**Susi Weaser writes... **
You may have noticed an advert to the right of this column promoting an Information Revolution.You might also have noticed it on buses, taxis, tubes and just about anything that you can pin down long enough to stick some advertising on it. The adverts are freakin' everywhere, and work on the basis of telling you only enough to intrigue you, hoping that you'll click on to discover more.
Should you bite the bullet and give in to your curiosity you'll discover that it's a campaign to raise awareness of Google's stronghold over the search engine industry, and therefore over a significant amount of knowledge regarding your habits. And look a little closer, and you'll find that it's actually a campaign by search engine rivals, Ask.com. Those guys with the butler. So are Google getting a little too big and scary?
Well, there's no disputing figures. 53% of searches are conducted by Google, allowing them insight into where you eat, what you buy and all sorts of other knowledge of interest to everyone from GlaxoSmithKline to the US Government. And Google are expanding their influence by providing things like software from Google Office and videos from YouTube. As one marketeer said in an article in Business Week, "It's a Google world. We just live in it."
Ask.com's campaign is clearly the work of a savvy marketing agency, allegedly designed to 'provoke debate'. But it does employ some basic scare tactics, including suggesting that eventually one company will control everything you get from the web. Tongue in cheek it may be, but there's a serious motive.
Whilst I don't object to stimulating this debate, and I think it's an important issue that people should be aware of, I can't help but feel it tastes somewhat of sour grapes. What if Ask.com had a service that matched or even exceeded Googles? If 53% of searches were done through them, I think we can safely assume that they wouldn't be rocking this particular boat.
Inevitably, Ask.com are dealing with somewhat of a backlash. They've provided the opportunity for comment, which as anyone who has a 2.0 website will confirm, is a mixed blessing. And sure enough, the majority of the comments on the microsite are negative. Now, kudos to Ask.com for not just deleting them, but it does make you wonder what they're getting out of it.
Regardless of whether you agree with the marketing strategy or not, it's worth considering how you feel about Google taking over the world. If you do indeed believe that Google is taking over the world. Those that do, probably feel a similar way about Bill Gates, I'm guessing.