Unraveling Obfuscation

ob fus cate – 1. to confuse, bewilder, or stupefy 2. to make obscure or unclear

Total World Domination Schemes

Posted by Todd McKinney on January 20, 2007

It’s probably lame for me to just link to something on Techmeme, but I find this story to be a compelling argument and an issue worth thinking about. Cringley, who used to be a frog but now just looks like an ordinary PBS columnist, has uncovered one of the strategies The Google is using to take over the planet.

Like many people, I have become more and more concerned about how much data The Google has and how dependent on it I really am. It’s a classic single-source provider problem – I get a lot of convenience out of not having to keep track of stuff all over the place. At the same time, I’m at risk of the provider having too much power. What would you do if Google turned off your account, or if someone hijacked it? Would you shrug and go on, or would your life be disrupted? I can tell you from firsthand experience that if you have a problem like that, getting someone from the land of fluffy bunnies (a.k.a. The Google) to respond to a support issue can be a very challenging endeavor.

I don’t know that there’s a lot that can be done about this, but these things do have a way of correcting themselves in the long run. In the meantime, they do great work and it is convenient, so who’s it hurting?

In some ways The Google is doing a useful public service. They’ve completely outmanuvered the newspaper industry and helped create a system where all of the interesting content online and free. They’re making a bunch of locked-up book content accessible via search, and now they own the #1 pirated video content site on the planet. The copyright holders seem pretty willing to not make them mad. They probably are the only company that can cook up a winning replacement for iTunes, and won’t that be fun. My biggest hope is that they come up with a scheme to end-run the cell phone providers and pummel that industry with a giant wet noodle.

It’s fun to watch, this power struggle among industry giants. Hopefully, the average person benefits from the competition. Just be careful about relying too much on a single provider, because power corrupts. The friendly search box in the sky might not always be so accomodating, and it’s not too soon to start getting ready for it.


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