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The Australian media and government have picked a fight with Google.
They want Google to be forced to pay a royalty to media sites that it uses when creating its Google News service. Google says "piss off".
Yet strangely, this is exactly the arrangement Google has already agreed to in France.
So what's going on ? What's the problem Google?
As it did in France, Google has also responded by saying "if you don't play by *OUR* rules, we'll take our ball and go home" -- by pulling access to its search engine from Australia.
Creator of the concept of the WWW, Tim Berners Lee has come out harshly criticising the Aussie government and claiming that such a move on their part would effectively be "breaking" the basic tenet on which the internet has been formed.
So what's really going on and what will the actual outcome of this stoush be?
Well I don't think Google will pull its search engine service from Australia under any circumstances.
What they're more likely to do, if all else fails, is to make the Google News service unavailable to those with an Australian-based IP address.
To be honest, I don't think many Australians would notice the loss of this service and I'm sure that Murdoch and his cronies would love that to be the outcome -- since the ockers would have to visit his sites directly.
However, we should remind ourselves again that despite its early protestations and threats to withdraw services, Google did settle with French authorities and agree to pay some of its media outlets for use of and links to the content they produce.
It would seem that it's not the concept of paying that Google finds unacceptable, it's probably just more the *amount* they're going to have to pay.
I expect that Google isn't making a snot-load of money directly from its news pages. In fact, if you go directly to those pages there's not an ad to be seen anywhere.
Google is a corporation with an imperative to maximise its return to shareholders so it has to balance costs versus revenues very carefully. Since (at this stage) there are no direct revenues from Google News then the costs must be trimmed accordingly so there's likely not much budget to pay those media outlets.
Of course I have no doubt some will be wondering "why does google provide a service for which it obtains no revenues?" Well the answer, when you think about it, is pretty obvious.
Google is basically an advertising company. The more effective (ie: targeted) their advertising is, the more they can charge and the more money they make. By delivering a "free" service such as Google News, the corporation is able to build a better profile of each individual that visits the site. By logging the type of news you search for and click on, Google can hone its targeting of advertising that appears in front of you as you tour the web.
Will Google be prepared to forego this extra targeting information in Australia so as to avoid the cost of paying media outlets as demanded by the Aussie government?
Of course I have no idea but it will be very interesting to see what comes of this Mexican standoff situation.
I'm picking that a deal will eventually be done, basically along the lines of the one done in France. The media outlets will not get the level of payment they were hoping for but Google will pay just enough to allow them to continue providing the service to Aussies.
What a shame... I was really hoping that Google would get the pip and pull all its services from Australia. If they did that, it might even be worth considering jumping the ditch to one of the few "Coogle-free" countries outside of China :-)
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