Google and Orwell? Come on, people

On the assumption that posting at least two comments about something on two separate blogs means I feel strongly about it, I’ve decided to wade into the whole Google-BMW fray. So here goes:

Can’t we save the term Orwellian for something really meaningful, like a state taking some kind of oppressive action against its own citizens, or using doublespeak in the service of some great wrong? Using it to describe an Internet search engine engaging in the site-indexing business is more than a little over-the-top, I would argue. Scott Karp of Publishing 2.0, who has said in the past that he wishes bloggers would take more time with their posts and not say things just to be inflammatory, says he wonders whether “total power [will] totally corrupt Google.”

Just one question, Scott: Since when does Google have anything approaching “total power?” It’s a search engine, for pete’s sake. It indexes websites. Yes, it cut off BMW’s German site because they used hidden front pages to try and game the indexing and page-rank process – which Google has made clear is not allowed. So their site was removed. But despite the inflammatory rhetoric everyone loves to use to make it seem a lot more exciting than it really is, this is hardly a “death penalty.” There are plenty of other search engines.

Google’s market share isn’t even close to giving it the kind of dominance that would justify a term like “total power,” or make removing a site the equivalent of cutting off BMW’s “oxygen supply,” as my friend Paul Kedrosky describes it. And for Scott to mutter darkly about whether his post on the subject might earn him the wrath of the great Google, or for Alex Muse of Texas Venture Capital to wonder whether doing so might affect his page-rank is just ridiculous. Surely there are some really important issues out there that we could all be devoting some time to instead of this.

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