Why Google isn’t killing the Internet

by Mathew on June 10, 2006 · 9 comments

I’ll admit that I’m as much of a fan of the contrarian argument as anyone — maybe even as much as my buddy Scott Karp over at Publishing 2.0. But I think he and some others are a little too quick to congratulate Seth Jayson of Motley Fool for his insight into how Google is “killing the Internet,” as the Foolish columnist puts it.

The first thing that bugged me about Seth’s column wasn’t that he blames Google for all the spam-blogs and other crap on the Internet, it was the fact that he started off with a crack about all the insider stock selling at the search company — and he comes back to it at the end, as though all those insider sales are a clear indication that Google is pulling one over on the stock market. This one has been tossed around a fair bit since the news came out that Google’s insiders sales accounted for about 51 per cent of all the insider selling in the Bay area in the first quarter.

There are a couple of problems with that line of argument, however, and the first one is kind of obvious: Who in their right mind wouldn’t sell some of their stock if it had gone up by more than 500 per cent? And the other problem with the argument is that the vast majority of those massive share sales by Eric Schmidt and Larry Page and Sergey Brin were pre-programmed long before Google’s stock rose to the heights it is at now. If you look at the insider transactions in Yahoo Finance, you will see the words “automatic sale” beside almost every single one of them.

Don’t get me wrong. I think Seth and others have a point that Google’s click fraud problem could be larger than many investors (or advertisers) expect. But it’s stretching things to say the company is somehow killing the Internet. I remember what search was like before Google came along, and it is a hell of a lot better on balance. The volume of junk mail doesn’t mean the postal system is broken — it just needs to be managed better. And all those insider sales prove exactly nothing.

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  • alien

    Google’s Search could use massive improvement..
    Many know this.
    The state of Search in the 90′s is irrelevant

  • http://none bob2001

    Conerning one of your links in the blog above:

    I found and interesting blog about XXuckedGoogle.com. It made me laught, and I’m the biggest fan in the history of XXuckedGoogle. Try the link below:

    http://www.light-speed-web-graphics.com/fuckedgoogle/fuckedgoogle_review.htm

  • http://marahs-aol-log.livejournal.com marah marie

    Wow, you print comments about fuckedgoogle.com but won’t print my comments about how you lambasted my site?

    Unlike you, the author of fuckedgogle wasn’t paid to spout infamous comments about their detractors. He *was* their detractor, and enjoyed the hell out of himself, from what I can see.

    Then we have guys like you–paid by big companies like AOL to write blurbs about their detractors in such a way that I look like a little flake with my head up my ass and some editorial problems. Thanks.

    You are such a sell-out.

  • http://marahs-aol-log.livejournal.com marah marie

    Oh, by the way, how *do* you live with all the lies and distortions you managed to pack into that one blurb about my article, “There’s ONE page AOL.com hopes you’ll never find?” You haven’t answered my email concerning this.

    If I were you I would need triple-strength tranquilizers to sleep at night.

  • Mathew Ingram

    Marah:

    I’m not really sure what you mean. I don’t recall lambasting your site — in fact, the post I remember writing congratulated you for being able to find the AOL cancellation page even though AOL kept trying to hide it.

    I don’t recall getting any emails about lies or distortions after that post ran, but if you let me know what you’re referring to I’ll do my best to respond. If you found the post offensive in some way, I apologize — it was meant to be light-hearted and complimentary, but maybe I didn’t succeed.

    Mathew

  • http://marahs-aol-log.livejournal.com marah marie

    This is what you wrote. I saw it as a definite slam against my site and what I wrote and submitted to Digg.com in particular. Anything in parantheses is my edit.

    “Pretend you didn’t find this page:

    A blogger named Marah Marie has been playing a fun game with the powers that be over at America Online for awhile now — a game called “Hide the ‘cancel my account’ page.”

    (A fun game? I play ‘games’ with AOL? I take this as character asassination, and we’re only on the 2nd line)

    Here’s how it works, courtesy of Marah’s webpage at Livejournal: After deciding to quit her AOL account, Marah decides to cancel it, but can’t find the ‘Cancel my account’ page on the AOL website, or any way to determine what phone number to call or what to do. So she writes a post about it, and links to the page (once she finds it). And poof! The page disappears.

    (Here’s how it REALLY works, courtesy of my LiveJournal webSITE: 8 months AFTER I successfully cancelled my last account with those sons-of-bitches, I was updating a page that I’ve owned since Dec. 11 2005 on LJ (the top page of the site). While updating it I noticed the link to AOL’s how-to cancel page no longer worked–the info on that URL had been deleted by AOL. I *knew* who to call and what to do. I didn’t call anybody, because I wasn’t cancelling MY account (I didn’t have one to cancel) I was updating my page for people who read my site because they need that sort of information. To suggest that I run a site about how to cancel, uninstall or complain about AOL without having any knowledge of how to contact AOL or find the how-to cancel info is preposterous, and paints me in a bad light.)

    So Marah does some digging and finds the new page, and changes the link to that new ‘Cancel my account’ page. Before you know it, poof! The page disappears again.

