Why the world is watching this Australia versus Google match closely

An Australian legislation, if passed, could lead to a global demand for social media companies to pay for content owned by other media firms.

 |  4-minute read |   10-02-2021
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Australia is batting against Google and Facebook with determination to win against the tech giants' fierce bowling. An Australian win would result in the first-ever legislation that could lead to a global demand for social media companies globally to pay for content owned by other media companies like the Sydney Morning Herald.

Last month, Google delivered one of the biggest googlies against Australia. Google Australia’s managing director Melanie Silva told a senate committee that the proposed legislation would force Google “to stop making Google search available in Australia."

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison defended the googly from Google with a straight bat. He said, “We don’t respond to threats."

sunu_021021090235.jpgAustralian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has told Google the country doesn't respond to threats. (Sketch: Pranav Lenin)

Before delivering the googly, Silva reportedly consulted her captain Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Alphabet Inc. Alphabet is the US parent company that owns Google. It is a common practice for bowlers to consult their captains before delivering such deceptive balls.

The naming of Google is legendary. It was conceived by the company’s founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin while they were students at Stanford University. Larry derived Google from the word googol, which is the digit 1, followed by 100 zeros.

Google is in the business of maximising eyeball traffic to its sites and selling online advertising services to businesses. The company’s performance is measured based on "traffic and engagement" of those visiting the sites. Google offers free search services for “the people of this land”. Free search services attract traffic to company sites and increase engagement. Based on the volume of traffic and engagement, Google collects advertising revenues from businesses. In 2020, Google made more than $130 million per day from the sale of its advertising services.

Google needs news, information and entertainment or infotainment as searchable content to attract more and more eyeballs. The proposed Australian legislation would force Google to pay the media companies who own the infotainment content.

In designing their Australian business strategies, Pichai and his team seem to have missed a critical point. Australia and cricket-playing nations like New Zealand, India, and England practised googlies long before Larry Page derived Google from googol. Googly was in our lexicon as early as 1902, when Bernard Bosanquet playing for Middlesex, delivered his first googly against Australia at the Lords.

In the New Zealand tour of 1902-03, Bosanquet created a sensation with his use of googly. It was reported that the ball was “presented from the bowler's hand in such a way that once the ball pitched, it deviated in the opposite direction towards the leg stump”.

sunu-1_021021090337.jpgGoogle’s game with Australia is only a warm-up match. (Sketch: Pranav Lenin)

Google was born in 1998, ninety-six years after Bosanquet bowled the first googly.

Google’s game with Australia is only a warm-up match. Over five billion eyeballs fire up the Google search engine every day. The rest of the world is anxiously waiting for the outcome of the Australian match. Interestingly, Australia seems to have a lot of ground support from Microsoft cheering from the galleries. Microsoft has told Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison that the company will “fully support” the proposed legislation. Microsoft also offered to upgrade its search engine, Bing to replace Google in Australia.

Cricket is not popular in America. It resembles America’s national game baseball, but cricket has eclipsed baseball’s eyeball traffic and Google engagement. The American founders of Google may claim ignorance of the origin of the word googly. Way back in 2015, Facebook tried bowling googlies in India with zero-rated “free internet access offers”. Small entrepreneurial application developers of India read the Facebook googlies correctly. They requested the Indian government to reject the “free offer” co-sponsored by Facebook and a major telecom operator. The government rejected the "zero-rating" offers. In 2020, India became the fastest growing mobile internet access market globally. India has around 630 million wireless devices accessing the internet. India is also the world’s biggest viewer market for cricket games and the single-largest advertising revenue source for cricket infotainment. Since their inception, Google, Facebook, and other social media companies have skimmed the cream of global advertising revenues, using the infotainment owned by media companies.

In addition to the free use of the content owned by media companies, Alphabet has been using the word Google since 1997 without paying due respect to its Maori origin and the “people of this land” - Tangata Whenua. It is time for Google and Alphabet to settle dues payable to the New Zealand, who gave us the word googly.

Also read: Exporting manpower and importing technology


Rajeev Sunu Rajeev Sunu @rajeevsunu

Rajeev Sunu is a visiting faculty to business schools in the Asia Pacific region.

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