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The questions and responses in this forum refer to Chapters 9-11 (169-227) in Auletta's Googled. For reference, the Essay Sequence assignment. Discussion leaders will post their Keywords by April 1. Commentaries — Group 5 commentary — will be posted within a week after the class presentation on April 5.

Chapter 9 Questions

1. Pages 170-171 of the book discuss Viacom's claims of "massive intentional copyright infringement" against Google and YouTube. Chad Hurley claims that YouTube is "just a clip site," not a full program provider. There is also an argument concerning whether Youtube is just a platform for content or content provider itself.

What is your take on these arguments? Have you ever viewed a full television show, movie, or song on YouTube? Do you agree with Google's claim that "only the copyright holder knows what content is under copyright?"

2. On page 184, Auletta claims that Google executives do not entirely understand the reasons people fear privacy invasions from Google. Sergey Brin stated that the two top privacy issues are untrue information being spread about the Internet and credit card theft/fraud. Both Google founders say that if users trust them with their information, then privacy is not an issue.

Rate your top privacy concerns concerning the Internet. Do you think there is a legitimate likelihood that your personal information could be misused? Do you agree with Google, and feel that trust can stall privacy concerns?


Chapter 10 Questions

1.

On page 191, Auletta talks about an example of Google opposing the Patriot Act. The Justice Department asked "Internet companies" to turn over their child pornography search queries, but Google refused and took them to court. Google ended up winning and had to submit "over fifty thousand suspicious URLs, but none of its user's names."

Do you feel that in situations like this, Google should be willing to follow the Patriot Act? What would they stand to lose if they lost the trust of a few users for helping law enforcement with someone that is illegal? Would you trust Google less if they had willingly turned over their information on something like child pornography search queries?

2.

On page 195, Auletta talks about Google reducing the time it keeps information in their databases from two years to eighteen months. He also mentions Google's ideas of multiple cookies being used to save preferences over the use of one cookie.

Do these changes make you more comfortable using Google? Would you have continued to use Google even without these changes? What if the length of time had been increased instead of decreased?


Chapter 11 Questions

1.

On page 204, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer labels Google as "a one-trick pony" and states that "they have one product that makes all their money, and it hasn't changed in five years" (in 2007). On page 215, Scott Heiferman, CEO of Meetup.com, says, "Google did not invent YouTube. They tried and failed with Google Video. Google did not invent Facebook. They tried and failed with Orkut. Google has actually failed at most things."

Do you think Google is capable of creating anything as successful as its search engine? In a world of constant technological change and innovation, what remains significant about the fairly simple layout and purpose of Google search? Brin admits that he worries about complexity; is this a legitimate fear for the company, and how should it impact Google's business ventures?

2.

The metaphor Auletta creates by labeling this stage in Google's life as "adolescence" is very much reflected in the Google culture. Like a teenager, Google has been seen by some as inexperienced and too young a company. "The wisdom that comes from failure has not yet punched Page and Brin" (219). Its management tactics have also been criticized, but Google still stands by its engineer-is-king culture. Do you agree with putting the science first? Is this empowerment what makes Google successful?


RESPONSES

Chapter 11, question 1:

Well, I guess the obvious answer is gmail. It seems to be successful and maybe about 40%-50% of people I know might have a gmail account. They use gchat, hook it up to their AIM account somehow and seem to be having a good time. The 1GB of memory really drew me in for some reason. I don't know why I'd ever need that much memory for my email and at the bottom of my page it says that I'm using about 5% of the memory capacity. It's be around that number for a while now.

I think the reason why these certain things failed with Google is because they seem to "hype" themselves up a bit. When things come out, there is big promo stuff to make it seem greater than it actually is. As far as I know, Youtube and Facebook came from humble means and people caught on as social trends started forming. Often times, telling people that something is great is not as effective as them finding out for themselves. Self-discovery has always been a big thing in human culture.

— Mike Yi

Chapter 11, question 1:

The creators of Google should be labeled as prodigal geniuses for their endeavors in creating a search engine that generated results based on user choice popularity, a search engine that now entertains a larger user audience than any other existing search engine (although "Bing" may soon give them a run for their money.) That being said, I think the masterminds at Google could most definitely produce something as successful as their search engine, given that their logo and name is already one of the most recognized symbols on the internet and even television. Google is widely regarded by internet users as one of the most successful internet accessories, it wouldn't take much for them to springboard off of their logo with another product and ride their name into more success. The simplest part of their mission statement is the reason for their success. Averaging user picks per result to create the most convenient and relevant search engine on the internet has fueled their machine. Complexity is unnecessary.

