Monthly Archives: April 2010

Unfounded european protectionism against Google

Several European states and European companies seem to be planning a host of measures to curb the business of Google. The excuse is that Google makes too much money. Not a bad excuse, as lame excuses go.

Governments and companies around Europe are “unhappy” that Google is here to compete. Publishers in Germany complain that they only earn €100m per year in advertisement, while Google earns €1.2bn (in Germany). In Spain, the main telecom operator is considering charging Google for the use of its network. In Italy, privacy protection advocates are calling for making Google liable for the content of its Youtube service (despite it all being provided by Youtube users, not Youtube itself). In the U.S. Google has faced opposition to the new business models it has pioneered, specially from the publishing industry.

All in all, Google is under attack, simply because it is big and successful. We’ve seen this over and over throughout history: Accepting change is not easy, and there are people who feel threatened by the changes brought on by the Internet (and Google). These people resort, like many humans have done in the past, to attacking the new big guy, rather than accepting that things have changed.

Some of Google’s services have introduced new ways of conducting old business. Some of these have been more successful than others, and it is the very successful ones that come under fire from the competition and from regulatory bodies. But that’s no surprise: None of the criticism that Google suffers is founded; it is only meant to protect someone else’s business, while there is no real claim behind the accusations.

Before Google existed, there were other search engines out there: We used to use Altavista and then Yahoo (circa 1996 or 1998). Noone ever complained that Altavista’s search facility was a threat to privacy (Google’s search engine is seen by some as a means of control over people’s interests). Noone ever complained that Yahoo’s e-mail service looked at the content of private e-mails to display targeted advertisement side-by-side your e-mails (Google’s e-mail service is considered by some as an invasion of privacy, for Google’s AdWords uses your e-mail content to display targeted advertisement, analogously to what Yahoo used to do).

The difference is that today, the number of Internet users is far larger than in those old days of the Internet, and now any company with a good product (like Google) can attract lots and lots (and lots) of users, producing high revenues for that company. Along with the high revenues come the hyenas trying to scrape some of that money from Google, simply to try and cash in on Google’s success (like Telefónica in Spain), or simply because they are unwilling to accept competition (publishers in Germany).

Telefónica (the main telecom operator in Spain) has proposed to charge for the use of Telefonica’s network to reach customers. As such, Google would have to pay Telefónica, because Google users reach Google services through Telefónica’s network. This is completely outrageous: A customer of Telefonica’s will sign up for Telefónica services, to be able to reach several services that exist out there in the Internet: reading newspapers, writing blogs, shopping on-line, checking e-mail, or searching for information. But now the operator sees the cash cow in Google and they try to make up a new excuse to take money from Google, just because they do have the cash. This is plain and simple highway robbery.

Likewise, German publishers complain that this new competitor (Google) has eaten some of their market share of advertisement, and they turn to the government to “help” them by stopping, curbing, or charging Google somehow.

It is outrageous to see how private companies (Telefónica and German publishers for instance) turn to governments to introduce legislation intended to benefit them, but disguised as legislation that curbs some professedly monopolistic practice of Google. It is also shameful to see public authorities (the European Commission or the Italian Government, for instance) introduce legislation to attack Google. Europe must change their ways, embrace innovation and thus embrace strong competition from the outside, if we do want Europe to survive. As a European citizen, I do not want protectionist practices like those of the E.C., Italy, Telefónica (and many others). They are the wrong way to help the European citizen or the European business.

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Broadcasting ignorance

This week, TV broadcasts in Spain ceased to be analogue, and DVB-T is the only method used now. For a short period of time, the State authority managing TV broadcasts (Ministry of Industry) will be displaying a message, on the old analogue UHF channels, to remind audiences that they need to switch to DVB-T in order to continue watching TV programs.

The message says: TDT_VisualizaciónLa programación de TV Analógica ha dejado de emitirse por este canal. Puede seguir visualizando este programa por TDT.“, which translates to: “Analogue TV programming broadcasts have ceased on this channel. You may continue to visualize this program on DVB-T.”

The text is incorrect and this is very serious, as lots of people learn to use the language from what they see on TV. The poor ignorant who wrote that text (and everyone else involved in displaying it on TV) meant to say “…you may continue to watch this program on DVB-T”. To “visualize” something is very different from “watching” it. To “visualize” means to represent in visual form some information which cannot otherwise be seen (a yearly rainfall graph, for instance). TV programming can be watched directly without the need to “visualize” anything.

This is a great display of poor management (it seems no one double-checked the text) and poor education (no one was able to properly write the text). Moreover, it shows complete disrespect for the language; this broadcast with the erroneous usage of the verb “to visualize” will further worsen many Spaniards’ utilization of the Spanish language, and this time (like many other times in the past), it is State-promoted. It is worth noting that many journalists in Spain (on TV and printed media) also say “to visualize” when they mean “to watch”. It is regrettable and it is demoralizing.