Sunday, November 06, 2005

That Entity Which Wal-Mart Most Fears

Imagine being able, while on a shopping excursion, to use a cell phone to scan a store's particular product barcode into a Google database and find out whether the product is sold more cheaply either at another store or online. That possibility, according to the NY Times, has got Wal-mart and other mega-billion-dollar corporations intimidated by Google's potential, for fear that it will translate to "relentless competition that threatens to break up existing businesses." Google is knocking the "new money" corporations down notches to the petrified status of "old money" with express dispatch.

Google has already unflinchingly lobbed a shot across the bow of corporate publishers with its new Google Print database, which is to some extent a private-public partnership with libraries. Now if Google could find a way to break the monopolistic stranglehold on fuel sources and price controls exercised by Exxon, BP, etc. they would be in a rarefied pantheon worthy of adoration.

We may sing Google's praises all we want now as they "fight the powers that be," just as long as they stay on their progressive mission to "organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful." But we also should be vigilant that they don't become the next corporate oligarchy ensconced in Washington, more interested in lining their pockets rather than providing us a service.

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