The Google Trilogy, Part 1 : Reliance

In the first of a three part series, HumanIPO looks at the implications for society of the immense power wielded by technology giant Google, and asks whether it is healthy or safe for one firm to have so much dominance.

Several critics have expressed concerns over the world’s ever-increasing dependency on Google Inc since the company’s launch in 1998, asking what would happen if the giant search engine and app developer was attacked, pulled down or turned evil.

Google is big and getting bigger, seeing massive growth from a school project to a global technology giant. As the company grows, so does its influence on people’s lives, with individuals and businesses using Google applications for everything, from the mundane to the crucial.

Google’s free email service Gmail is used by over 420 million individuals and companies. Africa depends on Google’s free SMS-Emails, which have been said to transform businesses in Nigeria already.

Its Google Plus is fast gaining traction, and its search is mainstream. Google claims it answers more than one billion questions from people around the globe in 181 countries and 146 languages, and that around 15 percent of the searches are new.

Google also has a leading Web browser, Chrome, which, according to the June release from StatCounter, has become the most popular browser, unseating Internet Explorer and several others.

The company also goes in for entertainment. Google’s Youtube was founded in February 2005 and now boasts over 800 million unique users monthly, with more than 4 billion hours of video watched each month. Some 72 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute. This is a truly global phenomenon. 70 percent of YouTube traffic comes from outside the United States, and it is localised in 43 countries and across 60 languages. In 2011, YouTube had more than one trillion views, or around 140 views for every person on earth.

And we haven’t even mentioned services as varied as adsense, adwords, Google Apps, Google Drive,Google Books, Google Wallet and Google Maps.

This spread and quality of offerings has brought Google domination. Chrome is the most popular browser, its search engine the one of choice. According to ComScore’s Search Engine Rankings released August, Google Sites led the U.S. explicit core search market in August with 66.4 percent market share, followed by Microsoft Sites with 15.9 percent and Yahoo! Sites with 12.8 percent. Ask Network accounted for 3.2 percent of explicit core searches, followed by AOL, Inc. with 1.7 percent.

When people cannot get access to Google, there is trouble. Last week iOS 6 buyers expressed displeasure at the lack of Google Maps on the iPhone 5, with emotions similar to when Apple earlier announced that Google’s YouTube app would also not feature on the latest edition of its signature phone. Google later came to the rescue with an own-assembled YouTube app designed for iOS.

Clearly not satisfied with its lot, Google continues to launch more products. Yesterday, the search giant launched the Google Credit Card in the UK to enable businesses to pay for ads in real time. Another product from Google in partnership with LG, the Google Nexus smartphone, is expected to launch this month. Google is also working on its street view and updating maps across the world. And then there are the Google driverless cars.

If Google were to vanish now, misuse its vast power or be hacked by the likes of Anonymous, the consequences would be enormous. Businesses and individuals would lose revenue, data and access to huge amounts of information and entertainment. The world is reliant on Google, and the company knows it.

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