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Monday, August 28, 2006

Google Services Loosely Joined?

Microsoft was once in legal trouble for using its monopoly Operating System position to win over the browser market, when Internet Explorer was tightly integrated into Windows. Today, Google is the biggest search player in the world, and has above 90% search market share in some countries. Will Google ever get in trouble for violating laws due to too-close integration of its products?

Ionut Alex. Chitu of the Google Operating System blog argues, “It’s hard to remain impartial when you produce your own content. When you search for an address, Google shows links to Google Maps and to other competing services like MapQuest. Will this ever change? Will Google try to keep you more on its properties?”

Competition is just a click away, but here are some examples of Google integrating its various services – sometimes loosely, sometimes more tightly. Tight integration causes software lock-in; maybe you’d prefer Calendar XYZ over Google Calendar, but as all of your emails are in Gmail, you switch to Google Calendar because of its neat integration into Gmail.


Tightly joined: Google search results include top results (so-called oneboxes) from many other of its services, like Google News; the ads to the right side are powered by Google AdWords.


Loosely joined: In a search for San Francisco, Google offers not only their own maps service, but also Yahoo Maps and MapQuest.


Tightly joined: Google integrates Google Talk into Gmail as “Google Chat."


Loosely joined: Google allows third-party sites to make use of their services through APIs, such as the Google SOAP Search API. Another service, Google Trends, exposes search data to researchers and journalists.


Tightly joined: Google with their Referral program pushes a browser that’s of strategic advantage to them in the battle against Microsoft/ Internet Explorer.


Loosely joined: Google Project Hosting allows you to host your programming project, promoting Open Source at the same time.


Tightly joined: Google only allows you to add Google AdSense ads into your Blogger feed. They also make it very easy to pick AdSense via Template -> AdSense. And some years ago, Google used their blogging platform power to push the Atom feed format over RSS, which was already used on most blogs.


Loosely joined: Google’s software package Google Pack includes software from other companies, such as Adobe Reader, RealPlayer, or Norton AntiVirus.


Tightly joined: Google protects their own trademark but allows other trademarks to be used; I am not able to create a Google AdWords ad reading “Google Sucks,” but I can create an ad reading “Microsoft Sucks."


Loosely joined: Gmail allows you to forward all of your emails to another address, or to download them via POP (a standardized email protocol). This is the opposite of lock-in.


Tightly joined: The Google Page Creator allows you to add gadgets... Google Gadgets only.


Loosely joined: Google’s specialized music results offer you to buy a song from different places, including Yahoo Music.


Tightly joined: When people email you about an event, to the right side you are offered to instantly add this to Google Calendar. Other calendar systems are not supported.


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