Australians love a good Google. And here are the statistics to back it
up. In the July-September 2005 Quarter, over 8.5 million Australians
said Google was the search engine they mainly used, which is 65% of all
Australians who have ever been online, compared with just over 2.2
million Australians (17%) who use Yahoo!’s search engine, according to Roy Morgan.

That’s a pretty dramatic role reversal for the fierce competitors. Four
and a half years ago Yahoo! dominated with almost three times Google’s
market share (33% in the April-June 2001 Quarter compared with Google’s
12%). The number of internet users citing Google as their search engine
of choice has increased seven-fold over the last four years.

According to Roy Morgan, Google’s pre-eminent position in the Australian market is reinforced
by the fact that the number of internet users who mainly used its four
nearest rivals in the September 2005 Quarter – Yahoo! (just over 2.2
million Internet users), ninemsn (over 1.9 million), BigPond — powered
by Sensis (almost 1.1 million users) and AltaVista (179,000) – amount to
less than two-thirds of those who named Google.

Globally, Google is expanding at an alarming rate, and it’s having
a little trouble upholding its business mantra “Don’t be Evil” as it
enters countries like China. Google’s founders have come under fire
recently for deciding to censor their Chinese site
to appease the authorities, a move they defended as the lesser of two
evils – that is, a censored Google is better than no Google at all.

And The Washington Post‘s Sebastian Mallaby agrees. Apart from the fact that the new Google search service will give Chinese users access to
better information than they had before – “a clear gain for freedom” – Google
has also negotiated the right to disclose, at the bottom of its Chinese
search results, whether information has been withheld. That’s a big step forward. Disclosing censorship is half the battle. If
people know they are being brainwashed, says Mallaby, “then they are not being
brainwashed.”

Meanwhile, why anybody is shocked at Google’s ideological backdown is beyond me, says John Naughton in The Observer:

The only thing that was surprising about Google’s decision to
self-censor its China-based service was that people were surprised by
it. In the general media coverage, there were many gleeful references
to the company’s motto – boasted of in the preface to its IPO
prospectus – of ‘Don’t Be Evil’ (a phrase which, at the time, caused
Wall Street investment bankers to lie down in darkened rooms). How
could people who wore those admirable values on their sleeves kowtow to
a corrupt, authoritarian regime which tortures dissenters and denies
elementary human rights to its unfortunate subjects?

Simple:
the motto was conceived when Google was a private venture dominated by
its two idealistic founders. But it is now a hugely valuable public
company owned by men in suits.

Peter Fray

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