13 January 2012

Shame on Google. The two sides of getting yourself indexed.

The news just got in.  Please read http://blog.mocality.co.ke/2012/01/13/google-what-were-you-thinking/

In short, a company called 
Mocality,  who painstakingly build their comprehensive business directory in Kenya over the years by investing in money as well as human resources, got hijacked by Google as they PRETENDED they were working in collaboration with Mocality, contacted all the business owners listed on the directory and tried to up sell products and services. 

What does it sounds like? Do you own any mortgages? Have you ever received letters from certain loan companies whom knows exactly who you loaned from, your loan number as well as your loan amount and your loan dates, in order to help you "refinance" and lower your monthly mortgage? 

This story reminds me of what happened to Yelp. Now, Yelp itself has its own set of problems and questionable practices, however, if you recall a year or two ago, Google gave them this option. Either you let us list your reviews on Google Place (which will make Google Place more powerful and such earns more revenue from advertisers), or we are going to completely take you out of Google search index. 

I've had talks over this tactic with others before. Others have a valid point, it's their service, they can do what they want. However, to me it all too much sounds like another form of blackmail.  Imagine a police station whose job is to protect the public in their district, comes up to a business and say, unless you give out free stuff to our officers on duty or "donate" your products willingly to our charity events (to raise money for the department) or else we will de-list you from our protection, no 911s, no firefighters, no ambulance. When people rob you? That's too bad. 

*Note: Once again, Yelp itself has its own questionable practices and it's really a case of a thief met a robber, but I decide to focus on Google right now. 

Now you might say, that's comparing apples or oranges. Businesses pay tax and such they are not using the police for free. Well, my argument is the same. While Google is providing traffic to businesses, however, they are also getting paid by advertisers from having information from these businesses. Businesses is hardly the only beneficiary here and Google sure is not the all mercenary charity, doing a favor for human kind either. 

The CEO of Mocality described it the best in my opinion. 

"Our database IS our business, and we protect and tend it very carefully."

This statement is the key.  So when you build your next start up, you should seriously think about what type of businesses you are trying to build. While getting indexed is a good thing especially when you are a small company, you are using Google's influences to get to your potential customers, consider two sides of the same blade. 

Anyway, I digressed. In Mocality's case, it's not just that. It also involves fraud, as Google this time went a step further. Cold stealing customers while pretending to be working in collaboration with Mocality, to gain people's trusts. 

In my honest opinion, all they had to do is ask Mocality, if they may use their index and use it to sell their services. Hell, just use their services without telling any customers they are in collaboration with Mocality, Google's reputation itself should have been convincing enough. 

*Shake heads*

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