Curated hypocrisy: How Google camouflages its attacks on Apple

Last week, Forrester analyst Sarah Rotman Epps published Curated Computing: Designing For The Post-iPad Era where she observed:

“What’s revolutionary about the iPad is the experience that it delivers: The iPad is a new kind of PC that ushers in an era of Curated Computing.

Not unexpectedly, this drew the attention of the anti-Apple echosystem that regards the Cupertino company as the evil incarnate who’s hellbent on destroying the “open web” by curating its users’ experience on Apple devices.

Taking the baton of anti-Apple venom from Adobe’s Lee (Go screw yourself Apple) Brimelow, Google’s newest evangelist Tim (I hate, hate Apple) Bray responded to Forrester’s “Curated Computing” notion with élan:

I shudder to the core.

In a series of tweets on Twitter, Bray piled on Apple with escalating snarkiness. Let’s review his misdirections away from Google’s own sins:

Curated computing: Who needs complexity?

Exactly, who needs complexity? Who does need complexity other than those who profit from mediating its ill effects on consumers? Who, for example, needs Byzantine complexity purposely injected into our legal, tax or health care systems? Who profits from the shameful complexity of our IT universe? Who benefits from the anti-virus industry? Who profits from the complexity of Facebook’s privacy settings, Oracle’s pricing structure or Microsoft’s SharePoint hairball? Who needs the complexity of users being forced to navigate through six different Android OS versions against a permutation of dozens and dozens of carriers, handset manufacturers and devices? Google would like you to believe users are craving for this complexity, just as Microsoft tried to convince you for the last two decades.

[John @gruber answers @timbray: I think this one actually nails it: “Curated computing: Who needs complexity?” Many use cases where we *don’t* need complexity. Tim Bray responds:]

Agreed, many indeed, but freedom is too high a price.

Freedom? Whose freedom? The freedom of those who directly profit from the artificial complexity to continue as they please or the freedom of users who are being taxed by these parasites? Let’s ignore the absurdity of equating Apple’s banning of proprietary Flash with the abrogation of, say, the First Amendment, a real freedom.

Curated computing: Don’t bother your pretty little head, we’ll take care of what you see.

Just like Google telling the rest of the world: “If someone forced us to [disclose how our search advertising business works], it would destroy our product.” This from a company that’s currently being investigated by the European Commission for antitrust ramifications of its opaque search ranking algorithms and the resulting 90% monopolistic share of the European search market. Google knows best.

Curated computing: Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

Let’s open that curtain a bit. Here’s what Bray’s bosses and Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page said in their The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine a few years ago:

Currently, the predominant business model for commercial search engines is advertising. The goals of the advertising business model do not always correspond to providing quality search to users.

We expect that advertising funded search engines will be inherently biased towards the advertisers and away from the needs of the consumers.

It could be argued from the consumer point of view that the better the search engine is, the fewer advertisements will be needed for the consumer to find what they want. This of course erodes the advertising supported business model of the existing search engines. We believe the issue of advertising causes enough mixed incentives that it is crucial to have a competitive search engine that is transparent and in the academic realm.

It’s not as if, a decade later, the rest of the world can see what’s behind Google’s perfectly opaque and proprietary search and advertising curtain, is it? Can you say “link farms”and SEO? Do you really know what exactly Google does with your click-stream history? Did you know Google has been snooping on European WiFi transmissions until a few days ago even though the company denied it previously? Do you really know what the man behind the curtain is doing?

Curated computing: Admire the beautiful murals on the garden walls.

Or you can go “out there” to admire the graffiti on the…ground? In Google’s walled garden of advertising, for example, “cougars and cubs are out, but sugar daddies and sugar babies are in.” Google “will take care of” your sexual proclivities.

Curated computing: Freedom is over-rated.

So are utopias.

I, for one, welcome our new curatorial overlords.

Of course, no mention of our current overloads: complexity merchants.

Curated computing: What they have right now in China.

And what they also had in China just a few years ago when Bray’s employer Google went in three-monkey style to conduct commerce, despite all manner of people pleading the overlord of search/ad business not to.

Curated computing: Just fine if you’re the curator.

Google should know, its share of the search market hovers around 65-70% and its U.S. search advertising share is over 75%. If you’re the sole “curator” of AdSense/AdWords things should be just fine.

Curated computing: Your gated-exurban-community home on the Internet.

Perhaps the most pernicious proposition of the “everything must be open” crusade is the notion that curation is bad and anti-freedom. Soldiers of this crusade confuse freedom with competition. Our museums are not football-field sized warehouses where art objects are indiscriminately dumped and our magazines and blogs are not amorphous containers of randomly selected articles. Our classrooms, restaurants, hospitals and indeed all our civilized institutions are firmly reliant on curation of one kind or another. The goal should be for curators to compete, not for curation to be declared illegal and unholy by the “open” zealots.

Who’s behind the curtain?

Just as Adobe is desperately trying to yell at the world, “Don’t buy into Apple’s walled garden, get locked into our own proprietary Flash,” so is Google trying to misdirect consumers’ attention from its own monopolistic sins to Apple’s mobile platform where 100 million users voted with their own money to enjoy 200,000 apps. The evil man behind the curtain in this scenario is not Apple’s curation, it’s the frightening prospect of Google getting cut off from search and ad revenue derived from its naked domination of the search box on top of your web browser. That, unfortunately, doesn’t sound like an appealing public cry, hence the “Curated Computing” misdirection whining.