Google Down, Everybody!
Knowledge is Power
Occasionally, users flood the Internet with the question, "Is Google down?" Usually this happens as a result of outages that occur with Gmail and/or other Google service failures. While these situations are indeed frustrating, there are other Google issues that are much more exasperating, insidious and menacing than occasional temporary service interruptions.
It is undeniable that the leader in Internet search is Google. Down the road from search, Google owns and operates one of the most vast, ubiquitous advertising services in the world. Anywhere you travel on the Web, you will find Google advertisements. In fact, advertising is key to how Google makes money.
Many people don't realize that by offering free services like web search, email, Earth and others, Google, down deep, is really a consumer profiling and data gathering powerhouse. Its free services are intended to attract, extract and utilize personal information to target consumers for marketing activities.
Google has mastered the art of "free" so well that others, including competitors, struggle to keep up. In the search arena, Yahoo has been conquered and in the email world, Earthlink is relatively obscure compared to its popularity a few years ago. Paid services now collapse to bankruptcy and are replaced by free ones, but at a much less visible price.
What do other companies do then, to compete with the Google movement? Just because what was once paid is now free, doesn't mean that funding for those services is no longer needed. It just means the acquisition of funding is no longer as apparent as it once was. So they go the Google route.
The problem is, as data gathering and behavioral targeting become mainstream, nobody reveals what data is being gathered, what is done with it and who it is sold to. In the public eye, Google burkes suspicion (its motto being a key reason), and it is likely that trust is properly placed, overall. However, as behavioral technology advances and as the practice expands, not everyone engaged will be trustworthy. As it is with every industry, the fringes certainly won't be.
Users love free services and for companies like Google, down economies are a perfect opportunity. As affiliate opportunities shrink, website publishers are forced to opt in to programs that use consumer profiling methods in order to replace lost or dwindling income due to algorithmic updates and other factors. Need or necessity is a convenient catalyst, as users and publishers are more apt to overlook privacy issues to which they would otherwise object. Not everyone is keen on Google's opportunistic nature, though, and antitrust investigations are imminent.
The moral of the story? Go ahead and "Google down." Enjoy the free services as user and opt in to the new data gathering programs as a publisher. Everybody does. But Google down in an informed matter, because the guys who are organizing the world's information are crossing a line. And for that, your eyes should be wide open.