Google Expands Its All Your Base Are Belong To Us Approach

Martin Brinkmann
Mar 15, 2012
Updated • Mar 15, 2012

When Larry Page took over the steering wheel at Google, the company made a u-turn on the "do not do evil" road which it had followed for most of its existence. Now, Google concentrates on generating revenue, and pleasing investors, and if that means shoving certain services down a user's throat, so be it.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Google plans to roll out another change to its search engine in the coming months that is going to affect a lot of users, webmasters and Internet businesses. Semantic search aims to provide search engine users with direct answers to their questions. And while that does not sound too bad immediately, it is likely having a negative effect on many websites and services that previously received the traffic. Those sites will still receive a chunk of the traffic for particular queries, but a Google answer box on top of the results could make that traffic drop like a stone in water.

When you search Google for a phrase like "when was George Washington's birthday", you end up with a series of sites that answer that question, with Wikipedia prominently sitting at the top of the results. Google Semantic Search would put a box on top of that stating that the birthday was on Monday, February 11 February 22, 1732. It could look similar to how DuckDuckGo is providing these results.

Google's intention may however not be that altruistic, as it is reported by the Journal that it could provide the company with more ways to serve up advertisement. It is not clear right now how the box will look like, and how advertisements will be baked into it. One possibility would be to use in-text advertisement to lead users to Google stores. A search for Michael Jackson's Thriller could for instance lead right away to Google Music where the album can be purchased in digital form. The same is true for book and other media searches.

Some users, maybe even the majority of users, are certainly going to like the change, as it is making things simpler for them. For me, it is another step into a web that is turning from a diverse landscape into a brand-orientated place.

What's your take on the story? Good move, or bad, and why? Oh, and for those who did not catch the all your base are belong to use references, check it out at Wikipedia.


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  1. robinsoncaruso said on April 1, 2012 at 12:48 am

    WGIH is the boston radio station taken over by aliens that belongs to google lol

  2. Jim S. Robinson said on March 31, 2012 at 7:05 am

    This Web site is evidently part of the base that now belongs to google lol

  3. Robert Palmar said on March 15, 2012 at 10:24 pm

    If an answer is given first one should hope it is correct.
    DuckDuckGo supplies the wrong answer in this case.
    George Washington was born on February 22, 1732

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on March 15, 2012 at 10:32 pm

      Well that’s the fault of Wolfram Alpha then as they were the provider :)

      1. Robert Palmar said on March 16, 2012 at 6:55 am

        Well, as an American, of all birthdays to get wrong
        George Washington’s would be the most inexcusable :)

        DDG has to take responsibility in the end for contracted results.

  4. batman said on March 15, 2012 at 8:38 pm

    Its all due to the mentality that everything on the internet should be free.
    there’s the root of the problem.

  5. Daryl Griffiths said on March 15, 2012 at 6:44 pm

    Say a person, let’s call them Bob, wants to find something out. Bob uses Google. Google gives Bob the answer to his query. Bob is happy as he has his search result. Next time Bob wants to know something, he searches on Google because last time Google quickly got him the answer he wanted. Rather than give up on Google because the actual answer he wants is buried under loads of crap, Bob continues to use Google to search for everything, including stuff for which Google cannot deliver an immediate answer itself.

    Too naive?

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on March 15, 2012 at 9:37 pm

      Well, you need to consider three aspects here. It is obviously nice for the user if the answer is directly on the page without having to do another click. First, Google will likely monetize the content. Maybe with direct links, maybe with another ad unit somewhere near the content. And even if they do not, their ad units that are already on the page may benefit as well.

      We have also seen it in the past that Google “borrowed” content from other sites, displayed that content prominently, while the original content creators had to take a backseat in the results.

      The third and final aspect is that Google attempts to become your number one stop on the Internet. It already is a monopoly in many countries when it comes to search, and will continue to grab away market share in certain areas from other Internet services. Google is now hosting video, having its own social network, displaying flight information, books and thousands of other things. While this may please the web surfer, it leads to a situation where the Internet dries out. Why should anyone offer a “who was born when” website if Google displays all the information in their search engine? Why a travel agency if Google grabs a major piece of the cake in the future.

      Google in my opinion needs to be split up. The search engine needs to stand on its own, and other Google products need to compete in it with everyone else. If that does not happen, you do not have a fair playing field.

  6. kalmly said on March 15, 2012 at 3:51 pm

    Certainly it is going to hurt websites. The quick answer will be attractive, but getting redirected, not so much. Some people are starting to move away from Google search. I use Ixquick and DDG now(thanks to Martin).

    Google can’t be avoided altogether. I do not use any of these: Chrome, GMail, Google Reader, or Google News, but I do use Google Earth. Wherever I go, Google tracks me.

    Google is googling you.

  7. Nebulus said on March 15, 2012 at 3:47 pm

    As I already said in other posts, for me it’s pretty simple. I don’t want to see ads because I don’t ever click on them. So I do everything I can to stop them from being loaded/displayed. You can call it a boycott, but in reality it’s just a simple matter of choice.

  8. vasa1 said on March 15, 2012 at 1:57 pm

    The way things are going, people may get the impression they’re safer in some way by boycotting Google. But does it end there?
    Just a visit to ghacks adds thirty cookies (one of which is from
    All said and done, Google has done much to free up the internet, literally and figuratively, just the way Mozilla did a few years ago.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on March 15, 2012 at 1:59 pm

      I’d happily get rid of all advertisement if you’d come up with a reasonable business model.

  9. MartinJB said on March 15, 2012 at 1:55 pm

    I am perturb by this change in Google’s plan for world dominance. I google quite a lot but have recently changed to DDG following your articles. I do like DDG.
    However, as just an end user now, do I respond to this new direction that Google is taking? Should I stop using Chrome as browser, GMail, Google Reader, Google News etc?
    This new age of big corporations treating their customers as “muppets” and taking home high salaries – I am part of that 99%
    Firefox, Thunderbird, all are options – I’ll see what others have to say.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on March 15, 2012 at 2:01 pm

      Thinks would not be that bleak if Google’s market share would drop, and that of other search engines would rise. A situation similar to how the browser market share has evolved, with three big players all below the 50% mark and several smaller services with 1-5% each.

  10. Damirora said on March 15, 2012 at 12:50 pm

    This does not affect me in the slightest. I don’t use Google search or any of their services. I have DuckDuckGo and Wolfram Alpha for my search and “direct answer” needs.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on March 15, 2012 at 12:55 pm

      While it does not affect me as a user, I’m pretty certain that it will affect me as a webmaster.

      1. Damirora said on March 15, 2012 at 1:05 pm

        It may affect you a bit, and hopefully not as much. The majority of your users could always switch to some other search engine.

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