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How did Google get so big? (cbsnews.com)
330 points by jonwachob91 8 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 396 comments



If I could give a six word response for the technical side: "Jeff Dean, Sanjay Ghemawat and team".

To paraphrase some Cal/UC Berkeley professor that I cannot remember, he said that the problem with scaling is that when you go up a magnitude or more, you may need a qualitatively different solution for the same problem. Jeff Dean and Sanjay Ghemawat and their team have time and time again managed to design and build state-of-the-art, qualitatively different solutions (MapReduce, BigTable, Spanner). And now their team's attention is on AI...

2016 (might be more recent ones) update on AI at Google http://highscalability.com/blog/2016/3/16/jeff-dean-on-large...

Video of full lecture: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QSaZGT4-6EY

EDIT: Sanjay Ghemawat and Jeff are like the dynamic duo of large scale systems engineering.


> the problem with scaling is that when you go up a magnitude or more, you may need a qualitatively different solution for the same problem.

Never been to Berkeley but I've heard something similar enough times that I've adopted it as one of my own aphorisms.

When the order of magnitude changes, so do the good solutions.

(This is also my thesis for why we keep repeating software history. We stop using a solution because it doesn't work with the current ratio of speed or costs for network, memory, storage and processing. Then someone introduces 10GB networking or SSD disks and the old solution works for 5 more years until someone introduces a new CPU that scales better horizontally or vertically and we start over.)


I think it's important to mention Sanjay Ghemawat is very likely just as important to google as Jeff Dean, just Jeff has been made the public figure for a variety of reasons.


Urs Hölzle (engineering VP) and Eric Veach (AdWords) also don't get nearly as much recognition as they deserve.


Huh, I had no idea the guy who wrote the light transport thesis also built Adwords.


He's also the chief contributor to the S2 Geometry Library.


Thanks for this, anyone know what he's up to now?

I can't believe he left CG behind :(


Thank you. I increased the answer to six words because you are very right.


I disagree with passion. The vision of Larry Page and Sergey Brin is responsible for Google's success. Jeff Dean, Sanjay Ghemawat executed Page and Brin's ideas, but they were not the key decision makers. Did Dean and Ghemawat decide to buy and then build Android? Did they decide to build Google Maps? Did they decide to buy YouTube?. The answer is no. Page and Brin would have hired other smart people if Dean and Ghemawat weren't available or had they left Google.


I agree, as I was not talking about the overall success of Google, just the success of Google's secret sauce (their backend infrastructure) that enabled it to sell ads and deliver search results with a high level of quality. If you read some of the books about early Google, they (Jeff, Sanjay et al) were really, really struggling to do stuff like index the web without the crawler collapsing mid-way. That's how MapReduce became to be developed.

Yes, Danger/HipTop, YouTube, and Keyhole are arguably the three smartest acquisitions that Google made.


Also, the Google SRE book makes the point that they couldn't have achieved their scale w/out approaching ops from an engineering perspective. Linearly hiring ops people as services scale would have been too expensive.


Approaching operations from a software development perspective wasn’t unique to Google.

Also ops is engineering and has been since before Google existed.


Ops is probably more reasonably called engineering than most so-called “software engineering”.



Someday Google's going to have to list the risk of Jeff Dean leaving on their 10-K ... (not entirely joking)


Companies actually do this behind the scenes. They list individual employees as financial assets.


Hmm, I hadn't heard of this practice before, and so I went searching and found this article to be a decent summary (posting here if others are curious): https://smallbusiness.chron.com/employees-intangible-assets-...


Even some small companies (100+ employee) carefully track attribution of their top N% of non-VP employees and tie it into executive bonus.


They certainly must have him insured...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corporate-owned_life_insurance


No, there's no point for Google to pay a third party to insure any risk of $1B or less.


Are there any risks at all worth insuring for Google? What’s the point of insurance if you have $100B in the bank?


That doesn't provide a perfect answer. Sanjay and Jeff (and a lot of other senior Googlers) were all at DEC. Why didn't DEC succeed to the degree that Google has?


And Softdisk had John Carmack and basically the entire original Id software team on their payroll. And Fairchild Semiconductors had the entire executive founding team of Intel, and Xeroc PARC had not only several key people but essentially the entire IP portfolio of modern computers, including some working prototypes...

"Success" is the result of a very large equation with many variables, and having (some of) the right people is only a few of them.


Because they didn’t have Craig Silverstein and many many others. Lets not pretend Jeff and Sanjay, as much talented and prolific as they are, are singlehandedly responsible for Googles success.


I don't know if Sanjay and Jeff worked directly on DEC's AltaVista search engine but that project was treated as a low-priority "demo showcase" for DEC Alpha servers instead of being seen by DEC management as a new multibillion dollar internet business to pursue. DEC could have had a "Bezos-hey-we-can-sell-computing-as-AWS" moment with AltaVista but they missed it and let Google surpass it.


They didn't - AltaVista was done by Louis Monier and Mike Burrows, both of whom also worked at Google and both of whom also made significant contributions to the codebase.

I do agree that management was the critical ingredient - my former VP at Google (employee #48) credited Urs Hoelzle (employee #9, and Google's first VP) as a key ingredient to Google's success. Ironically, though, Google hired Western Digital's management as well - SVP Alan Eustace came from there - and yet the team under Eustace at Google was much more effective than the team under Eustace at Western Digital.

I suspect that management has sort of a "gatekeeping" effect - if all of your management is good, the whole department does great things, but if a single link in the org chart is a dufus, the whole organization will fail. When I joined Google in 2009, my whole management chain (6 levels, up to Eric Schmidt) were all engineers, and it showed.


> I suspect that management has sort of a "gatekeeping" effect - if all of your management is good, the whole department does great things, but if a single link in the org chart is a dufus, the whole organization will fail. When I joined Google in 2009, my whole management chain (6 levels, up to Eric Schmidt) were all engineers, and it showed.

So true. As an engineer, the most direct impact on my productivity has been the team and manager. But the manager is a SPOF: if he/she is bad, then my productivity suffers.

I have yet to work in an organization where there was a good chain as you mention though. Maybe that's what sets Google apart. Smaller companies tend to have shorter management chains and I prefer them for that reason.


Mike Burrows was a coauthor on the algorithm behind bz2 [1]. It's the most mindblowing algorithm I ever encountered and so I have utmost respect for that couple of guys :)

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burrows%E2%80%93Wheeler_transf...


thanks for sharing, it seriously is amazing


They also had Dave Cutler and loads of other high profile people over the years.

Dozens have companies have benefited from the diaspora of DEC, and now Sun.


> To paraphrase some Cal/UC Berkeley professor that I cannot remember, he said that the problem with scaling is that when you go up a magnitude or more, you may need a qualitatively different solution for the same problem.

You might actually be thinking of Jeff's Stanford talk from a few years ago (2011). Slide 21 of:

https://static.googleusercontent.com/media/research.google.c...

  Ensure your design works if scale changes by 10X or 20X
    but the right solution for X often not optimal for 100X
There's no attribution, but that is good advice I've kept with me throughout my career. Props to the original author (perhaps apocryphal at this point?).


"And now their team's attention is on AI..." is quite the hype thing to say. Just because you can build a bigger bridge doesn't mean you're a good car designer.


Dean's PhD was in neural networks.

Also TPU2 is the only decent alternative to NVidia hardware in production, so that's a decent sign.


> "And now their team's attention is on AI..." is quite the hype thing to say.

Googles AI blows every other companies out of the water.

> Just because you can build a bigger bridge doesn't mean you're a good car designer.

What? How is that analogous?


> Googles AI blows every other companies out of the water.

That is certainly true, but that could also mean that Google will be the first company to hit certain unsurpassable road-blocks. Just look at Google Translate, which IMO hasn’t qualitatively improved for the better for at least 2 years now, even though most probably the data on which it is based is at least an order of magnitude “bigger”. The same might also happen to autonomous driving.


They have proven they are a good 'car designer' too over the last 3 years.


I think that Google's dominance has almost nothing to do with technology and almost everything to do with customer lock-in.

For me, duckduckgo.com is as good as Google but I still use Google because it's the default search engine for Chrome's address bar - And that's where I do all my searches from these days. If Duckduckgo made their own browser which was of the same quality as Chrome then I would definitely consider using it and switching to Duckduckgo for search as well.


For me it's because with Google I don't need to go to page 5 to find interesting results.

I've tried to use DuckDuckGo several times, each time I've quickly found myself trawling page after page of results, reverted to Google and found the stuff I was after on page one.


That used to be true for me but I've used ddg as my main search engine for a couple of years and I find myself using "!g" less and less. Actually you made me realize that I haven't used it in a while, probably weeks (and I've had a very busy couple of weeks with tons of opportunities to look for stuff online).

It's not because duckduckgo finds everything I want, it's because I've noticed that when ddg doesn't find something usually google doesn't either. Also whenever I end up on google now (generally because I forgot to change the search engine after a fresh install) I find the website cluttered which is a shame because it used to be in Google's DNA to keep the search page simple.

For instance I just made a completely random search on Google just to see what it would look like: https://svkt.org/~simias/up/20180727-235325_tou.png

What the hell is all of that stuff? If I wanted to browse the stock exchange or google maps I would. "People also search for" well good for them I guess.


