If you follow the outstanding work of Chairman Kohl, Ranking Member Mike Lee, Senators Cornyn, Klobuchar, Franken, Blumenthal and other members and staff on the Senate Antitrust Subcommittee, you will no doubt have heard them challenge Google as a monopolist. Google’s response was that their competition was “one click away” so they just had to compete like everyone else.
If there was something about this “one click away” business that sounded like bunk, but you couldn’t put your finger on it–here it is.
Oh yes, do things ever get “a little more complicated.” If even the tech writers at the Washington Post feel the need to distance themselves from this snooper scooper, then you know there must be a real problem.
But here’s the twist–the reason why Google’s application of its snooper scooper privacy is a problem for consumers is because of the high cost of switching. Google wants antitrust regulators to think that switching from Google to another search engine is just like switching from Pepsi to Coke. This is way beyond Pepsi and Coke. The Washington Post also tells us:
[Consumers say they are] overwhelmed by the thought of starting over with a new e-mail service, transferring…contacts, and combing through thousands of messages to retrieve family pictures and legal documents.
That’s what Google and other Web firms are counting on as they tap consumers for more information about their lives, analysts say. Once you’re hooked on one service, it’s hard to switch. (emphasis mine)
So the point is that Google’s users are not one click away and, frankly, were never intended to be one click away. That is simply bunk. Not only is it bunk, but it is hard to believe that Schmidt didn’t know it was bunk when he said it under oath to the U.S. Senate.
The Washington Post goes on to say:
Users won’t be able to opt out. If they don’t like the change, Google has said, they can avoid signing into their accounts or stop using Google products altogether.
But that’s easier said than done, experts say. For the 350 million people using Gmail around the world, moving to a new e-mail program is perhaps more inconvenient than changing a mailing address or a bank account.
The “high switching cost” — as business parlance calls it — didn’t happen by accident, analysts say. (emphasis mine)
And just in case you were wondering what did they plan and when did they plan it, Google’s economist Hal Varian wrote about using the “high switching cost” as a customer retention tool as far back as 1998.
Yes, 1998. That was before Schmidt testified.
But Google is trying to capitalize on just this strategy with the snooper scooper–as Eric Schmidt said of Google Street View: “You could always move.”
Right. Very Googlely. And if you felt violated when you read Schmidt’s condescending, callous and creepy admonition, you are feeling “high switching cost” in action.
Google users are not one click away from anything.
Except maybe a Google ad.
A Google ad served based on something the user said in a voice mail on Google Voice or an email on Gmail. And do you really think this was an accident?
But whatever happens, let’s not let them get away with that “one click away” bunk anymore, OK folks?