The Web abounds with conspiracy theories, like the guy who thinks Comcast is sabotaging its own DNS servers to limit our contact with secondhand Chinese furniture sellers. For the last decade and a half, most of our tech-oriented secret plots were aimed at ultrarich Microsoft or scheming telecom giants. Those petty thinkers have been eclipsed. When it comes to the dark shadow of the Illuminati, they've been passed over for Google.
Check your geek headlines any day of the week, and Google's name will be there ... somehow. But the headlines always seem to lack a cohesive strategy. This week, for example, we learned that Google is buying into a mobile game console controller, its fiber service is gathering steam, it's investing in an online credit service, and it's apparently building a Big Brother-style municipal surveillance silo in Oakland, Calif.
[ From Android to AI: Google's bot plot revealed | For a humorous take on the tech industry's shenanigans, subscribe to Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter and follow Cringely on Twitter. ]
They can't be part of the same plan, right? I mean, it's grown so big that the left Google can't possibly know what the right Google is doing, correct? News flash: That's exactly what the company would have you believe.
I can now reveal that after at least one hour of intense investigative journalism fueled by dedication and scotch while bravely using Google's own search engine against the company, I've been able to discern a method to Google's madness, a clear line that leads directly to Google's endgame. It's the mother of all conspiracy theories: Google wants to own it all, starting with you.
It began with the simple benevolence of tracked search and a slogan sign, now pockmarked with virtual bullets that read "Don't be evil." Was it evil to turn tracked search into Google Ads and Google Analytics? That's for future, post-Googlepocalypse generations (if they exist) to decide. But it established an engine whereby Google knows what you're looking for, moves you toward more of the same, and offers merchants a crack at us -- though, merchants and customers alike, we're all pawns in Google's grid.
That's a short and natural hop to e-tailing, and Google jumped in immediately, developing shopping technology alongside its search empire. Witness Google Wallet, Google Catalogs, and most recently Credit Karma, soon to be renamed Google Credit (probably). The timeline might be off, but these plots are constantly evolving -- and why screw up a perfectly good rant with precise information anyway?
From e-tail, it's an easy leap to content: Google News, Google Finance, YouTube, and the rest -- bread and circuses, albeit bread and circuses as programmed by Google. That proceeds today with what looks like a push into console gaming. Which games do you like? Check. Where are you buying them now? Check. Can we sell them to you instead? Check. Where are you playing them and can we own that, too? Check.
Google knew us in the abstract, but it needed direct, firsthand, brain stem access. It set its sights on what we're working on; what we're writing to friends and family; what we're talking about; and what files and data we've squirreled away on our computers. Enter Google Apps, Gmail, Google Drive, Google Voice, and the seemingly unavoidable G+. Now Google had access to all of it, from our love notes to our vacation photos to our phone calls with Mom. It's all part of the database and about as benign as dropping a kitten in a Cuisinart.