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Google Under Fire; May Rule Forever Nonetheless

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The press/blogosphere pendulum, rarely stable, is swinging to an extreme anti-Google position as we start the new year. The discovery of another contact-list hack inside GMail has led to the usual complaints about the company’s dominance. As the Hollywood Reporter noted recently, it’s not easy being Google. The Tinsel Town trade lists seven legal issues that “will impact Google’s revenue model,” ranging from the well-documented (copyright concerns) to the more esoteric (patent risks). Blogger and press opinions, you’ll note, are not on the list.
The pendulum may be pinned at one extreme this morning because a consensus is building that it’s Google’s world and we’re just living in it. Even the FT is piling on, noting that copyright holders are unhappy with the company: “Leading music companies have already made clear they see completion of YouTube’s anti-piracy technology as an important step in any closer co-operation. Failure to build adequate systems to protect copyright owners could also add to the risk of legal action against the site.” But if the record companies start suing all copyright infringers, real and imagined, that could go the way of SCO (now in the late stages of a failed lawsuit against IBM): companies that exist solely to litigate, in the hope that one of the actions sticks and their failed business model can survive another few months.
The meme getting the most traction this morning comes from Rich Skrenta’s Skrentablog, which maintains that the battle for the Net is over and Google has won: “To paraphrase an old comment about IBM, made during its 30 year dominance of the enterprise mainframe market, Google is not your competition, Google is the environment. Online businesses which struggle against this new reality will pay opportunity costs both in online advertising revenue as well as product success. Competitors such as Yahoo should quickly move to align themselves with this inevitability. Yahoo could add an extra $1.5B to their revenue overnight by conceding monetization to Google and becoming a distribution partner for Adwords, as Ask Jeeves did.” More and more bloggers, well-known and not, are chiming in. Mitch Radcliffe at ZDNet takes the contrarian approach, asserting that Google’s run is more than half done. His argument is that companies are too busy trying to work with Google to notice that “Google has a year or two of dominance left.” And Om Malik, in his post pointing to Skrenta, asks his readers if they trust Google, a question no one asks unless a company is, at least for now, is very much in charge.

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