I’ve been musing about Google’s acquisition of Double Click.
I have a friend who had a problem. When you put his name into Google the results consisted entirely of articles about a contentious event he was peripherally associated with. He spend 3 years engineering other materials on the web, including soliciting links from me and other friends, to drive that drivel off the first page of “his” results. Here’s a guy with an impressive resume of fine work; so the phrase slander comes to mine. We are all coming to fear Google; because it can casually can destroy.
I’ve mentioned before Double Click is very likely the largest identity provider on the net. They manage that trick by avoiding the hard problem: moving the installed base. They don’t try to change the installed base of browsers. They don’t try to get the installed base of users to sign up. They adopt the gossip model for identity, they build statistical models based on gossip. They sell the gossip models to firms. Part of their payment is gossip about the users.
I hadn’t noticed before how this is similar to Google’s scheme for modeling the value of sites. In original Google they build statistical models of sites based on the link graph. (Obviously the data that web bugs collect is can improve those models).
When I first began thinking about Double Click as an identity provider I was more focused on how evil they appear because they have no relationship with the users they are modeling. That, not surprisingly, makes the user suspicious. “Who are these people talking about me without my involvement!” That Google does the same thing for web sites and that we treat that as less offensive says something deep. Both how alienated we are from our sites; and it reminds one about the entire industry around self presentation (pr, search engine optimization, etc. etc.).
The key reason Double Click offends us is the fear that their model will bite us. While they maybe malicious they are almost certain to be cavalier. The concerns arises regarding Google and the models it builds of our sites. It can casually destroy them.
Nobody should continue to pretend that these gossip models can be avoided and that a handful of firms will have extensive ones. I wondered sometime ago if “you were king of Double Click could you fix this problem”? At the time it seemed to me that part of fixing it would be to begin to build a relationship with the users. I guess it will be interesting, as in “may you live in interesting times,” to see how Google tackles that problem. Hopefully they can do a better job that the credit reporting firms have. The puzzle is how to do that with the tools at hand: vast numbers of people and computers.