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In Google We Trust -- But Should We?


The smartest guys in the room try to convince us they have no idea what's going on.

In America, the rewards are yours for the taking so long as you work hard, play by the rules, and are good at what you do.

But not too good.

If you're too good, you risk "blowing up" in a way that our society seems determined to punish. For celebrities, that can mean achieving the kind of fame that leads down a dark alley of paparazzi-fueled paranoia toward a drug-induced demise. For businesses and corporations, being too good means raising the ire of government regulators quick to put them in their place for the sake of preserving competition.

Right now, Google's (GOOG) afraid it's too good.

The company's telling anyone who will listen that its dominance could vanish at any moment. Weird, isn't it? In what dimension does it make smart business sense for a company to assert its own fallibility?

"Competition is a click away," says Dana Wagner, Google's unofficial senior competition counselor. "We are in an industry that is subject to disruption and we can't take anything for granted."

According to the New York Times, Wagner's been roaming the world, speaking to reporters, legal scholars, Congressional staff members, and industry groups about why Google isn't as well-positioned as reality would suggest.

The reality is this: About two-thirds of all Internet searches are performed by Google. With over $22 billion of advertising sold, Google's the world's largest media company. To put the numbers in perspective: In 2008, Time Warner (TWX) earned $8.8 billion in advertising revenue; Viacom (VIA), $4.7 billion.

Google's YouTube is more than 10 times more popular than its closest competitor. With search queries growing about 50%, Google will need so much electricity to power its servers that it's considering drilling a 2-mile-deep hole in the ground to extract geothermal energy -- even if it means destroying the entire city of San Francisco by inducing a massive earthquake.

But forget the numbers. You use the Internet, so you're already asking yourself this question: Why would anyone possibly use any service other than Google?
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