Posted on Wed 22 May 2013

On Using Google - Revenue Transparency and Real People

What would you ask Larry Page, Google's CEO? Gina Trapani said on This Week in Google and on In Beta, that she wanted to ask one question during Google IO 2013:

"Why should I trust Google with my data?"

This is exactly the question I'm asking myself, both as a regular user and as an employee of a company who could use their services for clients.

Before I continue, let me get this straight: I do like Google's services, especially as a developer. The IO 2013 conference demonstrated again that Google is way ahead of any other company in terms of web services. Especially as a map geek, you just have to admire what Google has cooking up in the last years. The new Google Map experience is impressive. Overall, they are leading in terms of design and usability of webmaps.

From a user's perspective

But as a regular user, it sometimes feels wrong to launch Google Mail or locate my home on Google Maps. It's an old question, but is still valid: I'm not paying for anything - so why do I get almost everything for free? Google is a company with shareholders who want to see their return of investment.

Ok, everybody knows: Google is foremost an ad company. But I very rarely (if at all) click on any ads. So why does Google want me as a user?

Look at other "digital companies": I happily use Evernote, for which I pay $5 per month, no ads involved. It's a freemium model and I know that I pay for others who are not premium. Apple's business model is selling outstanding hardware with a huge profit margin. You can say, I'm old-school, but with these I understand my role as a customer.

From a company's perspective

And Google's role in my professional life? As a company, we use (for example) Esri for most of our geo-related things and we pay for their online services (plus we may host everything by ourselves, if we want to - but that's another story). There are other examples like FME and even open-source based software usually has a business model of some sort.

But I'm hesitant to use Google for our client's project (which we have done on occasions). Sure, Google does have enterprise offerings. But are they really as interested in my business as the other companies above? For example, if I have a question on using their products, I have to start of with anonymous web forms or support forums and maybe never get an answer (happened to me regarding business inquiries).

Revenue Transparency and Real People

So, Gina's intended question to Larry Page could be re-formulated:

"How do you earn money with me using your apps and services?"

My trust would raise with transparency. Not data transparency, but revenue transparency: Tell me how I add to Google's shareholder value. Google doesn't have to disclose any business secrets, just a simple explanation on how they make money from me without violating our privacy agreement (My guess is that I should give them more of my personal data, if I refuse to click on ads. That would be okay, as long as I can control the usage of my data).

As an employee of a company, I would like to see Google listening to my needs and actively helping me to realize projects. No support with Python scripts, but with real and dedicated people who care about my projects.

Google Fridge
(Google 貼牌冰箱(Google Refrigerator) by Aray Chen)

Category: misc

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