Time for a Googleizer?

Everybody is speculating about Google at present, with Sidebar and especially GoogleTalk “pushing the competition towards interoperability” as Bob Cringely phrases it.
I like Google – how can you not, as an academic, like a company that has mission of “organizing the world’s information and making it universally accessible and useful.” This is something that a Ph.D. (and that is what they are hiring) can sign up for.
One interesting aspect of Google is that with $6.5b in the bank (assuming their recent drive succeeds) and an economic model with little marketing cost, relatively falling cost of production and a lot of developers who may not all be in it for the money, could actually do this, even if the ad market should tank.
The current stream of innovations from Google are partially driven off network externalities – you need a gmail account to do most things, your online behavior is monitored off that, the results are sold to advertisers, and as long as Google behaves (in the sense that they do not do things that are directly detrimental to their customers’ web experience or gross violations of privacy) they have a nice little business model. (Incidentally, their recent change to having redirecting links rather than letting you copy the clean link directly from the search results may be one instance where the company has sacrifized customer usefulness for improved tracking capability.) Each little piece further entangles us in their net, but since they are useful, we don’t mind and hardly notice.
Google seem to have understood that forcing vertical integration on their customers is counterproductive – hence most of their offerings allow you to swap out pieces for your personal preferences. For instance, you can install a plugin in your browser that gets rid of sponsored links in Google searches and the Adsense ads when you look at other pages. That is not a problem for Google, since very few people bother to install them. If Microsoft should install Google adblockers by default in the next update of Internet Explorer, on the other hand, it would be seen as the conspiracy of the Illuminati by the Slashdot crowd. Which it would be, in a sense. Unless you could turn off ads by other ad engines as well, including MSN.
Another interesting long-term challenge lies in the increased importance of the PageRank algorithm (and whatever permutations and adjustments since) as a driver of economic rent – at some point, Google’s dominant position as status ranker on the web might attract regulators and advocates for open source alike, demanding to know the details of what determines life and death in the Google search hierarchy. In a sense, Google might be Hoovered – their name so synonymous with an activity (net search) that they lose their ownership of their brand. If not in the literal sense, at least in terms of freedom to go whereever they want, also in time of economic need.
As for now, I am waiting to see Microsoft’s reaction to the danger that “Windows is slowly becoming a bunch of device drivers to run Google apps on,” to quote one enthusiast. It better lie in the realms of openness and innovation – or Microsoft could really become another IBM for a few years.
So far, Google does not seem to need a Googleizer the way Microsoft needed Scobleizer. But the demand is building, and a critical or at least unscripted voice from the inside and some statement of long-term direction would be nice now.
Assuming there is anyone in there, of course.

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