We’re Just Doing Data Entry for Google

André Staltz:

Isn’t GOOG trying to guarantee the open Web stays alive? Not necessarily. GOOG’s goal is to gather as much rich data as possible, and build AI. Their mission is to have an AI provide timely and personalized information to us, not specifically to have websites provide information. Any GOOG concerted efforts are aligned to the AI mission.


GOOG promotes lock-in and proprietary technologies such as Firebase and Google-dependent AMP installations as much as it advocates open PWAs. GOOG does not consistently defend the open Web. They dropped XMPP in Gtalk, and Gtalk itself was deprecated, favoring Google Hangouts with a proprietary protocol. Chrome Web Store is a walled garden like App Store. They shutdown Google Reader based on RSS, an open standard. Google Cloud TPU is proprietary hardware that only exists in their datacenters, supporting their open source framework TensorFlow. Google Inbox suffers “proprietary creep”: non-standard, closed algorithms that promise to organize your life, an essential component of a lock-in based business model.

You should read the entire article, but those two paragraphs stood out to me. I worry about Google’s vision of the future. All of their endeavors are about bring ing you into the Google system. A great example of this on a large scale is the company’s main product: Search.

First, Search was a way for you to search the web for content you wanted, and you could click a link on Google to take you to that content. This was a revolution in technology, as Google was able to surface content in a way no one else had been able to before.

Google would later add AMP, a way to host your website on Google.com. You would still pay to create your content and you would have to pay to run a server to host this content, but Google would helpfully load your content on their site because it was slightly faster. Your content was beginning to feel like Google’s content.

And now we have Google Assistant, which is a great tool for getting information, but is another step in obscuring the line of what content belongs to who. You can ask the Assistant a question and it will give you an answer in the Assistant app (or just in the air if you’re using a Google Home). A recipe, for example, will be scraped from someone’s cooking blog and then presented in the Assistant app as if Google had created this recipe. You can poke around the interface to find out where it came from, and you can sometimes tap a link to see the source of an answer, but it’s not the default behavior. Hell, a “failed state” in Assistant is when it has to show you a list of websites in your search results.

In short, Google once was a tool for getting people to content that we as creators made, but today it seems like we are just doing data entry in Google’s database to let them display nuggets of our content in their software.

The world changes and I don’t want to be a stick in the mud when it comes to defending the old ways, but Google’s vision of the future is a more closed off ecosystem where Google is the center of everything and your creative content is their content, your software is their software, and your data is their data. Maybe this is the future and it will be great, but I think we need to think about what we’re getting into.