    (Yes! POOF! The page dissapeared again. Each time I linked to a new copy of it, AOL deleted it within 24 hours of my hotlink. What sort of conclusion would YOU have drawn from this? They did it to me three times in a week! The last time it happened was after I linked to a 3 year old how-to cancel page that this guy named Joe at the University of Something linked to for 3 YEARS! For 3 years that link worked for him! For about 10 hours it worked for me! Which part of my story deserves your sarcastic use of the word POOF?)

    At one point, according to Marah — who has filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau —

    (I did NOT file a complaint with the BBB over this issue. I filed a complaint with the BBB back in Sept. of 2005 when AOL informed me they wouldn’t cancel my last account without a $50 surcharge. The BBB fought for me and my accounts with AOL were canceled without surcharges.)

    –the page disappeared within hours of her posting a new link to it, implying that there is a small team of people at AOL devoting their time to finding such links and defeating them. The service (part of Time Warner) also removed the word “cancel” from the list of keywords that AOL users can type in to get help with something.

    (I didn’t *imply* anything about a small team, I flat out accused AOL’s programmers of watching my page obsessively and deleting information on AOL’s how-to pages as I hotlinked to each new copy I found. I proposed that the reason for it was that I used the first link that was deleted in a forum at the ISP Guide about AOL, and on Dave Taylor’s webpage about cancelling AOL. I didn’t think this was funny at the time–it really bothered me, and I was certain I was being singled out–nor deserving of light treatment.)

    Gee, do you think AOL wants to make it hard for you to cancel your account?

    (Gee, are they making it *easy*? Have you ever read about how hard it is to cancel AOL? Have you ever listened to the mp3 that circulated on Digg.com last week, called “Trying to Cancel AOL” by Vincenzo Ferrari? In which a cal rep gives him hell while he tries to cancel his account? The mp3 is authentic–AOL recently fired the call rep and issued a public apology to Vincenzo on Netscape.com. You should check it out, also old sites like anti-AOL.org and AOL Watch, they talk about how hard it was to cancel in the 90′s, and about all the lawsuits AOL had to settle over cancellation issues. You could also read the News page of my site, which reports what’s been going on since 1998.)

    Other reports describe having to answer a variety of questions — once you find the “secret” phone number that is — and then listen to a recorded announcement (for legal reasons) before being given a cancellation confirmation code. As Marah notes, this kind of thing brushes right up against the terms of a legal settlement between AOL and the state of Washington, which required the company to make it easy for consumers to cancel.

    (Yes, other companies give you a hard time and pull all kinds of crap, and offer all kinds of goodies to make you stay. I’m not singling AOL out–AOL is all I write about on that site! I’m not going to get into comparing them with other companies, because that would be distracting and inappropriate. And I made an error. AOL might have ran afoul not only of Washington State, but all 44 states that they had that agreement with in 1998. But, as it turns out, I DID file a complaint with Washington State over this issue, and AOL responded by saying that the how-to cancel info (like the phone # to call) is on their install disc, on their member’s billing info screens, and their member’s account information (online). Keyword Cancel is shown ONLY to members of AOL who are signed in to AOL with AOL software installed on their computers. AOL refuses to respond to my complaint about those deleted how-to cancel pages. They just won’t say a word.)

    I thought your article was the most flip, sarcastic, lets-take-this-lightly review that I’ve ever seen in my life. I was truly shocked and outraged when I read it (about 3 days after I posted my story on Digg.com) because most of the responses up until then were very positive and on-my-side.

    And yes, I did send you an email, and it was nasty as hell, because I was still mad. And I left comments on the page you printed my article on–but they were never published. And I contacted the ownership of Globe-and-Mail using the contact form on their website, asking to have your article corrected or deleted, but no one ever responded to me, which is poor customer service, for sure. I just don’t know what else to say.

  • http://marahs-aol-log.livejournal.com marah marie

    But I’ll accept your apology–IF you correct your article so it tells the truth.

  • Mathew Ingram

    I’m sorry you took my post as an attack on you, or as somehow aimed at making you look bad. It wasn’t intended in that way at all — if anything, I wanted to make AOL look bad. And I never received your email or I would have responded in just the way I am doing now. I apologize for the errors and for any offence you might have taken from the post — it wasn’t meant that way, I assure you.

    Mathew

  • http://marahs-aol-log.livejournal.com marah marie

    OK, but it reay goes without saying–esp. now that you’ve acknowledged the factual errors–that you *should* correct the article to tell the truth. Isn’t that what good journalism is all about? Being accurate? Correcting errors as they come to light?

    I haven’t been a journalist since my high school days, when I wrote articles for the school paper that ran on the front page as well as humor and op-ed pieces. I was also the copy editor (my spelling was better when I was 18, believe me).

    I can tell you that none of us would have tolerated the poor research that went into your article or the idea of not posting a correction afterwards to clean up any errors of fact. The school paper won an award for reporting and humor pieces from New York State the very year that I worked for it, so believe me, I know enough about journalism to say that I think that your article should be corrected.

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