With friends like google…

A webmaster needs no enemies

Our friends over at google have come up with another innovative means to make profits at other people’s expense – freeloading on other people’s content. Their image search no longer fulfills google’s side of the bargain and now deprives content-producer websites of the exchange of traffic google’s use of that content is supposed to provide. Traffic for content, that is the deal.


Let me explain. In the olden days people communicated by ‘phone. The telephone company sent them all “directories”, which was a large book contianing the names of the people in your local area along with their telephone numbers. (Except for the names and numbers of those people who excerised the right to opt-out – “privacy” that used to be called).

To draw an analogy with what google image search is doing, it would be like looking up somebody’s number in the telephone directory, calling them but getting through to the telephone exchange instead where an operator takes the call, asks you what you want to say to the callee, puts you on hold, calls the person collect, passes on your question, relays the response to you, then sends recordings and metadata of both calls to the secret state police.

The analogy is exact. Including the bit about the Gestapo.

Some webmasters, those whose sites contain mainly advertisements and hectoring demands to know everything about you, are so uttelry dependent on google and their precious pagerank, that their knee-jerk reaction will be to balk loudly at any criticism of their paymster. They do not, however speak for all of us.

Our Experience

This weekend the skankworks.net put up a picture of President Obama doing a Quenelle, and we dressed it with well-researched SEO decoration. Our purpose was two-fold. Primarily to raise awareness of the current furore over a French cultural issue that has made the great leap out of France onto the world stage, and to draw traffic to the site.

In the second objective at least it was almost successful. It went straight to the top row of google image and generated a lot of traffic – for google. We still see hits on the image here, but it’s mainly when people are looking at it on google’s page, not ours. They used to show only thumbnails on google and if you wanted to see the full-size image you had to click-through to the originating site. Not anymore. Google now keep the traffic on their own site, yet they use the origanal author’s bandwidth to serve the images.

The naive, usually not running a website at their own expense, will claim that if you don’t want google to do this don’t let them index your site. Like the unlisted telephone numbers of yore. In a way, they are kind of right, even if they do not fully comprehend the nature of the bargain webmasters make with google. We allow google to index our sites in order that people may find, and perhaps visit us. This of course generates visits for google, lots of visits. Google are supposed to then pass on the visitors our content has generated such that we may all drink from the well.

We provide the content, google provide the traffic. That is how it works. If google is going to deprive us of that traffic, keep it for itself, and add insult by hotlinking our images and leeching our bandwidth, then we may as well boot the googlebot off our sites.

The Future of the Internet?

This of course would make things more difficult for everyone. Content becomes harder to find and there is fragmentation. But it is Google that are breaking the current bargain, not the webmasters or the content providers. If google were not hotlinking (widely regarded as bandwidth theft) and instead copied our images and served them in the original form from their own webservers it would be a clear breach of copyright. They are cleverly evading copyright laws here and passing the costs of their evasion onto the websites they hotlink.

But don’t be downhearted. You’ve more friends among the google-apologists over at Wired – you remember Bradley Manning – who are keen to tell you about how the companies (those same ones who are compiling dossiers on you for the NSA, breaking your security, hacking into your computers, and wiretapping your ‘phones) think it’s all so terrible, and about how sweet and innocent these ultra-wealthy shysters are. You could read it and weep. All that data on their customers the NSA forced to them to handover is hurting their profits, the dotcoms allege as they sniff the air around Obama’s seemingly bottomless bail-out purse.

Ten years ago one website predicted that by 2014 google will dominate the planet.

They may yet prove to be right.

Getting likes online and bombarding passers-by with advertisements. Is that really the kind of the Internet that would be worth saving?

Meanwhile, why not get out and make some new friends? While you still can.

Baidu
Yandex
DuckDuckGo – doesn’t track you

Incidentally, if you experience issues with the image linked above blame google. We’ve got day-jobs to do around here and not a lot of time to spare developing redirects foisted upon on us by too many nouveau riche dotcom billionaires.

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