-Brandon Shipp

Chapter 11, question 1:

Of course I have to agree with Mike about GMail; I've been using it for years, and now most of my friends have accounts as well. It has a friendly interface that's easy to customize, and the "labels" feature is freaking amazing. Also of note is Google Maps, which seems to have made MapQuest the "MySpace" of the online mapping world. In my opinion, Google is doing a good job of expanding their services. And I think one reason for this is their focus on being platform-friendly in order to keep up with evolving technology. For instance, Google Docs has also proven helpful to me whenever I need to open a .docx attachment on a computer that doesn't have MS Word. And just earlier today, I looked up directions on my phone's Google Maps application. I think this expansion of usability is establishing Google as so much more than a search engine, and I think they'll be around for a lot longer so long as they keep innovating.

—McKinley Gillespie

Chapter 10, Question 2

These changes make sense to me because as a searcher, my interests change over the course of a year. It is good to know that the results I would have received 2 years ago are not the same ones a search would return today, because the web evolves quickly. As a bad example, if I were to Google the term ‘Twilight’ now, the results I would receive would be drastically different than the ones that would have been on the first results page 2 years ago.

At the same time, the use of multiple cookies vs. one cookie saving preferences seems better to me, because of the variety of search history information that Google has stored for me. The history of my search queries paired with the resulting pages that I actually choose to view is likely to streamline my future searches.

Even without these changes, though, I would still use Google, because it is the search engine I have relied on for most of my internet-using lifetime. These habits are ingrained, so the amount of time that my personal history is stored and the location doesn’t really matter to me.

—Katie Collins

Chapter 9, Question 2 and Chapter 10, Question 2

Since these two questions both deal with issues of privacy I will answer them together.

Trust is a difficult thing to come by nowadays. Children rarely play out of doors not just because they have video games but because their mothers are afraid to let them play out of doors because they don't trust other people. We have security cameras here there and everywhere and if you watch daytime television everyone is cheating on everyone because they don't trust each other to be faithful. This issue is pervasive in our culture now.

Amazingly though, Google has our trust. I trust Google. I used its e-mail service, maps, calendar and search engine. I have even used Google books. It is reliable. And I forgo my issues and woes of privacy in order to use its products. My concerns about my personal information being misused are minor simply because there are millions of Google users - why wouldn't I get lost in the crowd? True they are excellent at placing ads I might want to look at, but isn't it the algorithm that does that? I have this vision of the Google algorithm as this well-oiled machine that not even Brin and Page can fully crack to understand its workings anymore. It's like it has a life of it's own and runs like the energizer bunny. This is far fetched and foolish but because of it I don't worry about the owners selling my info to some sort of government to get me tried for treason or something like that. It is a corporation that wants to make money and therefore would not abuse the trust of its users because then it would lose value. Plus they don't want to do evil and that would be doing evil.

Things get tricky though when you bring up child pornography. I stand by Google though on their decision to not turn those people in. My reason is this - they are playing God if they do so. Yes those people are perverts but having the power to completely alter a person's life is too great. If Google turns those individuals in they will most likely be put on the sex offenders list just like people who piss in public. It's an invasion of privacy in that regard because the search is being done from their own home and there is no way to prove that they are something truly terrible like child rapists. Turning them in isn't going to necessarily accomplish anything. The same goes for people looking at how to make a pipe bomb. Maybe it's some crazy kid who's interested in explosions or something. True it may be terrorists, but that is unknown. If Google were to turn the porno freaks in they would have opened a Pandora's box of all sorts of privacy invasions and mass paranoia across the country. Those are my thoughts.

-Brittney Trimmer

Chapter 11 Question 1

It is a strange notion that today Google is so powerful and rich that the company has become almost immune to failure. If Google creates something that does not work, then they can just buy something that does. If their social service fails, then they acquire Facebook and if their video section stinks, then they can just purchase YouTube. Google has such deep pockets that they don't really have to be that innovative anymore, they can just buy success. This being said, it seems to me that the world of Googlezon may not be so far fetched. Google might just continue to grow and absorb more and more of the net until they own everything. However, I really doubt that Google and Amazon will ever actually merge, I think Amazon will be engulfed. Every site has its price, what will the world be like when a company has enough money to meet every single one of those prices? Maybe one day the word internet will be gone, and all that will be left will be Google. It's a scary thought, one that is possible but in my opinion, not very likely.

