire recently by the Federal Communications Commission, which is looking into a sharp increase in the early termination fees that Verizon Wireless charges consumers for leaving contracts early. Verizon charges the penalties to make up for handset subsidies from partnerships with handset makers.

In the Google blog, Rosenberg focused on two areas: 1) open technology standards, including access to coding to Google Android mobile operating software and Chrome browser; 2) open information, or transparency about what personal information Google has about users and what it plans to do with it.

“In an open system, a competitive advantage doesn't derive from locking in customers, but rather from understanding the fast-moving system better than anyone else and using that knowledge to generate better, more innovative products,” Rosenberg wrote.

Examples of closed systems: razors and iPods. The railroad system was also a closed system with seven different standards of track width. Only until the industry agreed on a uniform rail width of 4 feet, 8.5 inches did the network proliferate.

But to be sure, the lofty associations of open technology practices and innovation and public good also benefit Google’s bottom line.The more information that is exchanged on the Web benefits Google, which gets a bump in users going through its search engine to help find and organize that information. The company’s main business -- search advertising -- isn’t open and the company doesn’t intend to open it. Rosenberg's letter said:

While we are committed to opening the code for our developer tools, not all Google products are open source. Our goal is to keep the Internet open, which promotes choice and competition and keeps users and developers from getting locked in. In many cases, most notably our search and ads products, opening up the code would not contribute to these goals and would actually hurt users. The search and advertising markets are already highly competitive with very low switching costs, so users and advertisers already have plenty of choice and are not locked in. Not to mention the fact that opening up these systems would allow people to "game" our algorithms to manipulate search and ads quality rankings, reducing our quality for everyone.

By Cecilia Kang  |  December 22, 2009; 9:00 AM ET
Categories:  Google , Net Neutrality  
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Comments

Google's claim that search advertising and Web advertising are not "locked in" is laughable. They own 80+% of the market! Nor do they want their own private fiber networks -- which run coast to coast and internationally -- to be "open" to anyone else, though they strive to burden telecommunicatons companies with onerous regulation.

Of course, since Cecelia's blog and this site are sponsored by Google (and Google's logo appears not once but twice on this page), this article contains no critical analysis of Google's statements and no counterpoint. It merely quotes them verbatim, as gospel.

Brett Glass
Owner and Founder, LARIAT
The world's first wireless ISP (WISP)

Posted by: squirma | December 23, 2009 3:19 PM | Report abuse

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