Apple and Google have alway used their power to impose their views on smaller companies. Since the first days of the Macintosh, Apple has had a very specific set of User Interface Guidelines that companies were required to follow in order to sell their products on the Macintosh. Apple’s reasoning was that they wished to make using their products seamless – regardless of what software you were using. Their ability to impose their views became nearly absolute with the introduction of the iPhone and the App store. In order to get your iPhone/iPad app approved for sale on the Mac App store (something that is not required if you want to sell on the Mac, but is very helpful) you are obligated to adhere to Apple’s guidelines. While Apple’s rules were always a bit onerous, they always seemed reasonable (after all, they were giving you a platform on which to sell your products … and in the case of the App store, they were selling your products for you.) No one is forced to develop software for Apple products, and anyone who wishes to develop products for Apple knows the expectations.
Google also has an App store dedicated to apps for their Android phones. Unlike Apple, Google does not act as a judge of products on its store, nor do Android apps require approval before being made available for sale. Yes, Google does publish a guide for best practices. Though Google does not force its view on Android App developers – they do not enforce any one set of interface standards. However, The place where Google does impose its will is – in the most open and public place – on the Web.
Google cannot stop anybody from publishing a web site. It cannot force anyone to design a web site in a particular way. Google does not own the servers the web sits on, (not in most cases), nor does it own the fiber and other transmission lines over which the web travels. It does, however, own something else – i.e. the dominant search engine on the web. If you or your company can not be found on Google, then you do not exist. Over the past years Google has made many changes in their search criteria. First, speed became important. If your site loaded slowly, your search results would go down. Second, fresh content was praised. If your site had newer material your site would garner a better ranking. Duplicate content was actively discouraged. If you had content that was available somewhere else on the web your site was penalized. Initially, links were considered important. Then, suddenly, incoming links were determined to be bad. Every time Google made decide to alter their algorithm, hundreds to thousands of web sites were forced to make expensive and time consuming changes to remain in their good graces. Those companies who did not comply were left behind, on the ‘junk heap’ of web sites that do not show up on Google searches.
This morning Google made a new announcement. It decided that web security is the next important website feature – and declared that all sites should transition from “http” to “https” (secure sites). Though since it is not that important they have not added it to the “secret sauce” that is their search algorithm. Google added that while – at the moment – maintaining a “secure site” is only a small factor, in the future it will become important. So, as of today, hundreds of thousands of webmasters all of the world now have a new project – (i.e. convert their site to HTTPS.) Google is helpful. They tell you everything you need to do, what sort of certificate you need to get. Of course, the one thing Google does not do is help you pay for what (for many people) will be a long and complicated job. Google has made a decision, a decision that is as invasive as any government regulation. However, regardless of you think of government, we all get to vote them in, or out, of office. No one elected Google. No one supervises Google. Yet, Google has the power to impose their will on anyone with a website, anywhere on the world. Welcome to the world governed by Google.