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Google is eating the open internet

Google is eating the open internet
From Mashable - August 13, 2017

Google used to be about transporting you around the open web and connecting you with all the weird, wonderful stuff the internet has to offer.

Not anymore. If it was up to Google, you'd never need to leave its growing internet real estate. It's a scary proposition for just about everybody but Google.

Between fast-loading AMP articles from major news brands hosted in its domain, full pages of information scraped from outside sites that do not require you to visit them, basic shopping functions built into ads, YouTube, and a host of other features, the Google-verse is more of a digital walled garden than ever.

The most recent addition comes in the form of a report that the company is considering killing visible URLs altogether.

Google has always had these ambitions to one extent or another. Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt said way back in 2005 that the platonic ideal of a Google search should ultimately yield just one result, and that result would be the simplest answer to the query, no clicks needed.

The company has made various moves towards this idea in the years since, but it only really became aggressive about it when arch-rival Facebook's own drive towards its own enclosed platform lit a fire.

The benefits of operating within a regulated walled garden are obvious. The open web tends a wild and messy place, whereas closed platforms allow companies to control, track, and potentially monetize every part of their user experience and behavior.

Google's a bit different because it primarily operates in the web at large. Its core business is built around organizing and indexing the internet's chaotic expanses. Its networks place ads on thousands of different sites, reaping billions of dollars in the process.

The company justifies its new crusade as a boon to consumers, who obviously are not big fans of slow-loading pages, extra navigation, and annoying ads. And six in ten Google users say they want more results they do not have to click.

But that convenience does not come without a cost. Brian Warner, founder and CEO of CelebrityWorthNet.com, understands perhaps more than anybody the power of Google's wall-building.

Warner started to notice the content from his site appearing directly on search results pages in 2012. Two years later, he got an email from Google asking to scrape all of his data, which he turned down. Another two years after that, Google did it anyway, and the impact was catastrophic.

"It was extremely painful, it was extremely devastating," Warner said. "We got to a point where our traffic was down 85 percent from a year or two earlier."

Search for the net worth of any celebrity at random todaylet's say, James Earl Jonesand you will get the number ($45 million) and a short biographical blurb pulled from CelebrityNetWorth.com with credit and a link. Below that is a panel of questions commonly asked about the Star Wars actor ("Is James Earl Jones alive or dead?" reads one) and dropdown answers pulled from sources ranging big news sites to personal blogs ("James Earl Jones is alive!" E!'s excerpted headline rejoices.)

More questions load every time you click, and it's easy to stray from related topic to topic without ever leaving Google.

The growth in the use of these sorts of built-in tools in the past few years has been dramatic. A recent report from marketing agency Stone Temple found that half of all Google search results now come with some form of information hosted within the siteand three in ten with so-called "snippets" in particular. As of January, these excerpts appeared more than 50 percent more often than they did just a year and a half earlier.

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