The Week Interviews Zack Maril, declares: “Bust up Google’s destructive search monopoly!”

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Knuckleheads’ Club
Zack Maril
[email protected]

The Week Interviews Zack Maril, declares: “Bust up Google’s destructive search monopoly!”
Makes progressive case for regulating Google using Knuckleheads’ Club’s research


Washington, DC – Following a groundbreaking story in the New York Times, The Week’s Ryan Cooperinterviewed Zack Maril about the findings of the Knuckleheads’ Club. The immediate take away? Every progressive should see Knuckleheads’ Club’s work as proof that Google’s search monopoly must be regulated:

Software engineer Zack Maril has founded an organization called the Knuckleheads’ Club (because only a knucklehead would take on such a rich and powerful company) to research and draw attention to this fact, as Daisuke Wakabayashi writes in The New York Times. For structural reasons I’ll explain below, the activity of “crawling” the web to build such an index is a natural monopoly, and nobody is likely to ever pose a real challenge to Google’s dominance — something that is flying somewhat under the radar. “It’s generally not talked about, because people don’t know about it that much,” Maril told The Week in an interview. Governments around the world should regulate this company in the public interest, or simply take it over.

Following his conversation with Zack, Cooper summarized how our research proves Google is a natural monopoly in two paragraphs that any lay person can read and understand:
That raises two barriers to competition. First and most obviously, the internet is huge and therefore building a crawler that can look at even a small fraction of it requires a huge investment. Google has been far out ahead for so long that it takes another tech behemoth, Microsoft, to even begin to compete. Second and more subtly, website owners have an incentive to restrict all non-Google crawlers. It may be expensive to create an internet-scale crawler, but it is cheap to create one that will just look at a few websites, and people indeed do this for many reasons. Website bandwidth costs money, and crawlers can eat up a lot of it with their automated activity. Many administrators therefore ban all crawler-like activity, but then build in an exemption for Google, because showing up in its search results matters so much for traffic. (Knucklehead research also shows that many websites give Google even more advantages over and above this.)

These two factors mean it is virtually impossible for any new company to seriously threaten the dominance of Google’s web index. Any new major crawler would be banned from most websites because it costs them money and provides little traffic in return — but the new search engine also can’t grow its traffic, precisely because it can’t develop a proper index and attract a user base. Even Microsoft, after sinking years of effort and billions into its search engine Bing, is far behind.

Zack also explained to Cooper why Google’s web index is such a competitive advantage. The company is so powerful that every website is forced to pay a ‘Google tax’ or lose a major portion of their audience. And Google is able to exploit this advantage in other fields to give the company “ever-more insurmountable competitive advantage:”

But the deeper problem is the enormous advantage that controlling the only good internet index provides. This massive treasure trove of data gives Google an “incredible advantage … in machine learning and artificial intelligence,” Maril told The Week. Machine translation, for instance, “only becomes effective once you reach a critical point of data.” By the same token, considered from the perspective of other websites, making sure Google can crawl looks less like some kind of favor and more like a “Google tax” that must be paid, he says. Anyone with a website simply must spend whatever time and money it takes to let Google index their pages, lest they be impossible to find. That data then gives the company an ever-more insurmountable competitive advantage.

The Knuckleheads’ Club believes any progressive who reads our research will reach the same conclusion. That’s why we’re asking progressives (or anyone worried about corporate power) to become a founding member of the Knuckleheads Club and help us finish our research. Join the club today!

To learn more about the club’s research and where the Knuckleheads’ Club is going next, please don’t hesitate to email [email protected] today! Zack is available for interviews as well as background. You can follow the club on Twitter at @KnuckleheadsClb and Zack on Twitter at @ZackMaril. And, as always, you can read the research that started this all at knuckleheads.club/introduction.
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