Feeds

The worse Google gets, the more money it makes?

Microsoft once tragedy, twice farce

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

Comment It's hard to imagine now, but there was a time when the mainstream press was barely acquainted with the genius and foresight of today's technology leaders.

Fifteen years ago Bill Gates appeared on the BBC's Wogan show - which the Beeb thought of as a nightly Johnny Carson, but which was really like watching Regis Philbin on cough syrup - to show off his WinPad PC. The wooden Gates made a joke about making his money disappear, with only a couple of clicks, using only a stylus. As Gates blinked, a nation which had never heard of Microsoft, and couldn't quite figure out why the guy in glasses wasn't singing or dancing, looked on in sympathetic embarrassment.

But Gates's prime time TV appearance underscored one point, popular in the public prints at the time, which was that a nerdish, upstart technology was changing the very foundations of the world as we know it. Microsoft was simply smarter, more agile, more cunning, and far more darkly mysterious than the fusty incumbents, like IBM, could ever realize. To stand in the way of Microsoft was to stand in the way of youth, innovation and progress itself.

Now, it may puzzle you as much as it puzzles us that this idea ever gained popular currency - let's save that discussion for another day. But it can't have escaped your notice that this mythical struggle has been reprised by the inkies several times - in the mid-1990s with Netscape - and today with the phoney war between Microsoft and Google.

If you're of the view that history repeats itself the second time round as farce, then the parallels are even more uncomfortable.

Today, Microsoft is a software monopoly that equally, is barely acquainted with its own methods of production. The last Microsoft engineer who worked on the original incarnations of Windows left an engineering capacity at the company a long, long time ago and, as a consequence, a company that once could turn on a sixpence and drop off an OS refresh that seriously screwed a competitor now takes seven years to eke out an update. Insulated by the comfortable monopoly position it enjoys, Microsoft today isn't even in control of Microsoft. But then again, why does it have to worry?

Now fast forward to 2006, where Google, if we're to believe the popular prints, is simply smarter, more agile, more cunning, and far more darkly mysterious than its incumbents can fathom.

Or, er, is it?

When Google unleashed PageRank™ on the world, it really created a monster.

Google was so proud of its algorithm that it liked to boast that it mirrored the "inherent democracy" of the internet, a phrase which coyly and insidiously, flatters us all. PageRank™ was a truer representation of life than we ever realized, Google said, if only we cared to look.

The trouble is, PageRank only worked within a small dataset of peer reviewed academic journals. To extrapolate this into a way of life, as Google's dreamy maths-obsessed boy wonders tried to do, was an essentially utopian gesture, which supposed that no one would try and game the system to their own nefarious ends. Only the inevitable happened, and as Google got more popular, and as the value of appearing in those top spots increased, Google gradually lost control of the algorithm which was once its muse. At the time, we remember, we gained very few plaudits for documenting this weary process - as Google was gradually gamed by desperate trinket salesmen, who built link farms to tout their wares - and by technology evangelists, who mistook overnight popularity for a validation of a lifetimes's achievement. All were to fall to earth eventually, as technology offers no short cuts or backdoors when the calculations are finally made.

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
Scrapping the Human Rights Act: What about privacy and freedom of expression?
Justice minister's attack to destroy ability to challenge state
WHY did Sunday Mirror stoop to slurping selfies for smut sting?
Tabloid splashes, MP resigns - but there's a BIG copyright issue here
Hey Brit taxpayers. You just spent £4m on Central London ‘innovation playground’
Catapult me a Mojito, I feel an Digital Innovation coming on
Google hits back at 'Dear Rupert' over search dominance claims
Choc Factory sniffs: 'We're not pirate-lovers - also, you publish The Sun'
EU to accuse Ireland of giving Apple an overly peachy tax deal – report
Probe expected to say single-digit rate was unlawful
Inequality increasing? BOLLOCKS! You heard me: 'Screw the 1%'
There's morality and then there's economics ...
While you queued for an iPhone 6, Apple's Cook sold shares worth $35m
Right before the stock took a 3.8% dive amid bent and broken mobe drama
EU probes Google’s Android omerta again: Talk now, or else
Spill those Android secrets, or we’ll fine you
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.