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A touch of evil?

Zafar Anjum | Sept. 11, 2009
Despite its revolutionary products, Google still draws flak from different quarters

Google is without doubt one of the most influential and revolutionary technology companies in history. In over a decades time, the way Google has risen in the cyberspace and redefined everythingfrom search to e-mails to applicationsis unparalleled.

Today, it is a much admired company. In The Wall Street Journals list of Asias 200 most admired companies, Google ranks at no 3, just after Apple and Toyota Motors, and above Sony, Nokia and Microsoft.

Perhaps, even unbeknownst to Google, it has been changing the way human beings think and process information. According to Nicholas Carr, the Internet (led by Google) is making us stupid, chipping away at our capacity for concentration and contemplation (Is Google Making Us Stupid?, The Atlantic, July/August 2008). The New Yorkers media writer Ken Auletta is coming out with a new tome on Google titled, Googled: The End of the World as We Know It (to be out Nov. 3, Penguin Press).

Not to be evil, a snide reference against Microsoft, is one of Googles stated mottos. That position of the company is well-known. Yet, the Internet giant has been drawing flak of late for a number of its products.

Is Google the new Microsoft?

When Google started out, it seemed that the company would strict itself to search. But over the years, it has not only entered the space of e-mails (Gmail) and applications (Google Apps) but also that of videos (by acquiring YouTube) and mapping (Google Earth).

In the field of search, Google is the master and commander. In a short space of a decade, Google Search has become the virtual gateway to the Internet. The way Google commercialised search was also unprecedented. Now, Googles CEO Eric Schmidt wants to take Google into a completely new domain: he wants to connect Google straight to our brains. Make whatever you want to make of that!

At one time, hotmail was the king of e-mails. In fact, Sabeer Bhatia, if you remember the US-based Indian techie, was the one who popularised e-mails. Then came Yahoo and a host of other companies providing e-mail services. Gmail, with its unlimited space and search functionalities, completely changed the game.

Similarly, when YouTube became more popular than Google Video, it bought out its rival. Now, do you see any rival to YouTube? There might be some lame imitators but YouTube has emerged as the ubiquitously popular video website.

Now, Google wants to monetize the site's popularity in unprecedented ways: by reading brain waves to measure the effectiveness of the ads. According to a Wired report, "together with neuroscience  advertising research firm NeuroFocus, Google has measured things likes users skin responses, eye movement and an EEG brain scan in response to YouTube InVideo overlay ads. They found that the ads have high levels of engagement, increase user experience and improve brand reponse."


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