-Jared Putman

Question 2.

The Internet has provided convenience for many people in the ways that they are able to shop, pay bills, and register for things. But, when people do these things online, there is typically a certain amount of personal information that is required and after you hit send, all of that information is being sent through numerous networks. And there is always a chance that someone who is not supposed to see it will be able to view that information before it reaches the desired and final destination. And even after it reaches its final destination, there is a chance that the wrong person will see it.

I personally don’t know enough about computers to even think about how one would go about viewing someone else’s information, but I think there are enough people out there who are smart enough to do it if they wanted to. As terrible as it is to say, there are also enough people out there who might not make the best and right decision if they did find someone else’s personal information and I think they might have a hard time not using it in the wrong way.

Trust is a huge part of sharing personal information over the Internet; or really anywhere in general. It is not just the Internet that people should worry about though. Sure, if the information might spread more quickly and easily over the Internet, but even if someone gets someone’s personal info on a piece of paper, they can still abuse it. But trust is important when sharing anything, so yes if everyone trusted everyone and everyone was trustworthy, then privacy concerns might not be an issue.

-Anne-Randolph Scott


Chapter 9
1. I would argue that Youtube is both a platform for content and a content provider. There are a lot of TV and movie clips on Youtube, which I watch at times, but there are also a lot of videos that are made for Youtube by its users. I believe that anything that is copyrighted by the owner has the right to refuse to have its content posted on Youtube, and that if there is pirated content, Youtube (and now Google) should police those videos and remove them if necessary. However, there are so many videos that are explicitly made for Youtube that I can find validation in calling the site a platform for content.
Also, I never watch full-length movies or recent TV shows online; I use iTunes for movies and Hulu for recent TV shows. However, I do use Youtube to watch older TV shows that I can't find anywhere else.

2. I am concerned, but never fully worried, about my internet privacy. I trust the bigger names with my private information, especially my credit card information and address. However, when I access my Gmail account, the ads that are above my emails almost always have something to do with the content of the email. For example, I have an email from a graduate program and the ad above it is promoting a MBA program at Florida Tech. How do they know what to advertise to me when my account should be private? I don't know how it works, and not knowing is not good.

-Aimee Gervacio

Chapter 10:

2. I think these changes do make me feel more comfortable using Google. Mostly because I would want my search results to stay as current as possible with what I am interested in, and what I feel is most relevant. With less time in the database, and a lot of cookies, the easier it will be for me to find exactly what I want quickly. Without these changes I probably would have continued to use Google, I think all of us will until something comes along that’s better. - Elizabeth Hardwick

Chapter 11:

1. I would like to agree with Google mail, docs, and maps users that have already commented. These are very usable and successful things that they have created.
Concerning the simple layout…I think the simple layout of the actual Google search has a lot to do with market and branding at this point. Everyone recognizes what the Google search engine looks like, if they change it, people would probably complain it look cluttered, and they would have to come up with a whole new marketing/branding scheme.
For the business ventures, it seems like they are saying Google needs to be afraid of trying to overtake an already very powerful market place. Like trying to overtake Facebook, bad idea, people already trust and use Facebook, it is going to be hard to convert that many people over. Or like with Google Buzz? Which seems like a version of Twitter to me, I don’t really know much about it, but I don’t think that’s really going to fly off the shelves either. I suppose what they should really do is use their creative atmosphere to work on supporting things that are entirely new, not just revamp what has been done. - Elizabeth Hardwick

Chapter 11:

Question 1

I think it can be safely stated that google will not ever be able to create anything else more successful than its search engine. Beyond the plain layout of the website, the underlying business model of the company is astoundingly simple. Everything they do is about increasing simplicity and speed. Their search algorithm has been meticulously edited for the past decade to increase its speed, and software releases are only approved if the code's performence is improved.

Their business model has brought the company success not because they do things no one else does. If any of you can recall their have been countless search engines, but google is the most successful now because its the best at what it does. I think this simplicty of vision is vital to the success of the company.

Elliott Ditman

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