100% same I wanted to love ddg but it's just not as good


If only they implemented "!g" as a simple button, I'd use DDG more often. Typing "!g" requires 6 touchscreen actions on mobile :/


DDG doesn't have stock prices, movie listings, or any of the useful "onebox" type information that Google has. It's just not as useful IMHO.


I have exactly the opposite experience, time after time after time.

The one area where Google search provides me with a notably better experience is in image search.


Could also just use Tor Browser - it's Firefox modified for privacy, all running through Tor, with search defaulted to DDG. Actually works pretty well as a drop-in system, and you can't beat the privacy.

Ironically, my biggest complaint is the search - a number of queries that I'd expect to "just work" on Google, DDG really struggles with. There actually is a noticeable difference in quality between them.


You know you can change where the browser bar searches; In chrome, in Safari, and in Firefox, and Edge.


There is a huge benefit to being the default, if that wasn't the case google wouldn't pay all the companies they do billions of dollars a year to be the default.


That wasn't true until recently on Chrome/Android, and seems to be a direct response to EU actions.


Out of curiosity, what prevents you from using Firefox? It allows you to specify a default search engine -- which you can set directly to DDG.


> Out of curiosity, what prevents you from using Firefox? It allows you to specify a default search engine -- which you can set directly to DDG.

Chrome allows you as well.


I use FF and DuckDuckGo. It's super easy.


I also heavily use the cli ddg search. Might try that out for anyone else who lives in the terminal.


I used to wonder why search engine companies care about which engine is the default in a browser because it only takes a few seconds to change it but now I know why. People are lazy :/


It gets worse. I remember I had a friend that had a piece of spyware that set his default search engine to something else. At first glance I didn't realize it was a piece of spyware because all his searches looked like normal searches, albeit on a generic looking page.

I wondered why he didn't switch to Google or something else at the time and it used to annoy me whenever I was using his desktop for anything. Then I took a look into it and found out that he actually couldn't set his default search engine through his browser anymore, in Firefox or Chrome actually.

It was a browser extension. For that entire time there was a piece of spyware on his computer probably watching all of his browsing that he probably could have figured out about himself, if he wasn't too lazy to just switch his search engine. Once I looked into it, it took all of five minutes (if that) to figure out what was happening and remove the problem, and he's not exactly tech illiterate. He literally just didn't care or want to take the time to switch his search engine.

That's a data point. Just one, anecdotal data point, but take it how you will.



DuckDuckGo is terrible for non English speakers though.


If that happened Google would probably ban Android phones that use Google apps from using third party browsers (like they already did for third party search providers). Then your tabs wouldn't be able to sync with mobile.


Or you can use Firefox


On the market end - Google got huge because they inserted themselves as a critical part of peoples' usage of a resource that got even huger.

As late as 2013, my coworkers and I would mock the Wall Street analysts who covered Google because (you could tell from their questions on the earnings call) they assumed that the Internet was no longer growing. So all the focus was on CPCs and Google's ability to monetize, when the number of queries had quadrupled over the previous 4 years. You can hold monetization absolutely constant and if usage is growing 400%, your revenue will grow 400%.

Just two days ago Google's earnings came out and people were wondering how they still managed 20% YoY growth. Some of that undoubtedly came from Cloud & other emerging businesses, but I'd bet that the Internet is still growing.

CoinBase is trying to pull off the same thing with crypto - they're a critical onramp for people wanting to get started with a new, fast-growing technology. Regulators & the press always fight the last war, though - they're focused on Google and Facebook rather than on the next wave of giant monopolies.

People always underestimate the potential size of consumer markets, because their perspective is human-centric. Before they & their friends adopt a new technology, it's a toy or a fad and will never catch on. Afterwards, everybody they know already uses it, so of course it's old news. Few people realize that "everybody they know" is less than one millionth of all of humanity, or that if you're in a developed country you will get innovations 10-20 years before the rest of the world does, or that if you're in a tech metropolis in a developed country you will get them ~5 years before the rest of the country. "The future is here, it's just unevenly distributed."


Coinbase is not the next Google. They provide no actual value, beyond making it easy to join a bubble. Google's value proposition in the early days was enormous, very obvious, and continues to this day.


If you have already accepted cryptocurrencies as the wave of the future, Coinbase provides enormous value. You can't do much in the crypto world without owning some cryptocurrencies, and they are the largest, easiest to use, and generally most trusted way to exchange $USD for Bitcoin or Ethereum.

Most Americans have not accepted that premise (and I don't exclude myself...I'm on the fence as for whether crypto is a bubble or the future of world commerce). However, I'll point out that in 1996 when Larry/Sergey/Scott Hassan were first working on Google, it was far from obvious that the web would be a big thing. Streaming audio (via RealAudio/WMP/etc.) was a year in the future; most Americans had 14.4K connections that made it impossible (my first MP3 took 2 hours to download a 5 minute song). E-commerce was clunky and sluggish, and the big "order everything online!" push was 2 years in the future. There were only 36M users online, roughly the same order as the number of Bitcoin users in the U.S. (Bitcoin has more international adoption though). Interactive websites were almost unknown, because the technology really didn't support it. Most people used the web for porn, or to lookup song lyrics and share their favorite bands, or to share scientific information.

It wasn't until the early 2000s, after the dot-com bubble burst and yet people continued using the Internet (and found a lot of new uses for it, like dating/socializing/paying for things/watching videos/sharing photos/finding lodging), that it became apparent that it was really here to stay. Not coincidentally, those were Google's biggest growth years.


In 1996 the internet was in every imp University campus worldwide and every CS dept had multiple labs working on a lot of the what most people take for granted today that allowed the internet to scale.

No such thing is happening with bitcoin. You can't scale something to internet levels if its banned in half the worlds research labs.


"Every imp[ortant] University campus" is a tiny subset of "all people". The total population of 4-year college students in the U.S. is 13.4M, roughly the same as the number of Coinbase users. In 2005 Facebook was in every important university campus worldwide, and yet people (including myself) continued to call it a fad until they started making billions in 2012.


1996 was exactly when it was obvious the web was taking off. That was right when the transition was happening from online services like AOL that gave you some Internet access as an aside, to ISPs that just connected you directly via PPP. I was hired to answer tech support calls for some guys that had started an ISP in their apartment and within a month or two they'd grown exponentially and expanded to real offices.


"There were only 36M users online, roughly the same order as the number of Bitcoin users in the U.S."

When you say "users", what do these users "use" Bitcoin for besides speculating on its price?

Do you know of any real usage?


Bitcoin is presently used for illegal activity, remittances, currency in countries undergoing hyperinflation (Zimbabwe, Venezuela), as a way to make oneself feel wealthy, and of course price speculation.

Ethereum is currently used for startup fundraising via ICO, for tokens in collectible games (Cryptokitties), to distribute ad revenue from browsing the web (Brave), to incentivize participation on curated social news sites (Steemit), for decentralized prediction markets (Augur), to get paid for donating computing power (Golem), and of course for speculation. Possibly others I'm not aware of too.


> If you have already accepted cryptocurrencies as the wave of the future, Coinbase provides enormous value. You can't do much in the crypto world without owning some cryptocurrencies, and they are the largest, easiest to use, and generally most trusted way to exchange $USD for Bitcoin or Ethereum.

If you accept it sure. However, the utility between the internet and cryptocurrencies are vastly different.

The internet provides light speed communication and seeing as we are a species built upon communication, communicating from days to fraction of a second which is also orders of magnitude cheaper (granted, not at the start but it got there and cryptocurrencies have not solved the scaling problem (cost) yet) is hugely beneficial. The benefits are completely obvious.

Cryptocurrencies provide you the ability to incentivize people you cannot trust to spend money to secure a network in the hopes that the cost of securing the network is greater than the cost of someone oversupplying your network and stealing your money.

Also, the benefits of control not being enforceable by a central authority is a bad thing in most cases and the few that are useful are outweighed by in pretty much every use case the billions of dollars it costs to run those computers to secure it.

It has been almost 10 years since the bitcoin network started, where is its killer use case?

Lastly, the billions of dollars spent to pay for the decentralized network to secure it are mostly payed for by creating new coins. At the end of the mining timeline, they will have to rely purely on transaction fees to pay for the costs to secure the network and the billions of dollars used to do so currently at a fraction of the scale Visa does will likely never outweigh the benefits of decentralization.

TLDR: Running decentralized nodes to recompute the same transactions to protect against untrusted nodes will always be more expensive than running each transaction on a single node on a trusted server.


The point though is that Coinbase is the same kind of play. And really, you don't need to be "as big as Google" to succeed in life - you just need to make your millions and get out with them.

Coinbase is a bet on the idea that there's enough crypto-enthusiasm that they can capture a small part of a lot money while it lasts.


This was one of the points made in http://www.dtc.umn.edu/~odlyzko/doc/metcalfe.pdf about why people find Metcalfe's law compelling despite the numerical evidence against it.

Our personal perception of the size of a network is directly proportional to the value that we get from it. Extrapolating from that we estimate a square law. However we are neither aware of nor directly value the long tail of people distant from us in the network. From multiple ways of estimating, the value of that tail works out to be O(log(N)), leading to a O(N log(N)) valuation for a network.


Your and Odlyzko's refutation still fails to consider frictional or hygenic costs. These are roughly constant for n, and set an upper size bound where marginal (actually: constant) cost exceeds marginal value.

