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Google has never not been Evil

The OSS bubble that is and the blogging bubble that was

Baldur Bjarnason:

Google Adwords changed all of that. That, as well as free weblog hosting, fuelled the blogging bubble. You wrote a blog using a weblog system that came with decent SEO baked in (semantic structure and cross-linking, that’s all you needed back then). Most of your traffic came from Google’s search results. All of your revenue came from Google’s Adwords. It became profitable to churn out indistinct pap that passed as informative to fill Google’s search engine results, so people did.

The weblog ecosystem was built entirely around extracting value from Adwords. For a few, it was a springboard to launch something else. A few writing careers got off the ground. But the vast, vast majority was just Adwords. Weblogs as social media? A sideshow. Weblogs as a unique medium? Incidental.

Even outfits with paid subscriptions, like MetaFilter, relied on Adwords and had to course-correct once Google popped that bubble.

Which they did because they had to: most of it was fraudulent. Fake clicks. Spam blogs. Link farms. Black hat SEO. The blogging economy was filled with bad practices all around. People today don’t appreciate just how rampant these practices were. Most of us didn’t notice because we were in our tiny corner, all reading the same few popular bloggers (an early version of the modern ‘influencer’). But outside of that corner, blogs were done for Google and paid for by Google. Outside of a small number of active commenters (many of whom were toxic as hell), the traffic these blogs had existed solely because it suited Google to give blogs a high ‘PageRank’. They had no meaningful community or engagement to call their own.

After a few years of buying into the hype, advertisers started to push back, forcing Google to clean up their index. That consisted of downplaying blogs and blog-like sites and purging spam-blogs and blog farms (many of which had been hosted on Google Blogger, natch).

The blog gold rush ended. The tools surrounding it started dying, hastened by Google sucking the oxygen out of the software ecosystem by acquiring, offering for free, and then putting on life support the core tools in the ecosystem.

FeedBurner and Google Reader were not victims of Google’s policies. They were the weapons Google used to ensure that the only player extracting value from blogging was Google.

That last paragraph (emphasis added by me) nails it.

Google ultimately only acts in its own interest.

The infamous ‘Google Graveyard’ of shuttered services and products is merely those things that Google developed that either were no longer of value to Google or could potentially weaken Google in the long term.

They clearly learnt the lessons from Microsoft’s antitrust trial in the late 1990s, presenting themselves as on the side of users and developers and cultivating their trust.

They wrote the playbook that Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft (oh, irony) and even Apple have since followed.

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