In today’s world, we all use Google every day of our lives. Whether you’re looking up something, or watching a YouTube video, the tech giant is an integral part of how we access and share information. This has been particularly affecting in the world of journalism, as the internet has completely changed the way news is distributed and read. Many of us might not even recall the days before online media skyrocketed – we are the first generation to not regularly buy physical newspapers.
Although Google is one of the world’s biggest companies, there has been concern in recent times surrounding the repercussions of one company having a monopoly over so many markets such as journalism and e-commerce. It has also led to rapid innovation from news organisations in terms of how to generate revenue in this new world, which has mainly fallen down to advertising. This has led to the current dispute between Google and Australia. The Australian government is demanding that Google, who show a preview of news articles on their search engine from which they also generate profit due to their own ads, should pay a fee to these organisations for displaying their content. It would be like if you charged Google for displaying your name in the search results when someone searched for your Facebook profile, as they are technically benefitting from linking to your content.
Some say that Google is directing readers to these platforms and therefore supporting them, so they should not have to pay. However, others argue that this will help to take some of the power from the monstrous control Google has over our day to day lives. How many of us run our college or work life through a Gmail account? How many of us depend on YouTube for entertainment or study purposes? And what would happen if these services, which are technically optional to us, were taken away?
Australians might have to find out, because Google is now threatening to remove itself from the Australian market, meaning that people would not be able to access any of its services without a paid VPN to hide their location. Some have argued that this may help democratize the internet by giving more attention to smaller search engines such as Yahoo, Bing, or DuckDuckGo. However, Google is not just a search engine – Google is built into our everyday lives, whether we realise it or not.
Regardless of how this dispute plays out, it is a ripe opportunity to reflect on our use of the internet, and how closely these tech companies play into our lives. How much of ourselves and our personal lives are intertwined with Google, Twitter or Facebook, and how would it affect us if they were suddenly taken away? If you woke up and found yourself without email, group chats or streaming, how much would it change your life? It may be difficult to imagine, but it’s worth thinking about, because there’s no way to tell what changes may come about in the next few years.