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Why Google owes you nothing

Critics of Google' Search Plus Your World, in which Google+ results are given vast prominence, suggest that Google has betrayed its contract with its users. Even more so, with forced Google+ membership for all newbies. What contract?

When relationships end, a reason often cited is: my lover took me for granted.

Yet sometimes relationships continue for many years precisely because both parties take each other for granted. That seems to be what is happening in the modern-day lovefest between Google and its users.

At the beginning of the relationship, the users fell in love with Google instantly. The cute name, the astonishing speed of thought, and the general usefulness around the house made Google everyone's ideal lover.

Google loved us too. The more we used his service, the more he suddenly discovered he could sell ads to companies that merely wanted to follow us around. What could be the harm in that? Google required nothing of us, just to keep using his lovely product.


Google was happy, because the money kept rolling in. We were happy, because our lives had been made immeasurably easier, as had our homework, our shopping, and our need to discover the worst things about people we didn't like.

One day, Google realized that we were playing around. We weren't being unfaithful exactly. We merely had friends that we didn't tell Google about. These were Facebook friends.

Google didn't really mind at first. He was far too happy being an engineer and making airplanes out of $100 notes.

We, of course, let him. We admired him. Google was, as the saying often goes in relationships, good to us. So we let him to do what he wanted. He wasn't going to cheat on us, was he?

However, Google suddenly realized he wasn't getting everything out of us he could. Those Facebook friends were becoming annoying. They were taking up our time. Google felt a little ignored. So he tried to do what they did--but in a Google kind of way.

We let him. He created his own little friends network, Google+. We didn't think too much of it, because we didn't need another friends network. All of our friends were on Facebook.

Because we took him for granted, we didn't see that Google was upset. He showed how upset he was by shoving his Google+ in our faces every time we searched for "bathroom scales" or "Newt Gingrich unpopular."

"Wait a minute," we said. "That's not what this relationship is about. You're supposed to be the Google we always knew and loved. You're just supposed to give us information."

"I am giving you information," sniffed our lover. "But I've decided to give you the information that I want to give you. Not some sort of objective information. Trust me. Have I ever let you down? There's no such thing as objectivity anyway. Surely you knew that when we got together. Every engineer knows that."

"But we'd never met a man like you before," we pleaded. "And you didn't cost us anything."

"Oh, sure," replied Google. "But now you might be costing me something. And I don't think I like that."

Because we took him for granted, we had never stopped to think that Google was free. Free in every sense. He was so rich, so powerful that he could do what he liked, not merely what we assumed he would always do.

So we whined a little, but we kept on using him to search for booties and ballplayers.

He sensed this, so he decided that everyone who now signed up for Google would automatically become a member of Google+. That would make his Google+ look bigger, wouldn't it? That would make him more popular.

Oh, we were a little more upset. But not enough to leave him. He was, after all, still good to us. He still had that cute little name. He still made our lives easier, even if we weren't, you know, in love with him any more. We always assumed he was far more intelligent than that strange fellow Bing.

And other than that strange fellow Bing, well, who was there?

"Will this dumb lover really accept anything I do now?" mused Google to himself. "Hey, what if I stop all Facebook members from performing Google searches? What if I make it even clearer: it's them or me?"

You see, when two lovers take each other for granted, the possibilities--for using each other--are endless. The only thing that ever truly changes the relationship is when something better comes along and one of the lovers leaves.

We don't believe that anything better will come along. Neither, it seems, does Google.