Since a novel network might be able to selectively recruit high-value nodes, this sets up the serial monopoly / collapse / new monopoly dynamic.

A few other dynamics added (Gresham's law, tyranny of minimum viable user) accentuate this.

https://old.reddit.com/r/dredmorbius/comments/1yzvh3/refutat...

https://old.reddit.com/r/dredmorbius/comments/61goq1/softwar...

https://old.reddit.com/r/dredmorbius/comments/69wk8y/the_tyr...


This is sort of what I was inquiring about in my other post on this topic. Very nice work on the content in those links, thank you.

Are we forever resigned to serial monopolies when it comes to certain aspects of the internet ? Or, would it be wiser for us to construct multiple, smaller networks wherein the connections are more valid/constructive for the individual participants ? Very intriguing questions...


Are we forever resigned to serial monopolies...?

That's an excellent question, and one I'm considering.

The dynamic I describe seems to produce those. And monopolies and networks are tightly related.

In particular, it seems to me that very nearly all monopolies have a network element, expressed physically or logically. You may have to squint at times to see it.

But is the converse true? Do all networks create monopolies? Here I think the answer is no, in which case the question becomes "why not".

That might hold some clues.

Open protocols, counterveiling networks, various forms of friction, and holding specific control points open, all seem to help.


To clarify: your contribution is useful. But incomplete.


Ads.

Previously to buy ads you had to call someone, get dinner with some weird guy, make tons of calls, get crappy click rates, trust the other companies 'reporting', pay for impression ads (wtf). It was a mess. You also had to do this with 23 DIFFERENT companies, which were all different. Google wasn't the first, but they did follow through and make a great way to advertise with self serve.

Selling ads is awesome. No overhead, no rotting inventory, no operations mess. It scales infinitely naturally. It is clean easy cash. Everything else they do is a huge side show to distract people.


> Everything else they do is a huge side show to distract people

Or attract more people to use their services to sell more ads


Google didn't invent online ads, not even the auctioned ones. Also, their innovations in the online ad space were generally limited to their search-based ad business.


Its technically true just like its true that they didn't invent online search. Their innovations (either in house or through acquisitions) have fundamentally changed the ad space as the GP mentions. And this is an ongoing process as well as more and more people move off the more mainstream media platforms.


And Apple didn’t invent the smartphone, but they reimagined it in a way that basically made things 10X better in UX, just like buying ads on google is 10X better than the process described earlier.


s/better/easier, to be safe


No, but they had the user base, the data, the presence and the focus to do it better than the established ad companies.

And now we're at the point where more than half of all digital ad revenue in some countries are pocketed by Facebook and Google.


I mentioned some of the history, including the DoubleClick acquisition, in the essay.


I recall one of the questions in my interview at google years ago:

"Do you know what kind of company Google is?"

"Sure, everyone thinks you're a tech company or a search company or whatever - but Google is an advertising company, and thats it. All the other stuff distracts from the fact that youre just the most profitable ad company."


> "Sure, everyone thinks you're a tech company or a search company or whatever - but Google is an advertising company, and thats it. All the other stuff distracts from the fact that youre just the most profitable ad company."

That is pretty much the most anti-google culture perspective statement you could have said. If there was ever an argument for culture fit, this is it.


Well techncially Google is an information company that happens to use ads to fund its mission of making information more accessible and useful.


Spotted the Google employee.


was


"claims to be", perhaps.


Strange, then, that they would bury more useful sites in their search results in favor of their own competing products.


Did you get hired?


I went through a three month-long interview process with them... then they said I did very well and they would be extending me an offer.

THen next day, they called and said I would not receive an offer and would not give a reason.

THey invited me to interview for that position multiple times over the next couple of years and I finally had to ask them to stop recruiting me for that position... they stopped. :-(


Maybe there were additional reasons, but tbh the answer you gave was very bad and probably would have been grounds enough to not hire you.

>"Sure, everyone thinks you're a tech company or a search company or whatever - but Google is an advertising company, and thats it. All the other stuff distracts from the fact that youre just the most profitable ad company."

When given the opportunity to demonstrate nuanced thinking, you've boiled down a really complex and large thing into a simple platitude. "Google is an advertising company, and thats it". Really, is that the full story? You truly think that?

I mean if that were the case and you wanted to be genuine you could at least dive to another level and explain why or how.

And for reference it probably would have been okay to say 'No, I'm not sure what kind of company Google is. I know that you guys do X and Y, but I know there's some other stuff too, but I don't have any insight because I don't work here'


In terms of revenue and profit, Google was and is an ad company. A concise answer to the question couldn't really be much more accurate.


I think you're making the point with your own answer.

You say "in terms of revenue and profit...". Oh! Great point. I'd say you are right. What if you were to frame it in other terms?

I mean if the entirety of Google can be summed up in 3 sentences, what topics in the world do you consider to have depth?

Imo it's looking at a Shakespeare sonnet and saying 'yeah it's fucking poem'


They asked him what kind of company Google is. They weren't asking for an essay on a Shakespeare sonnet or anything close to that end of the spectrum.


You don't think the kind of reply he gave is pretty combative for the interviewing for a job at said company?

You recommend that as a path forward for people who interview at your company or at Google in the future?

Look I understand sometimes people don't want to work at a certain company. But typically it's better to decline the interview than to show up and be smug or righteous about it.


So his options are 1) be delusional about a company's product, or 2) work for another company?

No one at Google has qualms about working at an ad company? No one at Facebook does?

For some people, a job is a job. It doesn't have to be a calling or a mission. I personally wouldn't work in ad-tech for personal reasons, but clearly most of our industry would. Are 100% of those people fine with what their company does? Clearly at Facebook they aren't.

Honesty isn't combative, and if the interviewers say that honest answer in that way, then it would reflect their own misgivings about Google's business model, wouldn't it?


I understand your ideological stance, I really do

But read his reply again: >"Sure, everyone thinks you're a tech company or a search company or whatever - but Google is an advertising company, and thats it. All the other stuff distracts from the fact that youre just the most profitable ad company."

"an advertising company, _and thats it_" (emphasis mine) "your _just_ the most profitable ad company" (emphasis mine)

Really? It's that far in 1 direction

If you really think that, fine it's your opinion and you are entitled to that, but I encourage you to seek multiple perspectives in the future.

I've already conceded that google is an ad company from a rev perspective since it's 87% ads. But you can't concede to me (the interviewer) that maybe there's something else going on and your legit view of the other people at the company is that they are just "distractions"?

Like seriously, you don't have to put up these tough walls. I'm just an internet stranger. Just be real for a moment. Is that what you really think? It's the last time I'll ask.


This was ten years ago, so I don't even care about it any longer..


Why is Google being big a problem? Who are they hurting by being big at this time?

[edit]: to elaborate, I was under the impression that the whole point of anti-monopoly regulations was to protect consumers from monopolistic predatory practices, not to prevent monopolies from actually existing per se.

Hence my question: is there anyone actually being hurt by the currently limited choice of search engines or phone operating systems?

Also, what prevents someone from trying to build a much better one?

If Google starts to misbehave as a monopoly, fine, let the USG (themselves a monopoly, btw) do their thing go after them.

But as long as they provide a superior service for free (yeah, I know, you're the product, blah, blah), I'm not sure I'm seeing the problem.


One example: By preventing phone manufacturers who use Android and Google services from also selling phones with other operating systems they are killing the opportunity for another phone OS from gaining traction.

We could have missed out on the opportunity for something better than Android being developed and we'll never know. It's called dumping; flooding the market with something free to kill competition and make sure Google is in the majority of hands in Europe.


If I'm not mistaken, they contractually limited manufacturers from selling devices with Android forks, according to Google to avoid experience fragmentation.

AFAIK the terms didn't limit any other operating systems not based on Android.


Yep actually I retact part of my original comment. Thanks for the correction.

The dumping part is still valid because any OS that isn't free and relies on licencing can't complete with an OS that makes it money from a secondary business like search and advertising.

Google gave away Android to make sure it dominated mobile advertising. Any OS reliying on profits directly from licencing the OS cannot complete.


Your comment is still false. Google allows Android forks with their services installed. You just can't break the API, which makes sense, otherwise apps from the store wouldn't reliably work.


No, the dumping part is valid. Free OS with free services to kill competition.


Wouldn't this line of thinking mean all open source code just dumping? The linux kernel, with lots of its development done by either volunteers or employees of companies who use it, is also given away for free. How can a paid licensed OS compete with what is essentially a co-op of developers across organizations giving the code away for free?

Is Firefox also dumping, since it's available for free, funded by donations and the default search provider?


This only becomes an issue when you are a monopoly as this is when it hurts the consumers ability to choose alternatives. If Android truely is the best option let the customer decide without trying to stifel competition.

Firefox and Linux don't work to stop competition in the same way. Neither care if manufactures provide other options or flavors and Linux especially has commercial forks like OSX and Android.


This is false. Samsung and others made Microsoft phones as long as it was a viable alternative. Google restricted others to prevent a split of their own platform - Android.


It's not so much they are hurting anyone, since they have made it virtually impossible to compete with them.

Say you do a search for a particular location, the first thing that pops up to the the top of the page is a box with some information pulled from wikipedia and a link/image of it on google maps. Search for a band, and you see the same with links to youtube and google music. Search for online storage and you see the same thing.

