Google is a massive and extremely successful company, and yet most of what they offer is free. Gmail is free unless you exceed usage limits. Google Docs is a slightly under-tooled office suite for free. Android is open-source and available to all sorts of developers. Chrome, Chrome OS, Google+, Google Wallet, Google Analytics, Google Checkout, Orkut, Google Code, App Engine, Blogspot, the list goes on and on. Their most famous product, Google Search, gives you access to high-quality information from around the world in seconds, requires massive amounts of storage space, processing power, staffing, maintenance and electricity, and it’s free. They’re even working on providing free Internet and self-driving cars.
Google is one of the most valuable tech companies in the world, yet almost all of their services are offered completely free of charge. Either they’re the most altruistic company in the world, or they’re after something. Here’s the reality:
Google wants your consumption behavior, and that’s it.
They want to know how you work. What you buy, how much you pay, how you get there, how you make your decisions, where you share it, who you are, where you live, everything. Because this information fuels the only truly profitable service that Google offers:
That’s why Facebook scares them, and why they so desperately (Google Wave) want (Google Buzz) a piece (Orkut) of the social pie (Google+). Because it gives Facebook information about you that Google doesn’t have. Facebook is a veritable gold mine of information that all advertisers want, but Facebook won’t let them in (at least directly).
And thank goodness for that.
Let’s take a look at the “ideal” Google user (hereby referred to as “GU”). We’ll run through a step-by-step purchase process here.
- GU hears about a cool new speaker set from his friend. Google finds out about this through their social media channels in Google+.
- GU performs a Google search for the speaker set. Google now knows what words the consumer uses to find the item (Google Search) and, based on geo-location (Google Chrome), his Google account (Gmail, apps, etc), and any browsing history (Chrome), Google knows where (approximately) he lives, the closest stores to him and the quickest ways to get there (Google Maps).
- GU ends up at the store and buys some speakers. Because he’s a faithful Google user, Google now knows how much he spent on the speakers (Wallet), the time of day he purchased them, what else he purchased along with the speakers, how long it took him to arrive at the purchase once he started researching, and what sites he looked at before he got there, and any other products he considered along the way.
- GU has his speaker set. He goes online to look for tutorials on ideal setups, accessories, movies, furniture, and so on.
Can you imagine how much easier that would be with a direct pipeline to the personal information of over 800 million users? I think you see where I’m going with this.
Google’s primary goal is not to help you along your path to make a purchase decision. It’s not to provide accurate and timely information.
It’s to influence your purchase decision.
They want to know the exact point where they can pop up an ad that will change your mind and allow their paying advertisers to steal business from their competitors.
And people pay through the nose to get that.
Take, for example, Google’s recent SSL search change. It was obvious from the start that they weren’t actually implementing the change in the interest of user privacy, because they CONTINUED TO PROVIDE THE DATA TO ADVERTISERS. It only reinforces their primary objective: They want your purchase process. They want your consumer behavior so they can sell it to advertisers. They wouldn’t actually protect a user’s privacy because that seriously damages their primary source of income: targeted advertising.
Every product release, every new development, every free service is all aimed towards “getting to know you” so they can increase their bottom line. Thinking otherwise is naive. In the end, Google is a business.
And that’s why they want social and why they won’t enable wholesale searcher privacy; they lose money.
Google’s altruistic “Don’t Be Evil” slogan is dead and gone. They don’t care. They want your information.
They want a finger in every step of the purchase process. They already know how you research, what makes you buy, when you buy it, how much you spend on it, what else you buy with it, and how you react afterwards. With Google Cars and Google Internet, they’d even know when you’re online, how much data you use, how many computers you own, when you go shopping and even the route you take to get to the store!
So what do we do with this? I really have no idea. Honestly, I felt a little bit like a conspiracy theorist while writing this. It’s frightening how much information Google has access to, so what do we do with this? Are you as, uh, paranoid as I am? Let’s talk about it.