Is Google creating a middle-man monopoly?

Years ago, Google started with a simple goal in mind: to deliver relevant search results to users. This page has pretty much all you need to know about the history of Google.

As an initial user of Google in its infancy, and then using it for professional research, and now using it from a marketing and advertising point of view, I’ve seen how it has changed and evolved from a simple results based service to something that now more resembles a hi-tech middleman.

Google has been instrumental in changing the presentation of information on the Internet by such features as Google Maps, Google Docs and Google Shopping.

It’s this last one, Google shopping,  launched some years back that set alarm bells ringing.  At the time it was presented as a simple comparison service allowing retailers the ability to upload their products to showcase on Google. The problem however, was that this was Google’s first steps into being the role of a middle man – someone who makes money out of putting a consumer and producer together.

Now, you may be wondering why this is such a problem; but consider for a moment – when  a person or company has almost absolute control of a market place for goods or services, and then they themselves start offering selling the product or service then they have created a monopoly.

Google Moving into Consumer markets

Google has now moved into the travel and flights comparison service. Travel and Tourism Agents by their very nature make their money by packaging services together and claiming commission from the service providers such as hotels or airlines.  Google of the past presented people searching for hotels or travel with either hotel comparison sites, or hotels themselves. Google now actually present themselves as a middleman offering hotel and travel comparison and make money out of the referrals and commission on sales.

It’s not just services either that Google is moving into. Actual retailers, the original middlemen are being threatened by Google’s Catalog App which offers users the ability to browse a  virtual catalog of a number of stores combined. It’s not a too large a step to then demand a commission from these stores once there is a sufficient user base.

Google is buying up financial comparison businesses and electronic manufacturers to capture all ends of the markets.

Whilst it can be argued that this is good for the consumer, this doesn’t necessarily hold true. It’s akin to newspapers of yesteryear offering readers “daily deals” implying that their fellow readership is getting a bargain by purchasing through the newspaper.  It was in the newspapers’ interest to make money out of the readership, and this is the case with Google – it’s chief goal now is to deliver profits for its investors, rather than to deliver accurate and independent search results.

As Google has dominated the search market, and by definition the majority of internet users now trust Google to serve up impartial results. If however Google make money from presenting these results then they abuse trust and their position.  Of course, Google has been doing this for years by delivering pay-per-click adverts; these are distinguished from “natural” results by a discreet colour shading change on the adverts.

I’m not the only one to have picked up on the dominance of Google.

Facebook to become the new B2C link?

Offering middle-man services obfuscates where Google may or may not be profiting from users clicking on links served to them. When a middleman becomes too greedy, people start looking to build relationships direct with the suppliers – and this I think is where Facebook will begin to shine. It will be interesting to see if people pick up on this in the Facebook IPO (initial public offering) ….

I’ll visit how Facebook is going to interface with customers and businesses in another post soon..

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