While google has been audited time and time again to prove that their search engine totally allows competitors to make an impact against some of these sorts of things. Even without the box, the builder of the worlds most used search engine is certainly very good at search engine optimization for their own products.


if they're _purposefully_ ranking their own services above competing services, then yes, I agree they should be fined until they stop. _however_, more often than not, their own service is _exactly_ what I'm looking for - be it GPM/YouTube/Maps/etc.

It's not really their fault they're head and shoulders above the competition/the de-facto provider for most of the content people search for every day (well, maybe it is their fault, but it's not a bad thing).


Exactly. I really don't understand why people try and muddy the waters around Google products. I'm not forced to use Google; Google products are just damn good.

Having a monopoly in a market due to the fact that your product is just that good isn't a bad thing, and punishing companies for being successful sets an awful precedent (which is why breaking up Google isn't going to happen). From search, maps, email, YouTube, and to photos, Google products are widely used because they're completely free (aside from the data collection portion) and they're best in class.

Please don't lie to us and act like Google's monopoly position is hurting the market. I'm sure Google is doing some shady stuff on the edges, but nothing so egregious to warrant antitrust action.


Why are their products that good? What is it that makes content creators publish on youtube rather than on other platforms. I'd argue that a huge part of this is the fact that youtube gives creators more visibility than other places, and since google is able to leverage search in addition to their advertising business to bring more eyes to youtube is the reason for the platforms success.

I think your confusing googles monopoly not hurting the market with not hurting their consumers. But to suggest that they don't make it near impossible for anyone to compete against them is absolutely them hurting the market. Namely, the equity value of google would be more balanced with other smaller firms, and in turn we'd see more very rich people rather than fewer people with net worths well over 10 billion.


I still see plenty of other video listings from other sites in my Google search results, and even if they're ranked above equivalent YouTube results I always pick the YouTube listing.

I have no doubts why I do this; YouTube provides a far better experience. It's incredibly bandwidth efficient even when my connection is slow, it's very responsive when seeking, and their time-to-first-video-frame is really good. And perhaps most importantly, it's consistently good. I don't get UI or playback issues every 10th video.

I cannot say the same for any other video host I've come across in my life. It's ridiculous how far ahead YouTube is on technology alone, and I still haven't found any site that can match it.


There are Google products which are inferior compared to their competitors, and usage rates show that as well: YouTube Gaming/YT livestreaming are basically platforms that only host people banned from Twitch.


Youtube live will keep vods for life and has had a DVR feature since release. Twitch doesn't do either.

They tend to release great products, their problem is that they just don't always do it first.


>Namely, the equity value of google would be more balanced with other smaller firms, and in turn we'd see more very rich people rather than fewer people with net worths well over 10 billion.

Why would that be a good thing? Or rather, a better thing than the current situation? Why would that even be desirable?

Again, antitrust laws exist for one reason: to protect consumers. Not to implement someone's idea of an ideal society or market.

If you believe e.g. that company equity should be more uniformly distributed, go talk to your congressman, have him draft a law to that effect and get congress to vote on it.


> Why would that be a good thing? Or rather, a better thing than the current situation? Why would that even be desirable?

Because wealth inequality is massively harmful for society. It's the sort of thing that leads to revolution.

> If you believe e.g. that company equity should be more uniformly distributed, go talk to your congressman, have him draft a law to that effect and get congress to vote on it.

and then Google writes him a check and the whole thing goes away. Biggest lobbyist around.


> Because wealth inequality is massively harmful for society.

Nope.

Hunger, poverty, lack of education, lack of access to medical care, etc.. is harmful to society and leads to revolutions and whatever root cause leads to those is to be fought against.

Except that wealth inequality isn't such a root cause.

Wealth inequality isn't and has never been a problem except in the minds of utopian ideologues, collectivists or people with a basic jealousy problem.


You're pretty dismissive of a theory I find interesting, I wonder if you've ever really entertained the idea that a wealthy country will cater its services to those who can pay, leaving those who can't pay behind.

So USA has a high median income, so we have high education outcomes, high healthcare outcomes, right? We certainly have the best schools and the best hospitals. But only the top few percentile can afford the best schools and best hospitals, everyone else gets left behind.

But we have higher infant mortality than many countries with lower incomes, and we don't compete so well when it comes to average assessment scores.

Naturally I was exposed to this thinking via a TED talk years ago, from this guy:

https://www.ted.com/talks/richard_wilkinson

Maybe you want to offer a rebuttal, or maybe you just want to insist he's jealous.


> Wealth inequality isn't and has never been a problem except in the minds of utopian ideologues, collectivists or people with a basic jealousy problem

"Let them eat cake"


Cheap shot, unworthy of HN.

> Hunger, poverty, lack of education, lack of access to medical care, etc...

All of these woes were in play at that time.

Unlike the poster above who showed a source that tries (and fails imo) to show causation between wealth inequality and said woes, you provided exactly zero value to the conversation.

Good job.


Google Photos was horrendous for years, and they aquihired several best-in-class companies (Picasa, and then a few mobile photo editing apps) and killed their products.


> I'm sure Google is doing some shady stuff on the edges, but nothing so egregious to warrant antitrust action.

And when they do do stuff that is so egregious but they are too big ($$$) how are you going to stop them from abuse? Isn't this why, for example, people absolutely loathe telecom/ISPs? Sure they were great when the internet first came out ("it was just that good"), but now look how abusive they are since only a few co's own the copper that runs into your house.


Is it because their products are that good, or because they have one monopoly that also functions as a money hose that they can aim as needed to decimate competition in other areas.


Yes, because all Google has to do is use their search money to destroy the competition; it's not like Google has any failed products or anything. /s

Also, being a multibillion dollar company and using your billions in one product line to either prop up or build another product isn't illegal. It's just business.


Did you ever use Excite/Alta Vista/Yahoo, MapQuest, Hotmail, etc? Because if you had, you wouldn't have to ask that question. Every product Google has had success with was better than the competition by a large margin. When it failed (Google+) it gained zero traction.

The competition sucked and they have yet to make something better.


We have to think deeper as to why their service is the one that's preferred though.

Part of it is the fact that they had historically been able to subsidize the monetization potential of their other services in order to out compete those who needed their services to make money.

The other half is more speculation, but certainly very possible, that they've been able to play this game for a long enough time that they have been able to use search to build these brands in such a way that makes us think of them first for all of these services. Brand power is a very powerful thing, and considering the fact that they have a subsidized ability to advertise to us (both through promoting things in search, and by not needing to pay themselves for adsense/adwords) is what has made these the more high quality services over time since we have given our data to them.


VC funded startups also subsidize product development and marketing.


Travel search engines used to be big business. They still are, but they're hurting, and not a small part of it is due to Google having a onebox of flight info. I personally love that onebox - I book all my flights through it - but I'd have a hard time explaining how it's not anticompetitive. Vertical integration can have some great efficiencies, but it can also destroy once healthy markets, and I only see that getting worse with modern supply chain management and similar technologies.


Are travel search engines hurting? priceline's stock is higher than ever?

This said, I agree with you on everything else you've said.


As is Expedias, though Trivago has been terrible since ipo; my assertion was not well founded.


>well, maybe it is their fault, but it's not a bad thing

I'd argue that having a single entity have such power over something so critical as being bad by nature. Concentrated power is the root of evil.


Worth noting they have been fined int he EU for this behaviour. They destroyed some guys business with their self promotion.

Google has too much power. They should be broken up for hte good of society.


So what? Businesses are born and die every day.

Every major US tech company is being fined in the EU nowadays. Poor EU regulation shouldn't dictate US policy.


So if your business doesn't stand a chance and goes under due to unfair competition, you'd be fine with it, since "businesses are born and die every day"?

And what exactly would "US policy" be in this context?


>Say you do a search for a particular location, the first thing that pops up to the the top of the page is a box with some information pulled from wikipedia and a link/image of it on google maps.

You're saying Google provided you with exactly the information you were looking for in the first place. And for free, btw.

That clearly can't be allowed to stand.


Whats good for consumers isn't whats good for the broader market, we wouldn't see mega billionares with net worths close to that of previous captains of industry if we forced them to allow others to compete (where the only viable way to do so from my perspective is to not let them compete at all). In every other industry you see far less vertical integration due to the history of how companies have been regulated against (i.e. Car and airplane manufacturers are using very few of their own parts).


Society doesn't really care whether there are 10 megabillionaires or 100 minor billionaires.


Bing works just fine, but people don't use it because it's not what they're used to. Rarely does Google have an actual monopoly where new competitors can't enter the field - in fact, for every Google product I can give you a viable alternative. The only difference is that Google is winning.


Outside of search, you should ask why are they winning? Better products don't necessarily have better user numbers due to how much network effects play into a lot of googles products. There's no doubt in my mind that google has been able to leverage their search and advertising businesses, not only as products themselves, but also their knowledge in the space, to push users to, and keep their eyes on said products.

If apple and google traded maps products, it's very likely that web and android users would still largely use the google one more often than apple maps is being used now since they have more power to guide you into using the product. The same applies to them advertising chrome when you open up another browser to google.com.


> Bing works just fine, but people don't use it because it's not what they're used to.

I don't use it because it isn't better. I'm not going to switch to something of equal value. Make something better and then I'll switch.


