What’s with Google and YouTube?

Kretchmar’s Korner
By David Kretchmar, Computer Technician, Sun City Summerlin Computer Club NV

May 2019 issue, Gigabyte Gazette
tomburt89134 (at) cox.net


Over 13 years ago, Google bought YouTube for $1.65 billion. Today that figure seems tiny, but at the time many questioned the wisdom of paying so much for a startup company less than 2 years old. Some analysts and competitors said Google overpaid. Many said the giant company was foolish to take on YouTube’s many legal problems.

Thirteen years later the YouTube purchase is generally considered to be one of the best consumer tech acquisitions ever, maybe even one of the best acquisitions of all time. It is one of a couple of small investments that paid off handsomely for Google, like Google’s $50 million purchase of Android in 2005. The difference between YouTube and Android is that in 2005, only the geekiest of geeks knew what Android even was. At that time, YouTube was already world famous, yet still its price tag was ridiculous by that day’s enterprise valuation standards. It was one of the first wild bets a tech giant made subsequent to the dot-com crash of the early ‘00s.

We love Google!
Many of us use Google’s subsidiaries’ products such as the Google Chrome search engine, YouTube, Google maps, Google Earth, Nest, and Android smart phones. Some of us, including me, use YouTube virtually every day. Most of us are familiar with YouTube as a video sharing service where users can watch, like, share, comment on, and upload their own videos.

YouTube has also become indispensable for educational purposes; you can learn how to make repairs around the house or “attend” lectures by your favorite astrophysicist.

YouTube rid us of the agony of buffering and YouTube has become for video watching and sharing what Google Chrome was (and still is) for search.

In fact, YouTube is now the world’s 2nd biggest search engine. There are more than 1.8 billion people registered on YouTube, watching 5 billion videos every day. Worldwide about 75% of all Internet searches go through Google, including YouTube. For the last 13 years since it was launched back in 2005, YouTube has expanded massively. It’s grown from a website to upload amateur videos to the place where you can watch much more content of much more types that modern TV is capable to offer. Every 60 seconds more than 300 hours of HD quality video is being uploaded to YouTube to contribute to already massive collection of 1,300,000,000 videos.

So, What’s the Problem?
Starting a few weeks ago I noticed YouTube was forcing me to endure more and longer ads before (and interrupting with ads) the content I wanted. The ads have more recently included offers for YouTube Premium ($12/month) and YouTube TV ($50/month). I’m sure Alphabet would like me to upgrade to YouTube Premium, (without ads) but I have to wonder if downgrading their free service is smart strategy.

Also, YouTube deleted my, and many other users’ Favorites list, with no warning at all. Google said the deletion of Favorites lists was a programming glitch, but my list took over 10 years to develop and I want it back. Google says it is working on it.

Google has long been accused of directing Internet traffic to suit its own purposes, and it is said, truthfully, I believe, “whoever owns the Internet, owns the future.” Google has never been transparent about how it decides what it displays for search results. Google is a monopoly, considering the 75% of Internet traffic it directs, and over 90% of Google’s profit comes from advertising. It is an inherent conflict of interest for an advertising company to be controlling what you see as a result of Internet searches.

Google cares about selling ads, and it especially cares about selling ads against search results and videos.

Google has made some other changes that have served to only confuse people. In August 2015, Google changed its name to Alphabet Corporation, although the stock symbol remained GOOG plus a new class of non-voting shares GOOGL. Why you would drop a nonsensical corporate name that became so widely used it became a verb for an apparently meaningless dictionary word is a mystery to me, despite arguments from management that the change was logical.

Google, as of August 2018, forces you to login to your Google account on Chrome if you login to any other Google service using the browser. Logging out of a Google service will also force log you out of Google Chrome. I don’t understand why logging into Gmail, Google Docs, or any other Google service would need to force Google Chrome users to also connect to their Google accounts, presumably giving Google access to its browser history, saved passwords, and other personal information they arguably do not need. In the face of consumer complaints Google has somewhat backed off on this policy, but it is disconcerting that this major change was done quietly, almost under the radar, for most users.

My current pet peeve against Google (besides my missing Favorites) is what they have done with Google Contacts. In the previous version of Gmail, you could switch to the Contacts list by clicking the Gmail menu on the upper left side of the page, but that method no longer works.

Now you get to the contacts page by clicking the Apps icon in the upper right corner of Gmail. When you click the Apps icon, a square made up of nine smaller squares, it unfolds to reveal a panel of icons for other Google programs and services, including Google Photos, Google News and YouTube.

Sometimes Contacts does not appear in the first group of apps and you have to click on “More” to scroll down.

Google has recently come under fire for helping totalitarian governments block information from their citizens, and for avoiding paying billions of dollars in tax by funneling profits to tax havens such as Bermuda, but these serious allegations are beyond the scope of this article.

Google’s unofficial motto had long been the simple phrase “don’t be evil.” But no more, according to the code of conduct that Google distributes to its employees. The phrase was removed sometime in late April 2018. I guess it was easier to change the motto than to change what has become corporate culture.