How Google peddles its stuff

Google is notorious for maintaining a clutter-free, minimalist home page. It famously resisted adding a "privacy" link because adding the word would have brought the word count to 29, one more than the magic 28 words founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin insisted should be the maxim on the page.

But it turns out Google is glad to break Larry and Sergey’s rules when it’s hawking its own stuff.  Over the holidays I noticed in the upper right corner what by Google home page Spartan standards would be a banner ad, offering "A faster way to browse the web — Install Google Chrome."

It only showed up when I went to Google on my Mac and used either
Safari or Mozilla’s Firefox as the browser.  Using Google’s Chrome, I saw no ads and got a message in the browser — not on the home page —  that Chrome was not my default and an option to make it the default browser.

The Chrome "banner ad" started appearing sometime after Google released its Mac version of Chrome.  I haven’t seen it on my PC.

Starting Wednesday morning under the search box Google began advertising its new smartphone, Nexus One, with a small photo of the device and the words, "Experience Nexus One, the New Andriod phone from Google" with a link to the page that sells the phone.

For part of the day, as the screen shot below shows, both ads were featured. By early afternoon, the Chrome banner ad had disappeared and the Internet Giant was only hawking its new phone.

Perhaps that’s because the Chrome ad had accomplished its mission. On Monday a Net Applications report said that Chrome with a 4.63 percent market share had become more popular than Safari with 4.46 percent.

How long do you thing it will be before Google starts to sell ad space on its home page? Or do you think they’ll just use it to tout their own stuff. And here’s an idea.  If privacy is so important to Google, and its privacy dashboard is so helpful to consumers, why not feature a privacy banner ad in the upper right corner of the home page for the rest of the month?


Above is Google’s home page as it appeared to me Wednesday morning. Below is the mid-afternoon version, touting only the Nexus One.


Published by John M. Simpson

John M. Simpson is a leading voice on technological privacy and stem cell research issues. His investigations this year of Google’s online privacy practices and book publishing agreements triggered intense media scrutiny and federal interest in the online giant’s business practices. His critique of patents on human embryonic stem cells has been key to expanding the ability of American scientists to conduct stem cell research. He has ensured that California’s taxpayer-funded stem cell research will lead to broadly accessible and affordable medicine and not just government-subsidized profiteering. Prior to joining Consumer Watchdog in 2005, he was executive editor of Tribune Media Services International, a syndication company. Before that, he was deputy editor of USA Today and editor of its international edition. Simpson taught journalism a Dublin City University in Ireland, and consulted for The Irish Times and The Gleaner in Jamaica. He served as president of the World Editors Forum. He holds a B.A. in philosophy from Harpur College of SUNY Binghamton and was a Gannett Fellow at the Center for Asian and Pacific Studies at the University of Hawaii. He has an M.A. in Communication Management from USC’s Annenberg School for Communication.

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