Internet gatekeeper Google has threatened to cut the country/continent of Australia off from access to Google search engine.  This is because Australia is close to passing a law that would require Google and also Facebook, to pay newspapers for linking to them and using their content.

For background see: Google Threatens to Ban Aussies to Avoid Paying for News.

I’m not going to get into whether the proposed Australian law is wise or the right solution to the problem of Aussie newspapers dying, I want to focus on Google and it’s, foolish move to threaten a sovereign country.  I also want to underline how dangerous it is to only have two major English language search engines.

Threatening Australia: Google has more to lose.

  • Google made the threat in such a way, in front of the Australian Senate, that makes it very hard for either side to compromise.  Maybe Google wanted a direct confrontation, but frankly, Australia has a history of not shying away from a good fight when it feels threatened and they are tough as nails.
  • Google made the threat in such a way that it is almost patriotic for the Aussie public to boycott Google.
  • Google is afraid of the precedent it would create if forced to pay for news.  Google should be more afraid of the reaction by other countries if Google pulls the plug: all of a sudden those anti-trust investigations against Google will take on new urgency and Google’s treatment of the Aussies will be held up as the textbook example of Tech Giant monopoly power abuse.
  • What happens if Australia finds it can live without Google search? Sure, it might be inconvenient for a few weeks, but Aussies will eventually find Bing, Duckduckgo, Startpage, Yandex and Yahoo.  If this happens, word will spread fast that there is life without Google.
  • Microsoft Bing search engine, will gain an opportunity for market share.  And there is no reason Bing can’t improve both it’s Aussie web search and it’s maps to help keep those new users.
  • Apple uses Google as the default search on it’s iPhone product.  Apple will not thank Google for making Apple look bad in Australia.

Google Search Monopoly

The elephant in the room here is Google’s search monopoly at 95% in Australia. A pattern that holds in much of the rest of the world too.  Obviously Google thinks that 95% gives them leverage in this battle, but it also sort of proves the point that Google has a monopoly.

It also highlights how fragile the web has become having only two major English crawling search indexes: Google and Bing.  The world really needs to step up and start some new, serious crawling search engines.  (Yes there is Yandex, which is perhaps medium sized in English.  I’ve always thought their results would be better as part of a meta-search than stand alone.  There is also the up and coming Mojeek.com search which is still growing and deserves our support.)

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