Bing works fine for a rather narrow subset of queries most people need.


Couldn’t people just stop using Google search though? There’s Bing, Duckduckgo, Ask.com (are they still around?)


The problem isn't google search as much as it is the fact that google search and their ad products allows them to promote their own products at a cost far less than their competitors.


Google advertises their products using their own ad network. And yes, they does cost them in opportunity cost because instead of making money selling that ad spot, they are claiming that space themselves depriving themselves of the revenue.


There shouldn't be a problem. If I offer two services and I advertise service 2 on the website for service 1 I'm just doing what makes sense.


What you are saying isn't normally a problem, the problem is the fact that google is by far the largest digital advertiser, where their core product is information retrieval. If you are able to manipulate information retrieval in your favor that's an unfair advantage.


I agree, it’s like Domino’s advertising their cinnamon sticks (or whatever) on their pizza boxes. They don’t have to advertise Papa John’s cinnamon sticks. Why should they?


It is already happening that some (old) sites or blogs aren't popping up in their search results.


Their competitors?


This is irrelevant to American anti-trust law. Europe will move to protect competitors, but America will only act to protect the consumer.


When does the US act in the interest of the consumer?


America only moves to protect the money.


In the US that's true. It's a really awful system.


Also the place where something like Google - massively useful to the whole world - was born.

Awful indeed.


and was allowed to grow into a behemoth capable of perverting democracy and engaging in essentially any behaviour it desires, from a business standpoint.


"Some were investigated, but only superficially, the government just really isn't enforcing our antitrust laws. And that's what's happened. None of these acquisitions have been challenged."

Behemoths like Google emerge every time new inventions lead to the creation of new markets followed by mass adoption during a relatively short timeframe, when regulations don't exist yet. It has happened in history time and time again (Standard Oil, Detroit Big 3, etc.) It's not entirely preventable, but it requires awareness foremost and then the (political/societal) will to deal with it.


I think it is also worth calling out that at least 2 of those acquisitions, android and google, were made before they became as dominant as they are today. Android was purchased by google 2 years before it even launched, and while youtube was explosively popular at the time of purchase, many at the time thought the 1B purchase price for a revenue-less company was a stupid decision, and nobody was concerned about a monopoly. In other words, the businesses, and their dominance in those business, were made well after the acquisition such that I don't think if they had been investigated rigorously by the FTC they would have been stopped.

I'm not sure if the same was also true for doubleclick (I don't know enough about ad tech).


Google was solely responsible for YouTube's ultimate success and they deserve the credit accordingly. It was a dead company if they didn't buy it, they were rapidly bleeding to death financially and the legal picture was disastrous. It was viewed as a stupid mistake of a purchase in part because the argument was they would be a giant red ink pit forever. The sole reason YouTube survived the legal attack was due to Google's enormous resources and market position. Without that, the music cartel and Hollywood would have made sure to kill it or buy it (same difference).

The mobile picture is a lot less clear. Perhaps a dominant open source solution would have emerged. Samsung has shown itself to be mediocre at producing competitive origination platforms, so I'm highly skeptical they'd have produced the big leading platform. Apple's iOS would have never held the dominate market share, because they're universally the high profit small share player. China only came on in the last few years in terms of their ability to originate such a platform, and the rest of the planet is simply not going to adopt a Chinese platform as the 85% global market solution. The Europeans have been entirely absent post Nokia's implosion. So who else was going to fund the expensive creation of and shepherding of something like Android? Nobody. Google deserves vast credit for that accordingly as well.


> Google was solely responsible for YouTube's ultimate success and they deserve the credit accordingly.

If they were capable of making a success of video without buying YouTube why did they buy it in the first place. Video.google.com was developer internally, YouTube thrashed it, Google gave up and bought YouTube.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_Video


They needed each other. YouTube couldn't survive without Google's money and engineering ability, and Google didn't understand how to quickly iterate in social products.


> Universally the high profit, small share player

I'm curious though, was this always supposed to be the case? I think Apple has adapted amazingly well to the market (look at their profits) but I don't think there's any evidence that this has been a holistic, from the start business strategy for them.

I know my Elementary and High schools had Macs because of Apple's aggressive Educational discounts, and at the time it was generally accepted that Apple was trying to get a generation of kids used to Macs so that they would be the mainstream computer when they reached adulthood. Ultimately we were all forced to use Wintel boxes when we got jobs so this play didn't work. Apple didn't get in bed with businesses the same way they did with schools.

Then when we swing over to iOS, the first iPhones were premium devices because they _had_ to be. The hardware required to realize their vision was bleeding edge and they knew it would take a few years to commoditize it. Ultimately Android popped up and stole the budget market (with crappy devices, some of them having keyboards and resistive touchscreens) before Apple felt comfortable putting out something budget like the 5c much too late.


I doubt that was their original intention. However I do think it's an inherent consequence to what they do (building and controlling their own ecosystem top to bottom, not licensing the OS, staying in the higher price tiers, etc).

Steve Jobs basically admitted the Apple approach only works in that model. In the 2007 Jobs / Gates discussion at D5 [1]. He pointed out that the whole thing only works because of PC guy (they were joking about the PC guy vs Mac guy ads). What he meant was, the Apple approach requires that context. Where they can be the high quality, high profit, smaller market share position and always have the PC guy competitor as the contrast to amplify their own appeal.

If everyone has a Gucci bag, it's not a Gucci bag any longer.

The best thing that ever happened to Apple, was Google buying and building up Android as the 85% market player. Jobs should have been thanking them every day for that perceived betrayal. The ideal was always to have another PC guy scenario to play off of. You want tons of shitty Android phones out there in the market to compete against. Let them have the worthless bottom ~50% of the market financially, where there's zero profit to be had and lots of mediocre consumer experiences. That makes what Apple does a lot easier, in terms of pitching their value proposition to customers.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZWaX1g_2SSQ


> The best thing that ever happened to Apple, was Google buying and building up Android as the 85% market player. Jobs should have been thanking them every day for that perceived betrayal. The ideal was always to have another PC guy scenario to play off of. You want tons of shitty Android phones out there in the market to compete against. Let them have the worthless bottom ~50% of the market financially, where there's zero profit to be had and lots of mediocre consumer experiences.

With the EU fining Google 5 Billion dollars for essentially bundling search to google play in order to make some money off of all the money Google spent on android, the EU has shown that the Apple model is the only real way to go.

IOS is way more restrictive than android and they can get away with it because they only make expensive devices that only a subset of people can pay for thus isolating themselves from antitrust arguments.


That seems to be implying it is inherently a bad thing. Is trying to stop innovative companies also a hindrance to technological progress?


The point of antitrust regulations is to stop the anti-innovation practices in the first place, so while they may appear to be a 'benevolent dictator,' they will quickly turn for the worse.


> The point of antitrust regulations is to stop the anti-innovation practices

Is that true? That doesn't match the definition of any antitrust regulation I'm aware of. AFAIK antitrust regulation is intended to enforce _fairness_, not _innovation_. Often the two go hand in hand, of course, but I think it's worth not conflating the two.


Hmm, fairness? "Level playing field", maybe.

The idea of anti-trust regulation is to break up companies that cornered a market, that is, (mostly) prevented competition on it. Breaking them up serves to make more, smaller companies (out of the split giant) that would start to compete again.

Anti-trust laws can be seen as pro-market laws that try to prevent long periods of monopolized markets without waiting for a naturally occurring disruption, instead providing a mandated disruption.

Whether it's _efficient_, and whether it works as intended, can be discussed.


I used "fairness" because it appears in most definitions of the anti trust regulation. A "level playing field" is 100% not the point of antitrust laws. Sidenote: I don't believe any "playing field" in business is "level".

I think something for folks to keep in mind is that much of the US antitrust laws were made back in the early 1900s to combat _literal_ monopolies, objective collusion between companies to harm consumers, and so on. We're talking price fixing here.

> Anti-trust laws can be seen as pro-market laws that try to prevent long periods of monopolized markets without waiting for a naturally occurring disruption, instead providing a mandated disruption.

This sentence is dangerous: it is very close to saying that any long-term, successful company should be "disrupted". Interpreted differently it could be read that startups should have some inherent right to evenly compete with large companies (by fining or splitting up large companies to be "beatable" by startups).

Again, that is not all the point of anti trust laws. I won't argue whether there should be laws like that (as you can tell, I think not), but the anti trust regulation in the USA is definitely squarely aimed at _actual_ monopolies and collusion.


> This sentence is dangerous: it is very close to saying that any long-term, successful company should be "disrupted". Interpreted differently it could be read that startups should have some inherent right to evenly compete with large companies (by fining or splitting up large companies to be "beatable" by startups).

No it isn't. "Successful company" and "company that has cornered/monopolized their market" are not even close to the same thing.

Anti-trust laws don't aim to make competition fair, they aim to make it possible.


It seems to be an open question whether letting a corp play benevolent dictator for some timeframe, at least, is a useful thing.


Bell Labs was a monopoly (at least for a time period) and yielded countless high-impact, transformative innovations that a company with fewer resources (probably) would not have been able to develop. I think (although I could be wrong) most would agree they were a net benefit to society.


Bell Labs was not a monopoly: it did not prevent operation of other research labs. E.g. the highly successful Xeroc PARC co-existed with them for a decade or two.

