Google’s Real Goal Behind All Their Free APIs

Ever wonder why Google gives away so many web-developer tools? Tools that otherwise seem like complete money-and-bandwidth-pissing schemes (notice how most of these don’t directly show ads):

This is all about obtaining browsing behavior in a long term bid to increase ad efficiency. Nothing else.

  1. It is not about making things more “open”
  2. It is not about making web development easier
  3. It is not about making an online operating system
  4. It is not about competing with Microsoft
  5. It is not about making the Google brand more ubiquitous
  6. It is not about showing ads in new places

If any of these above things happen, they are a (likely planned) side effect. For example, if a particular API makes something easier, that is good because it will encourage other developers to adopt it as well. But as I will explain shortly, the commonly held beliefs about Google doing Good or Google making the web more open are simply not the reason for these initiatives.

If you notice, all of their APIs use JavaScript. This means all of their APIs have the ability to note what computer a given request is coming from. This means that on top of your search preferences, they can eventually begin to correlate your browsing habits based on the sites that you visit that use Google APIs.

For example, if my blog were to use a YouTube embed, it would be possible for Google to read a cookie originally placed on your machine by YouTube and correlate it as traffic coming from this site. This means they can uniquely track every YouTube video your computer has ever watched since the last time you cleared your cookies. YouTube is just an example because most of Google’s APIs are far less obvious to the end user. For example, the unified AJAX libraries could be used by a good half of the “2.0” websites out there without impacting performance (and in many cases would make the sites load faster for the end user). But because everything is going through Google, it’s possible (although I’m not saying that are) for them to track which sites you visit.

If this isn’t extremely valuable information, I don’t know what is. Don’t forget that the AdSense API is, in itself, a means for Google to track every website you’ve ever been to that uses AdSense, and for a way for Google to know exactly which type of ads interested you in the past. Once they know what sites you visit, they can surmise what a given site is about, and then determine, for example, what sort of products would interest you.

It’s the classic advertising chicken and egg problem: If I knew what my customers wanted, I could sell it to them, but they won’t tell me.

…And Google found the chicken. For the time being, they haven’t started using this information (at least noticeably), but I am sure they will as market forces move to make competition in that area more necessary.

Say goodbye to privacy. =( Oh wait, I’ve been saying that for quite some time now.

YouTube and Google?

Techcrunch just covered the possibility that Google is looking to buy YouTube for $1.6 billion.

I think this acquisition makes a lot of sense. While it was pointed out that Google would be unafraid of the copyright issues, I think another reason why the acquisition is a safe bet is that Google can support the infrastructure and bandwidth costs. Owning YouTube would not be a significant strain on a company’s hardware resources. Seeing as Google seems to have a genuine interest in the video market, signified by the presence of Google Video — which was NOT a free-time-project-gone-gold — I’d say this acquisition has a lot of potential to be true.

If the future of the web is in streaming media, owning the current #1 player would be the smartest way for Google to maintain their edge. What’s surprising is how little speculation there was of this acquisition until this post. It seems like a completely random shot in the dark.

I will say that the acquisition doesn’t sit right with me 100%. Google is not a content provider, and owning YouTube and investing $1.6 billion dollars pretty much guarantees they MUST focus on being a content provider as well as an ad broker. Perhaps they’re starting to realize that in order to keep Microsoft off their toes they need to own some of the content as well? Of course, then they’d be competing with AOL, Yahoo!, and MSN for content, but having YouTube certainly would help in that race.

Of course, this all assumes the rumor has any substance.