Tuesday, we read chapter one of The Googlization of Everything by Siva Vaidhyanthan. This chapter focused on Google’s domination of the Internet and whether or not that is good for “the future of our information ecosystem” (Vaidhyanthan 1). He seems to imply that Google is a monopoly over the World Wide Web, but believes that “Is Google a monopoly?” is the wrong question to ask (Vaidhyanthan 20). He writes, “We should begin by examining what Google actually does and how that compares to what competitors do or might do in the future. That approach will give us a better sense of what the Googlization of everything means and what has already been done about it” (Vaidhyanthan 20). Before we can say whether or not the “Googlization” of everything is good or bad, I think we need to figure out why people prefer Google over other sites, like Bing and Yahoo. I think this is something Vaidhyanthan largely fails to address. He talks a little about Bing and Yahoo in a business and technological-sense. Essentially, Google dominates over the other two, especially in the field of advertising, but Vaidhyanthan fails to address why people want to use Google, rather than Bing or Yahoo. It’s the people who use Google that makes Google so successful. So, why do people like Google so much?
I’m taking Introduction to Public Relations and Advertising, and we talked briefly about Google, and why Google is so successful: Google has created a culture. It is a culture of information. It’s more than Gmail, Maps, Drive, Chrome, etc. Google is ingrained in our daily lives. Is it the variety of Google services that makes people want to use Google? Sure. But, it’s also possible that people genuinely like Google. What do I mean by like Google? People like the way Google works. Google’s success is a result of its performance. We learned from The Performance of Politics by Jeffrey C. Alexander that a candidate’s performance largely wins elections. Thus, Google’s performance largely wins support for its services and its company as a whole. What do I mean by Google’s performance? I’ll give you few examples to consider:
Have you seen The Internship with Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn? If you’ve seen it, you know that Google comes across as the best place to work (Hoffman 1). According to Google spokesman Jordan Newman, Google wants “to create the happiest, most productive workplace in the world” (Stewart 2). People know this about Google, whether or not they’ve seen The Internship. For 5 years, Google has been ranked as number 1 on Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” (Fortune 1). Their position as number one on Fortune’s list seems justifiable. Google nurtures employee-wellness, creativity, family benefits, team building, etc. (Phelps 1). Basically, The Internship was an advertisement for Google—making people love Google even more than they already did (Hoffman 3). Google didn’t come up with the idea for this movie—that part was done by Vince Vaughn (Hoffman 3). Still, however, the fact that Hollywood chose to make a movie about Google shows the world that people love Google. And if they don’t love Google, they should love Google.
Though Vaidhyanathan’s chapter wasn’t explicitly related to politics or political communication, we can apply what we’ve learned in this class to help us examine and make sense of Google’s success—success as result of its performance. Part of Google’s performance as a company is the way they treat their employees, and people like that about Google. After all, more than 2 million people apply at Google each year (Phelps 1). It’s more than just applying and working at Google, though: Google has become part of our everyday lives. We use Gmail, Google Drive, Google Maps, some of us have Android phones—and Google’s services are free. Gmail is free. Google Maps is free. Chrome is free. It’s no secret that people like free things. Not only does Google treat its employees well, it treats its users well, too. And that’s also part of the performance—the performance to win users and to keep them. Like Vaidhyanathan says, people trust Google: “If you can’t trust Google to do something well and ethically, whom can you trust? (44).
Dana Wagner, a lawyer for Google was quoted as saying, “Competition is a click away” (Vaidhyanathan 19). I think Wagner is correct in that competition is really just a click away. It is that simple. People could easily navigate to a different website, like Yahoo or Bing. But, people want to use Google, and chapter one of the Googlization of Everything fails to address why people want to use Google. Vaidhyanathan rejects her argument by writing, “Google’s argument also ignores the ‘network effect’ in communication markets: a service increases in value as more people use it” (Vaidhyanathan 19). He’s exactly right. Any service’s value increases as more people use it. Why are more people using it, though? Why are more people consistently choosing to use Google, rather than a different website? I think that’s something Vaidhyanathan does not address in his first chapter.
I wanted to know his thoughts on why people, as a culture, like to use Google because, in this class, we’ve largely focused on sociology and its relationship to politics and political communication. I found a speech about the Googlization of Everything that Vaidhyanathan gave at Stanford University in 2011. Here’s the link to that video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AwLwaB7pJC4
In this video, Vaidhyanathan does address why people like to use Google, and he says that he even uses Google. It is an interesting video that goes beyond the realm of information included in chapter one. He agrees that people like to use Google because it’s often tailored to their interests and simply because people genuinely like Google. For the purpose of this blog post, I was happy to learn that Vaidhyanathan and I shared some of the same beliefs about why people simply like to use Google.
One of the main themes of this class is how sociology and culture influence and are affected by politics and political communication. We have examined why people support candidates and why people vote the way they do. That’s why I think is important to understand why people like to use Google and what Google is doing to make people like its services. We learned that a large part of winning support and sustaining that support is about the candidate’s performance. In this case, getting people to use Google and keeping those users is about Google’s performance as an employer, as a service provider, as a search engine, and as a company.
“What Do Googlers Think of ‘The Internship’ Movie?” by Jeremy Hoffman
“100 Best Companies to Work For” by Fortune Magazine
“Cracking Into Google: 15 Reasons Why More Than 2 Million People Apply Each Year” by Stan Phelps
“Looking for a Lesson in Google’s Perks” by James B. Stewart
“The Googlization of Everything (And Why We Should Worry)