My Failed Attempt to Boycott Google

I was going to boycott Google. Refuse to visit anything whatsoever associated with Google in any way online. They’re a huge company and, despite their trying their very hardest to look like the most moral company in history, they’re involved in some pretty shady stuff.  I’m the kind of person that would do that sort of thing as well- take a moral stance that no one would even notice and would make no difference at all; you know, just for my piece of mind. What I found shocked me, although it might seem obvious to some people- Google are now so dominant that boycotting them and still using the internet would be virtually impossible.

http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3153/2531535355_5bb97f36b8_o.jpgI bet some of you are thinking ‘well sure Google are huge, but there are some great alternatives out there. Surely they can’t be that dominant?’ That’s what I thought- Bing and Yahoo are of a comparable quality and at least seem to be massive. Obviously I went on Google to find out, that’s just how it works. It turns out over 90% of all internet searches in the UK go through Google.

But even if you were to train your inner monologue to go ‘I’ll internet search that’ rather than ‘I’ll Google it’, you’d still find yourself surrounded by Google. Even my emails are through Google, who by their count are the leading email supplier by quite some way and by comSource’s overtook Hotmail in November last year. Switching over your email accounts might be doable, but it’s a right pain.

If you do your research, you figure out YouTube- the webs dominant video sharing service even used by Governments, broadcasters, and EVEN the Vatican- isn’t the only site you could accidently click on, or product you could accidently buy that’s owned by Google. Motorola, Android, Picasa and Orkut are owned by Google, yet the casual boycotter could very easily not know this until it’s too late.

However, what shocked me isn’t that you’d have to put in research to avoid Google. What shocked me is the fact, no matter how much research you do, you most likely can’t avoid Google in Blogs, sites and in advertising.

Now Google’s Blogger isn’t the main player in the Blogging market. This doesn’t stop it being huge, and the miracles of template design mean an average viewer of a blog might well have no idea it isn’t a Wordpress blog. I know I can’t tell the difference.

On top of this, Google’s advertising platform AdSense is the biggest out there. Put together Google’s advertisements makes up over half the total market. They are used on sites so diverse you have no chance of not catching one- from political parties to newspapers to personal sites and everything in-between. As this is one of Google’s biggest money-spinners you’ve no idea who’s using, it’s the clincher. It puts the nail in the ‘Google boycott’ coffin.

Apart from all this, there is a serious point. Google is now probably the most powerful company in the world. In a world where information is power, they have the all information so all the power; and as 18th century British Prime Minister Pitt the Elder said, ‘Unlimited power is apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it’. They use this power to target their adverts- to coerce you into buying products based on what you’ve said about yourself. They do this, and you can’t escape them.

With no other companies so much as able to compete with Google, we don’t know how much of a raw deal we’re getting. Where there’s no competition there tends to also be a lack of openness. Google don’t tell you how they spend money when they lobby, nor do they pay the correct amount of tax.

http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5043/5346829113_14cdff5601_o.jpgAt this point I thought ‘surely we have laws at least in the UK and the EU to prevent this kind of complete dominance’. I was right, but Google pushes them to the limit. In January this year the American FTC dropped their case against Google for allegedly manipulating searches, a deal built on voluntary commitments by Google to alter the way they did things. The EU could well fine Google $5 Billion should they not come up with more robust promises to stop favouring their own services and copying reviews from competitors. Additionally Google has consistently been under scrutiny by the EU for the way it handles personal data with yet another possible fine emerging today. 

They’ve became well known for buying any business that might compete with them in the future. Spending $1.3 billion in the first half of 2013 on acquisitions alone, Google have bought over 100 companies with what at least looks like monopolistic intentions.

Surely it’s time for the EU and the US to start getting tough on Google in the same way the US did on AT&T in 1982- forcing them to sell off parts of the business that were anti-competitive and lose large parts that weren’t. If there’s a company you physically could not boycott in an industry that doesn’t need to be protected, you should really ask how they get away with it?