Bell the telecom company was a monopoly that financed Bell Labs. Bell Labs did not go down in flames when Bell was partitioned in 1982, and continued providing the world with great achievements.


Totally true; I glossed over the distinction between Bell and Bell Labs -- I suppose this might be analogous (with the full understanding that the analogy is incomplete) to separating Google[x] and Google. However, is it not the case that Bell Labs was able to undertake such ambitious research projects because it was backed by a monopoly?

Also, while Xerox PARC was also a legendary research institution in its day, I don't put it at the scale of Bell Labs, which touched a much broader array of fields. To quantify this distinction, compare the research budgets in 2018 dollars:

- Xerox PARC: ~$450 million (http://articles.latimes.com/2001/dec/12/business/fi-parc12)

- Bell Labs: $6 billion (https://www.nextbigfuture.com/2015/08/comparing-research-bud...)

These sources might be imperfect.


Gee, that sounds familiar.

I guess it's totally different because google only uses their duopoly position in ads to finance everything else.


In our local post-monopoly phone provider, 30 years ago dispatchers would call the local strip club bartender to reach their technicians. They were all on a first name basis.

It was much better to work for these companies back then. Now, everything is super efficient and all that extra value the technicians generate go straight to executives and shareholders.


Basically it works until they have a reason to defend themselves.


I don't think it can be considered an open question if we're all just waiting for the inevitable disaster.

The problem is we're just being slowly boiled so nothing has been done to stop the complete perversion of democracy and slide into a corporate oligarchy.


Complete perversion of democracy?


Innovative companies on their own are not really innovative really. A monopoly enforces their opinion and product in the world. If you don't like their price or approach too bad for you. You are kept out of the game (it is a monopoly right).

As has been mentioned a bunch of times here, Google and Facebook have all too naturally embraced Microsoft's (and prior monopolies' ) approach of embrace, extend, and extinguish. There were at least 2-3 articles this week about the games Google plays (e.g. youtube loading faster on Chrome due to Google going ahead with their own suggested implementation without consensus).

I don't think there is any economic model out there that even argues monopolies are a good idea in some fashion.


> Youtube loading faster on Chrome due to Google going ahead with their own suggested implementation without consensus

Are they blocking other browsers from utilizing said efficient tool because claiming that they are purposefully slowing other browsers is disingenuous as they are almost certainly just optimizing efficiency between their various products (chrome and youtube).

Blaming google for optimizing their systems without supporting every other possible system under the sun is beyond ridicules. Nobody has the engineering capacity to perfectly optimize their services for every use case.


> If you don't like their price or approach too bad for you. You are kept out of the game

yes, basically true, i think. the article says Google spent more money on lobbying last year than any other corporation...

why does Google think that spending money in this way is useful? what does Google get in return? how does Google explain to shareholders that this is not a waste?


> why does Google think that spending money in this way is useful?

It's not useful, it's required. You have two choices. You can do the equivalent of what Microsoft did for a long time, and hide in the Pacific Northwest and pray that the Monster in DC just leaves you alone, while all of your competitors lobby to have you destroyed. You will not be left alone no matter what, if you achieve that kind of success, no matter how you achieve it. The only rational choice, is to get in the game and try to influence the outcome, which is what all of your competitors are going to be doing. Microsoft learned that very painful lesson after waiving at the US Government for years and thinking they could ignore what was going on with their competitors lobbying. Google learned from Microsoft's mistake, and got in almost immediately once their position became dominant.

With the politics in DC, you're either in it defending your position, or you're dinner being served up by your competitors who are very aggressively in it and trying to use the political machine against you as a weapon. The US has a $7 trillion government system top to bottom, one third the size of the economy. There's no avoiding that.


Unfortunately, I agree that lobbying has become another "tax" to be paid, consequently a "tax" to the consumers. Tangent: I still don't understand how people find lobbying natural and a good idea.


"Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn't mean politics won't take an interest in you." -Pericles (or maybe Trotsky)


Are those rhetorical questions cause it seems liek the answer is pretty obvious in this context.


i think it depends upon the reader.

a skeptical journalist or consumer might immediately conclude that Google is unfairly influencing government to create an unlevel playing field.

but i'm genuinely curious to hear how Google would spin it.


I mean, you're implying that "technological progress" is inherently a good thing.


Is preemptive regulation ever a good thing? How could any government have pre-regulated, say, the internet?

If you are not for technological progress, is the corollary true, that you are for technological stagnation? Is not tech stagnation also tech attrition?


Isn't it? Can you support your statement?

Edit: am I really being downvoted for asking for evidence that technological progress (the driving force that made all people on Earth extraordinaly more rich) is bad? What is wrong with you, people?


Some technological progress is good and some of it bad.


No technological progress is bad. Sometimes this progress is used badly, but knowledge is definitely not bad.


Well, I disagree. Partial knowledge and technology can be bad and extremely dangerous.

In the 19th- early 20th century they were treating radioactive substances like they were chew toys (making toys etc). The worst nuclear accident happened near lake Karachay, because they had the technology to create nuclear weapons, but did not understand, or knew the danger and how to manage the waste. (Russians were trying to catch up and create their own arsenal, had acquired fragmented knowledge that were piecing together.)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_Karachay

https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2016/jul/20/graveyard-ear...


I'm not sure I understand you. You're saying that we will solve lack of knowledge with stopping the pursuit of knowledge?


No. My argument is kind of the opposite. I am here countering the point that gaining knowledge is a monotonous function with respect to "goodness"/value. We need to be cautious and acknowledge our lack of knowledge, when we move ahead.


I fully agree with you, of course. That doesn't mean the technology is bad, though - it's just that people are too cocky and think they know everything. Knowledge can't be bad nor good, people and their use of knowledge are.


You can't separate a technology from it's use. Technology is created to be used.

Besides I could just as easily say some knowledge is good and some knowledge is bad. If you want to say that "knowledge is definitely not bad" then I'm going to ask you your own question - can you support that statement?


> You can't separate a technology from it's use. Technology is created to be used.

False. Every day, dozens of thousands of people in academia engage in basic research (actual term), something that does not lead to "usable technology" most of the time.

> some knowledge is good and some knowledge is bad

Are you saying that guns kill people? I thought that people kill people, using guns.


>Are you saying that guns kill people? I thought that people kill people, using guns.

I don't understand why you're resorting to metaphor, I think what I said was pretty clear. Can you support the statement that all knowledge is good?


So our knowledge about guns is bad because guns kill? I can't explain it more, sorry. I think the explanation I've given is very obvious - technology can be used badly, but it's always the people who do it, not the technology itself. Technology is neutral, you can simply not use it - knowing it still might prove important for development of other technologies, e.g. for prevention, reparation, ... after the original technology is used, in case of nuclear weapons for example (how would we know how to prevent and treat radiation illness without knowing anything about nuclear physics), and at the very extreme, the technology itself will do nothing - until people start using it. People are bad, not technology.


Why wouldn't it be?



That's kind of a poor reply. "Sometimes things have unintended consequences". And a link to a book that says that technology alone won't save the environment, more things will be needed.


They may not be the answer you're looking for, but they're the answer.

At least read the pagers linked. I strongly recommend the book in its entirety.


They aren't answers to the question I asked. "Why wouldn't technological progress be a good thing?"


Regulations do exist... Europe seems to be the only once even superficially enforcing them.


I think you mean selectively enforcing. They have yet to fine VW for cheating on emissions.


Which successful companies came out of EU in the last 20 years? How well do they stack up against US (Google, Amazon, Facebook, Uber etc) or China (Tencent, Alibaba etc)? If not many, does that mean EU entrepreneurs are hindered by the regulations?

One might also argue that European model is better because it might prevent one company from dominating the market. But if that is the case, why does EU face technology dominance from American companies (smartphones, search, e-commerce, operating systems etc), rather than having that marketshare captured by European companies?


I think the deviating factor there is actually mindset. E.g. Germany and Japan have dominance over U.S. car manufacturers. Most companies in the E.U. don't set out to break the world and change it; they aim for a quality product built after a series of increments. In the U.S. every company in technology is out there to change the world, even if they are selling something totally common. Namely, the iphone was a combination of existing technology combined so as to change the world. In the meantime other companies were innovating in the RF area, which well makes sense, but doesn't make for a "ground-breaking" product.

That argument has been made and argued by a number of economists -- will try to find some citations if I get the time -- feel free to google scholar in the meantime.

I understand the fear of regulation that exists, however we need to take a step back from time to time and evaluate the options. Right now, U.S. has really shitty internet (I am serious, price/value is really bad...), because the 3-4 companies, crash smaller ones or bully them into suicidal terms; and have shared the U.S. pie among them. (I bet in your area only 1 carrier has acceptable speeds -- given you have more than one.) The companies were paid though to improve the infrastructure and people chose to effectively let them roam free. They pocketed the cash.

I am sorry, but Braess's paradox [0] is real. [0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Braess%27s_paradox


> Which successful companies came out of EU in the last 20 years? How well do they stack up against US (Google, Amazon, Facebook, Uber etc)

ASML. The entire SV depends on it.


How about...Nokia? Seimens? SAP?


The US has approximately 100 tech companies worth $10 billion or more. Europe, with over 2x the population of the US, has about two dozen.

Seimens is a very old - 170 years old - industrial conglomerate. That's like using GE, Berkshire Hathaway or 3M as an example.

