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Internet "history is written by the victors?" -- or is it "to the victor go the spoils?"

Winston Churchill prophetically said: "history is written by the victors." This truism is timely now given Eric Auchard's great column "How the web devours history," that I built upon in my latest post: "Will history be the casualty of an 'ecommony?' If info is free who will pay to archive it for posterity?" 

Given the Internet's natural first-mover dynamic, global scale and scope efficiencies and powerful reinforcing network effects, which I have written extensively on, could the Internet's 'victor' effectively write history by deciding what information ultimately gets archived and found?

To answer that question requires establishing some important baseline points.

  • First, the U.S. DOJ concluded (11-3-09) that Google has a monopoly 70% share of the marketplace for finding information on the web -- i.e. search advertising.
  • Second, Google is the only entity in the world with the formal mission "to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful." Over time, this increasingly positions Google as the world's de facto Internet historian.
  • Third, how Google provides such fast searches is that Google makes and keeps an updated copy of every single page on the Internet, about one trillion at last count. Google then searches its digitally-archived mirror copy of the Internet that resides in its data centers, not the Internet itself or the actual websites. 
    • Thus Google controls the single largest digital archive of information/history in the world -- by far.
    • Google's digitally archived library of the world's information that resides on the millions of servers in its data centers may be the most concentrated repository of the world's knowledge in one entity's hand since the Ancient Library of Alexandria was lost to fires around the time of Christ.   
  • Fourth, Google's uber-secret search algorithm now has upwards of 1,000 discrimination variables per Google's Peter Greenberger last week at CPAC. That is up from 400 discrimination variables the last time I heard.
    • Since there is no transparency, independent third-party review, audit or accountability confirming the neutrality of Google's ~1,000 discrimination variables (which practically determine which information gets found on the web) no one knows what Google's built-in historical biases are.
      • Does Google have a country bias in its algorithm that skews its supposed neutral role in the archiving and retrieval of history?
      • Does Google have an advertising bias its algorithm that skews its supposed neutral role in the recording of history? The Google co-founder's PHD disertation said: "advertising funded search engines will be inherently biased towards the advertisers and away from the needs of the consumers?" (Appendix A)
      • Does Google have a content ownership bias that favors the Google-content version in its supposed neutral role in recording history? 
      • Does Google have an organizational bias against the existing domain addressing system of the world wide web, in that its Chrome browser has one Omnibox which automatically directs the user to Google's historical archive copy in its data centers and not the actual website?  
        • Let me rephrase this point so no one misses the historical significance of this.
        • When one uses the Google Chrome browser one ALWAYS goes to Google's omni Internet-archive first, even if one inserted a complete web address and wanted to go to the bonafide original website and not Google's archived copy of it.
  • Finally, two recent high-profile incidents raise serious questions about whether Google archives and delivers Internet content neutrally based on what users seek and not what Google wants to be found. 
    • Google recently had to publicly apologize for overtly bullying a foundation to withdraw funding from a not-for-profit entity,, that was critical of Google's privacy practices.  
    • just filed an antitrust suit in Federal Court that alleges Google is not a neutral search engine, but uses its monopoly market power to anti-competitively favor its business and content over competitive alternatives.   

Bottom line:

How "history is written" is a useful lens to look at the many and serious implications of concentrating too much information or "history" in any one entity's hands. 

  • If Google is going to de facto write the world's digital history by practically deciding what Internet information gets found and hence learned, wouldn't it be wise to know what biases are embedded in Google's "black box" search algorithm? 

Yet another important old adage is "to the victor go the spoils."

Google, as the Internet's unrivaled victor, now has the power to rank high, information Google agrees with or that advances Google's world view and agenda, and also rank low, or effectively bury, the information that Google disagrees with or that is counter to its world view and agenda.

Welcome to the internet-equivalent of the Ancient Library of Alexandria where basically one entity practically controls what information is archived and what information is found on the Internet. 

  • History has a way of repeating itself.