Upfront, I should say that Scott Rafer is a guy who I really respect - probably as much as anyone in the tech community. He’s been a mentor / sounding board for me for years. However, I couldn’t disagree more with the argument that “Google has no choice.” rafer said:
I certainly sympathize with people’s angst about Google’s more explicit search partiality. However, its the only thing they can do. Otherwise, we’d instead be complaining in 2017 how they missed the boat back in 2012.
Personally, I think it’s more likely in 2017 that if they continue down the path of #SPYW we’ll end up pointing to this decision as the day they finally lost user’s trust. To be fair, back in 2007 on RWW, I wrote about my perception of another vulnerability within the Google cash machine.
Just like Microsoft saw open source projects emerge and disrupt their dominance, I believe a competitor in the ad network space (hereafter referred to as an “open ad network”) could introduce a new more open and transparent economic structure to the ad network ecosystem and disrupt Google’s Network Revenue.
This actually resulted in some interesting meetings around the concept with a few industry leaders (including one at a very large company) but ultimately nothing materialized.
So with a track record of me being completely wrong about this exact type of vulnerability within Google in the past - I’d argue this time on their real cash cow the Google search engine or as John Battelle calls it their “database of intentions” is at risk with SPYW.
If the users starts to fear / dislike the results and hear about a new alternative it’s not like the ‘switching cost’ is significant to move to a different open / full alternative.
Rafer sez to @seanammirati /cc @sawickipedia: Yes Sean, really. And truly. Thanks for the kind words regardless. The sentiments are mutual. I will continue to operate businesses I run as a privacy whitehat, but that’s a choice of personal ethics and unfortunately has little if anything to do with economics or competitiveness.
I’d love to live in the world that you and Todd (though I bet inadvertently in his case) are promoting. Todd, David Cancel, and I tried to live in that world in 2007-9. Lookery wished to be the sort of trustworthy open network that you wanted. Our efforts in that area were irrelevant to our successes and failures. It doesn’t matter, and in the way you mean it, users don’t care.
The same is true of SPYW. Google is not going to lose the users’ trust in terms of privacy because they don’t possess that trust now. You care, I care, Todd cares, and maybe another 250,000 people on the planet care. The general population trusts Google to reliably provide search results that make their lives easier. Whether or not those search results are impartial matters to (statistically) no one. Whether those search results include marketing messages that seem to require gross privacy violations also matters to no one.
There is a silver lining, but not where you are looking or on the timeline you’d prefer. Microsoft has taught us again and again that user trust doesn’t matter, even when it comes to the blatant issues of reliability and functionality. What DOES matter, however, is developer trust though you really have to beat them hard and for a long time to get them to notice. Other than the pleasantly large problems that Google Maps are experiencing with their new pricing, Google isn’t having many developer problems that I’m aware of at the moment. We’ll see if SPYW changes that over and above the employee turnover it’s causing.
The silver lining is that when developers bolt from an untrustworthy platform, they often move to a more open platform on which they (and their users) are less vulnerable. That is part of the Apple-Android-AndroidForks dynamic, for example.
“Every really good, really experienced CEO that I know shares one important characteristic: they tend to opt for the hard answer to organizational issues. If faced with giving everyone the same bonus to make things easy or sharply rewarding performance and ruffling many feathers, they’ll ruffle the feathers. If given the choice of cutting a popular project today, because it’s not in the long-term plans or you’re keeping it around for morale purposes and to appear consistent, they’ll cut it today. Why? Because they’ve paid the price of management debt and they would rather not do that again.”—Ben (via brycedotvc)
“Most content curation tools use a series of algorithms to determine which content is popular and make it more visible to users. Popularity ranking assumes that the more a Web page is shared, the higher its “quality”. Inbound links, “Likes”, “ 1’s” and tweets are some of the indicators used to determine that Internet users found a piece of content valuable. Focus on popularity reduces the noise surrounding an item. The limitation of popularity ranking is that it requires gathering users’ “votes” and therefore delays the discovery process. Popularity can also be manipulated by promotional techniques such as SEO and SMO”—Content Curation Tools: 5 Different Approaches