Nokia is barely a good example. They're a $30b market cap company, Google can sneeze and lose or gain that in a day. Texas Instruments and Broadcom are worth 3x what Nokia is; Cisco is worth 7x Nokia. In a land of giants, Nokia is pretty small.

SAP is a very serious tech company, and by far the only good big tech example Europe has today. They're slow growth, have a $140b market cap, with $4b in profit (equal to about a month of Apple's profit). They're less than half the size of Oracle and will be eclipsed in size by Salesforce in the near future.

ARM was one of the more exciting European opportunities, until Softbank ate them. NXP might be able to make some good growth moves now that they're apparently not ending up in the belly of a US giant. I could see them forging a good path as an independent.

Spotify might have a bright future. They have to make a decision soon about whether they're going to be culturally an acquiring and aggressive growth company, or whether they're going to watch that extreme valuation (which they can probably never justify given the margin situation) disappear and get acquired in the next market downturn. If they play their cards right, they could be a legitimate long-term $30b-$50b market cap media/tech company (legitimate as in actually backing that up with earnings).

I think Europe's big opportunity, broadly speaking, is in artificial intelligence over the next decade plus. That's a solid inflection point where some new big companies will emerge. Europe has tons of AI talent to make something happen there (if they don't all sell out to big US or Chinese tech).


> I think Europe's big opportunity, broadly speaking, is in artificial intelligence over the next decade plus. That's a solid inflection point where some new big companies will emerge. Europe has tons of AI talent to make something happen there (if they don't all sell out to big US or Chinese tech).

I can only see this happening if the the US doesn't continue sucking up the best talent in the field, which is unfortunately very often the case over the last 20 years. Europe is pretty un-competitive in terms of remuneration, especially for those at the leading edge of AI work. Many European markets need to wake up and start treating their software engineering grads better, today it too often feels like they get lumped with 'the IT guys' rather than seen as a creative instrument for new business ideas. How you fix this culture I have no idea though.

I actually think a more difficult immigration environment in the USA could be a potential factor in improving Europe's fortunes, if it stems the leak of smart people leaving. The recent change in posture over things like the H1-B visa, the likely rescinding of the right to work on an H4 dependent visa especially (this would prevent a huge number of immigrant spouses from being able to work if their partner moves to the US - this makes a job in the USA a much harder sell for married couples), could have a pretty big chilling effect.


I'm not sure this works all that great as a rebuttal, given Facebook alone just lost more value in a single day this week than the combined 2017 revenues of those three...

Also, Nokia and Siemens were founded in the 1800s, they did not emerge in "the last 20 years". SAP dates to the 1970s as well.

It pains me to admit as a European, but the lack of any real large modern internet success stories to emerge from our continent is a real shame.


Who owns Nokia now?


Nokia is an independent Finnish company. Mobile phones under the label "Nokia" are made by HMD Global, also a Finnish company, which bought some of the remnants of Microsofts smartphone branch, which had previously bought Nokia's smartphone branch.


What regulations are Google violating? Being a monopoly isn't grounds for fines or antitrust.


Why did Google succeed and Yahoo fail?


Google succeeded because Yahoo used it as its default search engine for years alongside their directory. Google got enormous exposure from that at a point when they needed it. Imagine if your little startup had a "How about you try us out ?" on google.com, permanently. Plus, eventually, Google got better at Search.


At the same time google was stocking every level of their org chart with legendary engineers, Yahoo appointed a demented Scientologist from Hollywood as their CEO. Yahoo for some reason thought they were in the show business. They could not have succeeded on that premise and it’s a miracle the company even survive the reign of Terry Semel.


Good insight.

I wonder if Snap suffers from similair thinking.


Stoppelman's Yelp is a bad example. I don't want to visit a page that pesters me to install their app instead of showing me the reviews I came to read. If Yelp's ranking has been lowered, good riddance.


I don't really want to defend behaviors similar to Yelp's. Because it's indeed annoying. But let's play devil's advocate here.

Part of the reason why Google can have a clear and good user experience, is because they can afford it. On the other hand, for smaller company, not meeting user count goals could mean not getting funding and die. This will force them to nag the users to get them to install the app, even if doing that could annoy some of the users.

And this is pretty much a classic example of why monopoly is bad.


Monopolies are bad because more capital means that you can create a better product?

If beating Google was as simple as needing more money to build a better product, then why couldn't startups just pitch that to investors and raise more funding? Probably because beating Google is harder than throwing money at a random startup's app.

At that rate you might as well outlaw venture capital funds because they disadvantage people trying to bootstrap their own startup.

There are certainly many reasons why monopolies are bad, but having capital is not one of them.


> I don't really want to defend behaviors similar to Yelp's. Because it's indeed annoying. But let's play devil's advocate here.

> Part of the reason why Google can have a clear and good user experience, is because they can afford it. On the other hand, for smaller company, not meeting user count goals could mean not getting funding and die. This will force them to nag the users to get them to install the app, even if doing that could annoy some of the users.

They don't have to do that. They can use the same tracking resources that other online companies use to show increased usage.

I'm not saying that I have a better solution. But their current solution is sub-optimal. Their website is crap, looks outdated. What are they even working on?


The problem isn't that they can afford it, but the fact that they have essentially implemented a vendor lock in for the majority of their products, and have implemented vertical integration in a way that they can very easily expand through acquisitions and their own product listings.

They have a monopoly on what people see when they want to find something, and can use that to point you to google properties, or should they expand into further ventures such as selling their own goods, move you away from other retailers.


i'm not a fan of Yelp's business practices or strategic web decisions, yet, i think Stoppelman may have a point even if Yelp is guilty of the same type of shady practices itself.

IOW, just like i wonder if i'm missing an excellent restaurant when i search for restaurants in Yelp, i also wonder if i'm missing an excellent review website when i search for "restaurant reviews" on Google.


It's funny you mention this: I've discovered that Google is injecting an ad above searches for "mapquest" that leads users who make the mistake of clicking on a Google ad to install a browser hijacker plugin before they can get the directions they're looking for.

This hurts MapQuest's brand, gives people malware, and of course, conveniently, makes Google a lot of money. They've been doing it for at least a number of years. There is no way to report the malicious ad to Google, and I've seen the exact same site over and over again confusing computer illiterate users into believing MapQuest requires they download a plugin.

A significant portion of Google's ad business is malware content, and they put it above legitimate rankings. Which is to say, Google is not downranking bad sites for being bad, Google is downranking sites who don't pay them for the privilege of being on top.


You honestly think Google cares about MapQuest at all? The ad you're mentioning is using MapQuest as a keyword. It needs to be reported. Job done.

Google doesn't care about MapQuest and it remains the top non-advertised listing for searching MapQuest. MapQuest is a has-been and it has nothing to do with Google's ranking them, and everything to do with a terrible UI that was entirely inferior to Maps on release.


You've missed a lot of the point here. MapQuest isn't something Google cares about, but it is an extremely popular search term, particularly among the computer illiterate, who learned what it was back in the 90s, and have ever since considered it "where to get directions". Like many other search terms, it's a high value term for malicious content, and Google's happy to rake in the cash. While "Google does not sell your data", they're more than willing to redirect you to a malicious browser extension that does.

Those of us in the tech industry don't use MapQuest. We don't click on ads. A lot of us have ad blockers. So we don't really think about the fact that the cushy online presence adtech has built for us is built on taking advantage of less technologically savvy. You may not pay for Google, but indirectly, the old lady down the block does, every time she has to take her computer into Best Buy to have the garbage scrubbed off of it.

And where the antitrust drops back in: Google doesn't let people bid on ads for their own products, so "google maps" never returns a malicious map site.

And, as I noted above, this site's been heavily promoted in Google Ads for years, at least five, and there's no way to report it in Google Search. Several Google employees are likely reading this thread who have the ability to do something about it or know who to escalate it to, but I'm reasonably confident it'll still be there next week.


Did you try reporting the offending ad?

Because I just did a few hours ago, and its since been taken down.

(I work at Google, but I submitted this report via a funnel that afaik can be accessed by the public)


I'm happy to be proven wrong that a Googler has accomplished such a task. As I stated in two of these comments: There appears to be no place to report an ad on Google Search. Can you explain where this feature is, because I've explicitly looked for it many times.

I see a dropdown that offers me a single option: "Why this ad?", which of course, just tells me it's based on my current search terms since I have personalization off. Clicking Ad Settings didn't bring me a report option either. I was kinda expecting a button like the "Report Ad" button you can see if you look at an ad on DuckDuckGo.

EDIT: I've bookmarked the below link and will use it liberally against malware.

...And I'll use the generic "submit feedback" button to point out I should really just be able to report a bad ad on the ad itself.

(Note: "Send feedback" has gotten pretty obscure on Google Search, nobody scrolls that far! On Google+, it's always on the left, on Gmail it's on the settings gear (I checked Settings on Google Search first and didn't find it there.)


>I'm happy to be proven wrong that a Googler has accomplished such a task. As I stated in two of these comments: There appears to be no place to report an ad on Google Search. Can you explain where this feature is, because I've explicitly looked for it many times.

As far as I know, there should be a "send feedback" button on the bottom of pretty much any page. It could be used for something like this, although I have no idea how long resolution would take in that case.

There's also this form[1], which I found by Googling "report bad Google ad" (its accessible via the first result). This is essentially what I did.

