Untitled #2, Incomplete

Someone was telling me how, two years ago, they commented that Google is basically Microsoft 2.0.

Big companies follow a pattern. Evil ensues. Rinse, wash, repeat.

WiFi is a municipal matter. Connectivity should be considered a public good.

For obvious reasons. Look, I mean, I decided that privacy is bunk a long time ago so it’s not even that that I’m terribly worried about (your privacy is little more than sand between your fingers).

While quality of service is certainly important — and someone like Google, with its oodles of dollars — can probably ensure adequare coverage and uptime, that’s still not the issue. Communities are resilient when left up to their own devices.

I mean, look at Indian traffic (something I experienced firsthand in Bangalore). You wouldn’t think that it’d work — there’s practically no rules — but y’know what? Almost because the drivers are the ones responsible alone for their fate, they pay better attention, drive more cautiously and use their horns for communication instead of anger. It works — and it’s not just because of some kind of pacifist disposition inherit in Indians.

Point is, okay, that Google is interested in behavior. They’ve shown that they’re interested in 1) selling advertisements 2) pleasing their investors. Innovation is a means to an end. None of these things are intrinsically bad. Guns don’t kill people, robots do. Capitalism didn’t ask to become the scourge of our age, but dammit, someone severed the hand of Adam Smith a long time ago.

Anyway, here’re my two beefs du jour with the GoogleNet plan. Equal distribution. I simply don’t believe that privatized systems give a shit about under performing, under represented or unprofitable ventures. Oh yeah, that’s why they have philanthropic arms (yeah, ok, tell me if this makes sense: poison the environment while contributing to the Sierra Club?).

Second issue? Competition. State-sponsored monopolies suck.

Oh, and hell, toss in one point five more: Network Neutrality and the fact that it’s unnecessary. Here’s an alternative plan — just like you can buy your electricity and cable from multiple vendors, I’d like to be able to get my WiFi from the vendor of my choice. With prices falling all the time for the tech, that’s not the problem. Google wants to lock down the market. With technologies like WiMax available and being deployed elsewhere, seriously, we don’t need the Google Machine monopolizing this space.

You remember there was this company that embedded its browser in its OS and was forced to offer alternatives after an extremely costly (to taxpayers) legal battle? Give it 5-10 years and you’ll see a similar battle over embedding one company’s ads and search services in the state-sponored privately-run WiFi network.

But I’m jess sayin.

Author: Chris Messina

Head of West Coast Business Development at Republic. Ever-curious product designer and technologist. Hashtag inventor. Previously: Molly.com (YC W18), Uber, Google.

7 thoughts on “Untitled #2, Incomplete”

  1. I’m a regular reader/subscriber and while I don’t always agree with you, you have an excellent point here. I think you are spot on with the summation that Google will attempt to monopolize municipal WiFi/Max. But then I think “eh, what the hell can we do about it?” and click Next Unread in NNW.

  2. I’m new at reading FC and this caught my eye because I read a story like this and was wondering “WTF isn’t this what they broke Ma Bell up for” as in them controling how the network flows, Remember when Bell System used to watch for modem hook ups? Make you lease a phone? Etc.. Etc.. Why would you want this on the internet??? I can understand that they need to pay for upgrades but they have paid for them in the past to bring in customers (the promise of a fast connection), what is new here? Other then Verizon bring out FIOS in major citys (hawt!), I would not want my fibre to the curb capped because verizon needs a few more bucks.

    I agree that Google Should not be able to control WIFI, but with what Steve said what can we do about it? Also I do think it is free…

  3. Pingback: Joshua's Blog
  4. First, “Free” never means free — if there’s a corporation involved. There’s always some tradeoff.

    The problem is that when cost is measured exclusively in dollars and sense, it’s easy to think that that means “zero cost to me” when in fact that’s far from the truth.

    What about this: how much do you value your privacy? How much is it worth to you? A study suggests that women will tell some random person their weight for no less than $20. Offer $15, they won’t tell you. Offer $10, nothing. But $20, that’s apparently the price of privacy for some folks.

    Anyway — Google “giving you” free wifi isn’t the issue. The issue is with the commercial monopolization of infrastructure that will eventually become as necessary as our sewer system. Just as the sewer systems trasmit water and refuge from point A to point B, it will be the WiFi networks of the future that will transmit all of the data from points A to points B.

    And Google should not be given a free pass to own that destiny.

    The long term costs — to go back to that false notion of “free” — to us, citizens of the United States — will be huge. Let’s face it, replacing one hegemony with another doesn’t actually democratize anything. Which is why, when it comes to ubiquitous WiFi, we need choices.

    And you can, if not, must do something about this. Whether it’s blogging about it (which Joshua has already done), telling your friends, demanding that your favorite internet service providers take a stand on network neutrality or whether you hook up with service like FON and build your own ad hoc network and share it with your neighbors. These are all things you can do — and no, for chrissake — it’s not too late!

  5. > Someone was telling me how, two years ago, they commented that Google is basically Microsoft 2.0.


    I believe I told you in person recently that I had commented at the BlogOn conference in July 2004 that Google was essentially Microsoft from about 10-15 years ago (that would be from 1989-1994 at the time). Chris diBona was there and took great offense at my statement. But certainly from the outside perspective, there appear to be similar levels of optimism, overconfidence, everything-we-do-is-good-for-the-world, and a growing sense of elitism, cockiness, and just plain arrogance. There are also some key differences. Being in “the Valley”, I think Google folks may be exposed more often to non-Google perspectives and may be more aware of the growing outside perceptions. In addition, I personally know several Google folks who are not only very smart, but also very down to earth, pragmatic, approachable, and just plain nice. Folks like Ian Hickson, Matt Cutts, the Blogger folks (Jason Shellen, Jason Goldman, Eric Case etc.), Jen Bradburn, Aubrey Sabala, and of course Orkut himself. I’m sure there are plenty of others too that are perhaps too afraid of the “keep all secrets at all costs” attitude to interact openly with outsiders.

    The term “Microsoft 2.0” might be your summary though, as I don’t remember saying that. I have also heard folks say that Google is attempting to build “Yahoo 2.0”. Perhaps the truth is somewhere in the middle? Here’s to hoping that the smart down to earth nice people win out over the smart arrogant elitist people.


  6. Agreed. Ideally the smart, down-to-earth folks do win out. But that doesn’t mean that they won’t have their work cut out for them fighting against greedy shareholders…!

  7. Ideally the smart, down-to-earth folks do win out.

    Come on now people, I know you’re smarter than that. Regardless of the individual preferences of the individuals who run Google, there are large-scale forces that shape a large-scale organization. It is possible to have a company run by a very nice person, yet that company, following its own institutional logic, might still commit evil. I’d argue that any monopoly will stifle innovation, and it doesn’t matter how nice or smart the people are who run the company.

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