I don’t know what it is about the Google anti-trust hearings going on that has me so worked up. I keep wavering between the notion that there is no anti-trust issue and that Google’s services are free besides, and the possibility that maybe there is some monopolistic tendencies but I like Google. To really get the effect, there is a bit of foot-stomping with that italicized ‘like’ up there ^^.

In brief, Google’s would-be competitors dislike their standing in Google’s search results. The more complicated explanation from Yelp, for example, is that Google takes its content and publishes it without permission, and on Yelp’s protest Google threatened to remove Yelp from search results entirely. So yeah, that sounds pretty unfair, but I do wonder… Google displays reviews, including those from Yelp, as an aggregation of web results, which is kind of how Google does everything. If that’s true, then Google would be removing Yelp from those results to prevent their display. But all that assumes that Google’s Places works like Google’s basic Search, by aggregating results, but of a specific type, in this case, of reviews available on the internet. If the reviews are useful, one can click to follow just like on the basic Search.

I think the real problem has more to do with internet enterprises being so dependent on Google to do business – and that’s their problem, not Google’s. In the traditional business world, it would be foolish to expect a standard yellow pages listing to attract a large business following. That’s why yellow pages allowed advertising, why businesses advertised in.. wait… what were those? Oh – newspapers. How are any of these web sites and corresponding businesses relevant to my life? Well, they aren’t, but I’m unusually not-open-to-buying-things (i.e. – poor). But if I were open-to-buying-things, would Yelp, for example, be of any use? Not really. When we do spend money, where we go usually involves some old fashioned social capital: our friend works here, this place sponsored our school’s last event, etc. We are, you could say, discerning (you know, if you were nice about calling us cheap!). The problem with Google’s competition is that they haven’t found a way to make themselves relevant… at all.

You know who is relevant? Google. We chose an urban public school district (on purpose, even) where resources are a big issue. The technology at our school isn’t what we would like. High up on my list of resources I would like to see, as a parent, is an online platform that allows parents, students, and teachers easy, coordinated communication, where I can see homework, read newsletters, teachers can send emails, etc. We don’t have that now, but that kind of platform has become an intrinsic resource for higher education, and I think its absence is to my child’s detriment. Well, it turns out Google offers just such a platform, for free, for educational institutions. It’s the same apps package it offers businesses (and non-profits at a discounted cost). Google makes tangible efforts to benefit people’s lives in key ways, and that increases their social capital in a unique way. In other words, they make themselves relevant in real life in a positive way, while other online enterprises have stuck to the internet without getting creative in their marketing; I can only assume they are squirreled away in the intertubes counting acorns somewhere…