Google vs. Australia – A First of Its Kind Battle

Last Updated on January 28, 2021 by Chris

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If you've been following the tech news lately, it would be impossible to miss the feud that has been unfolding between Australia and Google. In fact, it's something that we featured in a recent edition of This Week in Blogging.

We cover the minutiae of blogging such as blog hosting, image copyrights, and so on, but we also cover the news. And this, my friends, is certainly news.

In fact, it doesn't get much bigger than this, and now the question is – is this a David vs. Goliath situation, or can a nation and perhaps the world's most powerful corporation go toe-to-toe?

So, what's Australia trying to do to Google, anyhow?

Australian crocodile

Australia is looking to introduce a law that would potentially force Google, Facebook and other tech giants to pay media outlets for their news content.

Big Tech is officially panicking because they see this as the first domino in them being regulated further and not having free reign to do whatever the heck they want.

In response, Mel Silva, Google's Managing Director in Australia stated, “If this version of the code were to become law, it would give us no real choice but to stop making Google Search available in Australia.”

The Aussie PM, Scott Morrison, has essentially told her to quit it with the bullying and threats. His argument is that tech giants get customers from people reading news from other outlets on their platforms, so they should pay for that.

In sum, Australia is arguing that journalism and the newspaper industry is getting slayed while Google and other platforms roll in the green from their work, so maybe maybe they should spread the wealth a bit.

What's Google's counterpoint to Australia?

In an open letter to Australia, The Goog kicks things off with some dramatics by claiming the new law “would break Google Search as you know it.” 

Their argument is multi-faceted but, at it's core, it's pretty simple.

“Right now, no website or search engine pays to connect people to other sites through links. This law would change that, making Google pay to provide links for the first time in our history.

If the law requires Google to pay to link people to websites, it’s a slippery slope. After all, if one type of business gets paid for appearing in Search, why shouldn’t others?

Going down that route would destroy the business model of any search engine, Google included. And if a search engine has to pay to show links, what’s to stop links elsewhere coming with a price tag, too?”

What does this mean for bloggers?

It's a little too early to say how or if this would affect the blogging world.

For one thing, we may see a surge of traffic from Bing, Yahoo, and especially the privacy-focused DuckDuckGo, which just hit 100 million searches per day.

Non-search engine traffic also may be more coveted as this all unfolds, but time will indeed tell, as it always does.

Could Google Really Ditch Australia?

Well, for starters, it's worth noting that, like everyone else, Australia is indeed reliant on Google. Google maintains over 90% of the market share, so it's not as if Australia doesn't need Google.

At the same time, Australia clearly recognizes that Google doesn't want to leave their shores unless it absolutely has to. And Google realizes that if this occurs, then they may have to do this dance in every nation on the planet – which Google does not want to do.

For what it's worth, well known Wired writer Brian Barrett used only Bing for 3 months straight, and he seemed to be at least alright with it.

As of right now, Google isn't suggesting that it would also pull Google Maps, YouTube, Gmail and so forth. But you also wonder if they might use it as a bargaining chip down the line? Or would that even be in their best interest?

What's really at stake with Australia vs. Google?

Obviously, if Google leaves Australia it's going to lose a lot of revenue (apparently around 5 billion), but that's not the real concern. Making money, as we all know, isn't exactly a problem that Google has. However, Google's main concern is that this could set a precedent that impedes them from making all that money in the future.

It's one thing for China to decide that Google isn't going to cut it for them, but if Australia pulls out, that would raise more than a few eyebrows in the West. No doubt, people would be watching closely to see what, if any, were the repercussions of an action like that. Can Australia be just fine without Google? That's certainly not a question that Google wants people to be able to answer, which makes this situation even more complicated.

Of course, over at This Week in Blogging, we'll be closely following and reporting on what affect any moves may have on you.

There are also a number of other questions at stake, such as whether a blogger could simply just use a VPN to use Google and its products if they were based in Australia, and these questions, ultimately, will be answered in due time.

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