[1]:https://support.google.com/google-ads/troubleshooter/4578507...


Hey Joshua, just a note: Five hours ago, I confirmed you were right, the ad was gone. But it looks like the same site is back in business: https://www.google.com/search?q=mapquest


That's a strong accusation. Can you provide any more information (URLs) to investigate?


The URL is pretty self-explanatory: https://www.google.com/search?q=mapquest

Specifically, in every test I've ever run, Google puts http://www.mapsanddrivingdirection.com/Maps as the ad run above the official MapQuest link. It's a company out of Cyprus that repackages OpenStreetMap data with a big giant "Download to Continue" button when you try to get directions.

I can tell you the download requests admin privileges on your machine to install (aka, is not just an extension alone), and overrides your New Tab page and changes your search provider. I will admit I didn't have the courage to actually install it anywhere to confirm the extent of it's behavior, but placing the registry key that disables Chrome auto-updates is pretty par for the course on these type of infections.

Here's a screenshot I took on July 18th: https://twitter.com/ocdtrekkie/status/1019593753227681793


Let's ask a question : How did Google defeat another giant - Microsoft - in 2 major markets where Microsoft had a head start and deep pockets? How did Chrome beat IE, and how did Android beat the several generations of Windows Mobile and Windows Phone?

Clearly Microsoft had no dearth of talent or money. So how come it could not keep Google at bay? In my view the answer lies in the fact that Google's engineering led culture meant they could follow a release cadence that is unheard of for such large systems. Chrome was releasing every 6 weeks, and Android every 3-6 months or so in the early days. Meanwhile we had 1.5 - 2 years between each Windows Phone release.

When Chrome started, IE had nearly 70% market share and the benefit of being deployed on nearly every computer on earth. Microsoft was in the mobile phone market from 2000. In 2011, IDC predicted Windows Phone would overtake the iPhone. Both Google and Microsoft were taken aback by the iPhone, but Google was able to turn on a dime, Microsoft was not. Google achievement has been to stay agile even as it grew big - in my view this remains the secret to their success.


I think this is somewhat related to how Google lost to Facebook in the social space. Google already had Orkut with them. Similarly the idea of Google drive was floated around in Google as early as 2008. But it took the Advent of Dropbox for Google to realise what they had missed.

Same goes for the public cloud. Although Google had the app engine, they did not aggressively invest in it. Azure clearly over took Google in cloud space.

I am sure there would be many such examples from all the Tech Giants.


Google did a great job of putting the user first. You never felt like you were being sold something, a refreshing change from the MSN 'homepage' at the time.

You also did not feel that you were being given something for free that had a catch to it - see HN story today about prisons getting 'free' tablets.

Make no mistake, Microsoft can do free very nicely too - Internet Explorer in the Netscape days was partly ascendant for doing 'free' very well at a time when Netscape was emerging from 'shareware'. But with Microsoft 'free' you always felt that you were a pawn in their plans for global domination, to blot out the rivals.

I think that Google came along with a great series of products and services that put the user first with an ethos that Microsoft, Apple and others just did not 'get'. Although Chrome was marketed with billboards and a link in the search results, the real work on adoption was done by the users recommending the superior, user centric product to their workmates, friends and family.


This is a great point.

And i think Microsoft could have done this too. But perhaps the conflict between improving the open web vs pushing their own operating system was a conflict they never resolved internally, giving Google the time and space it needed to outflank them. And Google moved fast enough, and as you have said, created a great enough user experience, that it could quickly establish a strong foothold.

I think if Microsoft had truly been focused on keeping IE as the best browser in the world, it would have been difficult to displace given its dominance.


Microsoft's problem for Windows was that they wanted to make money of selling Windows for mobile phones instead of giving it away for free.

Chrome's success could be due to Google having an ad for Chrome at the top of the most visited site of the internet.


No doubt Chrome had an advantage over Firefox in this case. But that does not explain how they beat IE. Microsoft had the advantage of shipping IE with the OS itself.

I don't believe the licensing cost of Windows Phone was what led to its downfall. The Nokia deal probably cost Microsoft more than any licensing fee it would have collected. Microsoft had the money and the presence in the market to out compete Google. It just did not have the right product at the right time.


These items have nothing to do with engineering ability and everything to do with inept leadership at Microsoft.

Google had better leadership and easier choices. They had no prexisting customers or partners to annoy.

Companies get wacky like this on top. Think about a certain computer company shippping defective laptops for years to avoid disruption of the product schedule. :)


Good points. I still find Google pretty agile and aggressive.


It is also good to ask why Google could not succeed at social media. Perhaps network effects and an equally agile competitor were a big enough moat for Facebook to fight off Google successfully.

To say that abuse of monopoly is what has enabled Google to grow big is too simplistic. They have succeeded brilliantly in areas where they had equally big competitors, and failed spectacularly as well in others - social media being the most prominent. But more tech focused readers will recall Wave, or NaCl. Then are cases where we have a stalemate for example G Suite, where Microsoft still holds it own with Office.

Google Cloud is a strange case where one can argue that Google has failed to leverage many of its own innovations in containers and other data center infrastructure to achieve a dominant position. I would argue this is a case where Google should have been a market leader and much like Microsoft in the 2000's has frittered away a natural advantage.


> Steve Kroft: Were any of those acquisitions questioned by the antitrust division of the Justice Department?

> Gary Reback: Some were investigated, but only superficially, the government just really isn't enforcing our antitrust laws. And that's what's happened. None of these acquisitions have been challenged

Granted, most of Google's 200+ acquisitions would not trigger any scrutiny, but this line is mind boggling.


This has been the case since at least the 1980s.

https://www.thenation.com/article/transcript-breakdown-are-a...


There's the massive problem that none of Google's acquisitions were big when they were acquired. Google can at the very least be said to have very significantly contributed to the success of their acquisitions.


I think only 2 acquisitions have had a impact. the one for adwords/adsense patent and one other. The rest have been to poach talent and other stuff or were duds.


adwords and adsense are patented by Google. DoubleClick was a more impactful acquisition than YouTube, hence $3.1B vs $1.5B

https://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/14/technology/14DoubleClick....


If the other isn't YouTube, you may be missing something.


The capacity to poach talent is another form of freeze-out.

Talent (especially vetted talent) is both scarce and hard (expensive) to identify.


There's Android, YouTube, 510 Systems, and the constellation of acquisitions made to create Google Apps, at a minimum.


> There's Android, YouTube, 510 Systems, and the constellation of acquisitions made to create Google Apps, at a minimum.

Buying Android hardly would have triggered anti-trust investigations given Apple's significant market share at the time, and the many other significant competitors (BlackBerry and Nokia just to name two).

Same goes with YouTube - Google bought it before it was a smash success, and before people thought that sort of thing would be a major viewership center.

510 Systems and their self driving car really still isn't a money-making center for Google (nor is self-driving technology for anyone at the moment).

Google Apps is a hard sale against Office 365, etc...

I just don't see how any one of these acquisitions, on their own, would have caused government Anti-Trust inquiries... unless your point is Google operates in too many different markets?


nit: Android was purchased long before Apple entered the market. Doesn't change your argument, no one was expecting vendors to rush to a new OS because of the iPhone revolution.


But Google was already aware of the iPhone the time they purchased Android. This has been their strategy for competition.


As others have pointed out, Google bought Android long before Apple released the iPhone.

Even after Apple did release the iPhone, the strategy behind Android was entirely focused on competing with Microsoft, not Apple. Google was terrified that Microsoft would get into the smartphone OS market and achieve a dominant position, and then muscle Google out of mobile search and advertising. That's why Android is open source (well, mostly). Google made the Android OS free for manufacturers to use with their phones as a way to get them to use Android instead of a Microsoft OS.

The strategy worked brilliantly. Android has done exactly what Google wanted it to accomplish. Microsoft has never gained any meaningful market share in the smartphone market. And between Android and various deals with Apple, Google has a tremendous presence with smartphone users.


No - they bought Android 2 years before the iPhone was announced, and 6-12 months before rumors about it appeared.

You're thinking of the apocryphal story that Google completely pivoted Android when Eric Schmidt heard about the iPhone at the last Apple board meeting before the iPhone announcement


When YouTube and Android was first launched, Google was not nearly as big as it is today. There were even questions about Google's viability back then given that most of their revenue came from online advertising.

It would be interesting to see how many of these acquisitions are still around. I think survivorship bias is strong here.


There's just no way Android's acquisition would or could have been stopped.

Google bought it in July 05, one year after IPO. The smartest phones available were the Blackberry 7750, Motorola Q, and Palm Treo. Google had $3B in revenue in 04 and was on its way to $6B in revenue in 05 when it spent $50MM on Android.

There was no way this acquisition would have been blocked without clairvoyance. Even then "stop this $3B company from buying a startup because it's going to destroy a $35B company in 9 years" is not exactly a compelling argument.

The argument is even more nonsensical than that against Facebook's Instagram acquisition, which is saying something. People argue that DOJ or FTC should have stopped a company that hadn't yet IPOd from buying a company that had raised $7MM (and would raise $50MM a few days before the facebook acquisition).

Sure they're obviously huge in retrospect but they really weren't at the time. Interesting and hot companies die all the time: YikYak and Secret looked like they were going to take over the world at one point.


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