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How much would you pay to keep using Google?

The Economist’s data team has today published a blog post called “How much would you pay to keep using Google?” Unusually for The Economist, the headline isn’t really an accurate representation of the contents, which actually discuss research findings related to the amount people would have to be paid to give up using search engines in general.

But the original question got me thinking. A couple of years ago, I’d have responded with a fairly substantial sum. These days, I’m not so sure. I wonder what that says about the state of the company?

Google used to be the only decent search engine. That is no longer true. A couple of years ago, I decided to see if it was possible to go all-in on Bing. Ironically, this was somewhat inspired by Matt Cutts, formerly of Google, who gives himself 28-day challenges to test assumptions and better himself. Surely, I reasoned, it can’t be as bad as people make out, nor as bad in daily use as an occasional search to try it out makes it seem. I switched my default search engine to Bing in Chrome and on my mobile.

And do you know what? The vast majority of the time, it is perfectly competent. On very rare occasions when I’m struggling to find something I also try searching on Google: I’d say 75% of the time, I also fail to find what I’m looking for there. I’d also say, without any proper data to back up the assertion, that Bing’s results seem less replete with spammy useless links than Google’s. And Bing’s rewards scheme buys me an occasional coffee. I don’t think I’d pay for Google search.

But of course, Google provides more than just search. Would I pay for other components of their offer?

Would I pay for Gmail? There are perfectly decent alternatives to Gmail, and I rarely use my actual Gmail address but forward stuff to it from elsewhere, so redirecting future mail wouldn’t be a problem. Moving the archive would be a pain. I’d probably pay a small fee—a pound a month?—just to avoid the hassle.

One service I would definitely pay for is Google Maps. I use Google Maps every day and have not found anything that can even begin to compete. Back in December, Justin O’Beirne wrote a great essay on Google Maps’s moat—the content and time barrier which keeps it well ahead of competitors. On these terms, I guess Google Maps is probably the most “valuable” bit of Google to me.

Google Drive is great, but OneDrive is pretty great too. Chrome is my current default browser, but I’d happily switch to Firefox. Google Calendar is actually quite irritating (especially since ‘quick add’ was removed) and I use it only because it’s handy. I like my Android phone, but I’d get by on iOS. I’d be sad to lose my Chromebook, but Windows laptops aren’t quite the horror shows they used to be.

I enjoy watching occasional Youtube videos, but I wouldn’t really miss them if I couldn’t watch them any more. I use Google Photos, but I also upload all of my photos to other cloud services, at least in part because I don’t trust Google not to shut down Photos when it turns its attention elsewhere (à la Google Reader or Google Notebook, both of which closed while I was an active user).

More recent Google developments (Home, Assistant, Allo, Duo, Now) have totally passed me by.

Jeff Jarvis used to talk about “livin’ la vida Google” to describe his complete immersion in the Google universe. A couple of years ago, I’d have put myself in a similar category, but no longer. I am only one person, and I’ve no idea how ‘typical’ I am in this context, but I wonder if my change in behaviour represents a wider portentous shift for Google’s fortunes?


The photo at the top was posted on Flickr by Sigurd Magnusson, and is reproduced here under its Creative Commons licence.

This 2,438th post was filed under: News and Comment, Posts delayed by 12 months, Technology, , , , , , .

Diary for 25th November 2008

My inner pedant would like to point out to the media at large that Poundstretcher is not a single price point store. Everything is NOT £1… «

Poundland and Poundworld, on the other hand, do offer a single price point, which doubtless won’t be changed after next week’s VAT cut. «

This 1,382nd post was filed under: Diary Style Notes, , , , , , , .

Renewed, refreshed, and ready to go . . .

It’s been two months since I last wrote anything of any substance for this site. As I said a little while ago, you should blame the NHS for that.

But, really, when you think about it, has anything of political significance happened in the last couple of months? Only an unprecedented economic crisis, the election of the first black President of the United States, the political return of Peter Mandleson, and a few other trifles. It’s not as if I’ve missed anything of any real significance, is it?

Yet, in what’s likely to be the most sensational political story for months, I’ve given this site a minor refresh, to feature much more of my childlike scrawl. I hope it makes the site look modern and friendly. After all, there’s no point going for an overly professional image when making predictions like this and this.

You’ll also notice the disappearance of the word ‘political’ from the title of the site… with good reason. Heck, when someone like Peter Mandleson can make his seventy-second political comeback, it’s getting beyond satire – it’s too depressing to be fun to write about. So expect some more ecclectic stuff, more like the good old days. I’m talking Eurovision, funerals, nosepicking and amphibian genitalia. Frankly, that stuff was always more popular anyway, and if that last link doesn’t guarantee hits from Google, I don’t know what will.

Of course, there will still be the odd bit of politics – how could I help myself – but I’m hoping the wider coverage will better reflect the fact that I now find myself reading heatworld.com more often than totalpolitics.com… though whether that’s good for my sanity remains to be seen.

This 1,377th post was filed under: Site Updates, , , , .

For the good of Labour, Brown should battle on

Several MPs, ministers, and political commentators appear to want Gordon Brown to resign as leader of the Labour Party. God knows why: These lefties seem to think that sacking Brown would be good for Labour when, in reality, it would be anything but.

Labour cannot win the next election. Barring the hugely unexpected, Labour is now by far the most damaged political party, and the Conservatives are well into an inexorable resurgence. The political wind in the country, stirred up by Big Bad Blair, is now circling Downing Street and will huff, puff, and blow down Labour’s house with surety.

Labour’s popularity is in its boots as it is, and whilst Mr Brown is hardly boosting it, it is most certainly the party which is damaged now, not the leadership, and it cannot win the next election until it has undergone a Cameronesque detoxification. And,as Carol Voderman will tell you, you can’t detoxify when under the pressure of Government.

As if that weren’t enough, governments undoubtedly live and die through economic cycles. Few governments could hope to survive the present economic downturn, and both Labour and Brown – who have previously sung so enthusiastically about how they control the economy – have dug their own graves. Taking credit for the upward economic stroke has now left their popularity careering head-first down the slippery slope of economic downturn.

Of course, Brown’s fervent support for the merger of HBOS and Lloyds TSB this week is a further mistake: He’s backing a process which he doesn’t entirely control, and any regulatory hurdles the process stumbles at will be painted as Brown losing his influence. There’s a reason why back-room deals and discussions should stay in the back room.

But still, he shouldn’t resign. Labour failing under Brown is infinitely better for the Party than Labour failing under two leaders. Labour can’t win the next general election, but with a new leader, a lick of paint, and some enthusiastic party unity, they can purge themselves back into power reasonably quickly – and that’s where minds should be focussed.

To elect another leader now and yet still lose the next election will damage the Party far more: Failure under one leader can be painted as the failure of a bad apple, fail under two consecutive leaders and the country thinks whole orchard is rotten. Allegiance is switched to pears.

Of course, such is the nature of politics, few Labour MPs genuinely care about the long-term future of the party. The career politicians in marginal seats would desperately like to keep their jobs at the next election, and see Brown as damaging the Party. They want to chuck him out to give themselves a flicker of hope of avoiding their P45 for another Parliamentary term. Frankly, they’d stand a better chance if they crossed the floor.

This Labour government is undoubtedly moribund. There are no heroes in the wings waiting to swoop in a resuscitate their chances. The only sensible thing to hope for now is a dignified death, in the hope that the rebirth can be swift.

Brown simply must not go.

This 1,372nd post was filed under: News and Comment, Politics, , , , .

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