First, some context
Henry Porter, an opinionator granted a regular podium by the Guardian, has written a bit of a rant claiming that we're victims of Google, a "monopoly."
Google presents a far greater threat to the livelihood of individuals and the future of commercial institutions important to the community. One case emerged last week when a letter from Billy Bragg, Robin Gibb and other songwriters was published in the Times explaining that Google was playing very rough with those who appeared on its subsidiary, YouTube. When the Performing Rights Society demanded more money for music videos streamed from the website, Google reacted by refusing to pay the requested 0.22p per play and took down the videos of the artists concerned.
It does this with impunity because it is dominant worldwide and knows the songwriters have nowhere else to go. Google is the portal to a massive audience: you comply with its terms or feel the weight of its boot on your windpipe.
The article is full of these kinds of claims, all largely based on what seems to be either a complete misunderstanding of the nature of the Web, or a lack of understanding of the word "monopoly."
The core of Porter's ignorance, willful or not, is revealed in this statement:
Despite its diversification, Google is in the final analysis a parasite that creates nothing, merely offering little aggregation, lists and the ordering of information generated by people who have invested their capital, skill and time.
This is true only if you think that things exist on their own, and that their relationships to you, their relationships to each other, do not exist, or are not worth looking at, let alone making available for use -- let alone making relevant to our day-to-day lives.
Google provides a means of finding relevance in that sea of stuff out there on the Web. It's like a mega-index of the "book" of the Web. That relevance was largely hidden from us before search engines. To find relevance, one had to ask friends, browse libraries, analyze the Dewey Decimal System, dig up Yellow Pages, rummage through desk drawers to find that one tidbit of information you want right now.
That is hardly "nothing."
In 1787 Thomas Jefferson wrote: "Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate to prefer the latter."
Thomas Jefferson was also against a strong judiciary, which in hindsight sounds pretty foolish, imho. But Jefferson aside, there's no indication that what newspapers are in function -- delivery systems for filtered information -- is not going anywhere. It's just the newspaper industry, and the infrastructure and market that enabled the paper to be printed, that is going away. News is still happening. It's just that how we're getting it is changing.
There is a brattish, clever amorality about Google that allows it to censor the pages on its Chinese service without the slightest self doubt, store vast quantities of unnecessary information about every Google search, and menace the delicate instruments of democratic scrutiny.
I don't like how US-owned search engine companies are going along with the Chinese Government's restrictions on the Internet, either, but let's be clear: It's the Chinese government that is censoring the Internet. Google is going along with it, along with much of the rest of the American economy, let's face it. This is about corporate collaboration with government constraints on what we consider "American values," and not about a Google monopoly or how Google is anything but pretty darned typical these days.