Google: The Next MSN?

Is Google going to be the next MSN? I would like to apologize for my lack of a witty title here…when Microsoft is involved, my brain kind of shuts down.

If you’re one of the rare, rare people who actually thinks MSN is a thing as fine as a newly-discovered Fawlty Towers episode, let me explain to you that most people, or should I say most NORMAL people whose knuckles don’t bleed when they walk, really hate MSN. Not only is the engine a right piece of crap, but the company itself seems to be so seriously annoying that it’s in danger of being sued constantly over something ridiculous. Honestly, I have trouble listening to Brian Eno and Robert Fripp now that it’s been made abundantly and painfully public that they had something to do with the startup sounds…I can’t keep talking about that or I’ll sob again though.

Microsoft was investigated for antitrust violations as you all know, settling in 2002 with promises to stop being so damned overbearing with all of their products and to help their competitors write software that would run properly on the Windows systems. This period of altruism is supposed to expire this November, but there are already talks of it being extended due to Vista’s possible issues.

Consumer groups are already requesting that the Federal Trade Commission review Google’s proposed purchase of the internet advertising company DoubleClick. Just as was the case with Microsoft, European regulators plan to follow up the American probes with their own. That sounds stangely dirty. Lauren Weinstein, the co-founder of People for Internet Responsibility, is quoted in the San Jose Mercury News as saying “Just as concerns about Microsoft gradually increased until they reached critical mass, I think that is starting to happen with Google…We are starting to approach a tipping point in all this, where the risks to Google are becoming greater and greater.”

The antitrust bit is just one problematic angle with Google, however. They are simply everywhere, and they’re expanding faster than a redneck at a Golden Corral buffet. Lots of people don’t really feel all warm and toasty about Google any more. Just the other day as my husband and I were walking up the street, he was harrassed due to his Google t-shirt. I didn’t mean to be so rude to him but I couldn’t help myself. Ok that’s a joke–one of our neighbors simply lacks class and began yelling “yahoo!” at us. We ran like hell as groups of dirty schoolkids threw rotten eggs at us. OK that didn’t happen but you get the point I hope. Anti-Google sentiment is growing.

From what I’ve gathered, the San Jose conference was rife with Google complaints. This says to me that it’s not simply my own dislike of anything popular that causes me to become somewhat enraged at the fact that, to do well online, Google is usually what matters. When they change their algorithm, even if it’s going to cause the loss of rankings in another engine, most of us still adhere to what Google wants and we make the changes. We use their analytics software because it’s free. We pay tons of money for paid ads in AdWords, and we use Google as our default engine to the extent that some of us (not me of course) get so into PageRank that, when it goes up 1 point, we throw a celebratory riverside hootenanny. We love it and we hate it. I don’t know of anyone who ever really loved Microsoft, but just like Google, they were on top and they had to pay for it. It looks like Google could be heading down the same path.

Google has always been renowned for their “free” services, from analytics to email. They also tend to have really good products, to their credit. Their stock has performed at an insanely high level, and they are now a legitimate verb. That is pretty impressive. I understand how they invade my privacy and the privacy of everyone else, though. While I am concerned about it, it’s well-known that I have a thing for Adam Ant and kneehigh leather boots so I’m not too embarrassed that they have that information. I would just really love to see an alternative pop up soon, not only to give Google the competition that they need to continue to better themselves, but to give us something different that’s worth our time. Yahoo and MSN really aren’t doing that, unfortunately.

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