back to article Alphabetti spaghetti: What Wall Street isn't telling you about Google

Alphabet, Google’s parent company, has made the front page with its latest financials – overtaking Apple as the world’s most valuable public company. But size isn’t everything. The numbers illustrate the nature of Alphabet’s grip over digital trade – with Alphabet really controlling the price of transactions, and what value …

  1. captain veg

    Botnet armies generate clicks

    "Botnet armies generate clicks"

    They have to. Human viewers employ ad-blockers.

    -A.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Botnet armies generate clicks

      Have an upvote.

      All the many google advertising sites are blocked at my router.

      Sadly I have to let googleapis through because far too many sites just won't work without it. At least all my searched are anonomised.

      I won't knowingly give google one bent penny.

      Once they said 'Do No Evil' not it is 'We are always Evil'.

      anon for obvious reasons.

      1. Lysenko

        I won't knowingly give google one bent penny.

        I actually don't mind Google so much: they have some worthwhile purpose in existing, if only because of all the software and services they make available.

        The truly worthless parasites are the ad agencies. I'm perfectly happy to help Google bleed cash from advertisers so long as I can spool the sewage to dev/null, much like I skip TV adverts at 30x speed (I never watch live TV other than BBC).

        1. LDS Silver badge

          Re: I won't knowingly give google one bent penny.

          Just, Google offer those "free" software and services only to sell you to the ad agencies and reap the money. The true parasite is actually Google.

          1. Lysenko

            Re: I won't knowingly give google one bent penny.

            Google is more of a symbiont (albeit an aggressive one). A true parasite consumes host resources and provides nothing in return. That's an ad agency. They consume your bandwidth and offer nothing but errr ... less usable bandwidth. They are the tapeworms of the internet. Google is just the vector.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Botnet armies generate clicks

      Eventually bot ad generators will supply ads for botnets to click on. And it will be counted as part of the GNP.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Botnet armies generate clicks

        Eventually andriod Johns will pay to have sex with gynoid prostitutes. And it will be counted as part of GNP.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Botnet armies generate clicks

        Eventually bot ad generators will supply ads for botnets to click on. And it will be counted as part of the GNP.

        Plus ça change: didn't we use to call this hollow swaps? But I guess if Google does it it's all OK then, not deceptive in any way because it does no evil, right?

        These guys have become Microsoft v2, but not quite as benign. No doubt, they will soon engage in conditional charity too.

    3. Martin Gregorie Silver badge

      Re: Botnet armies generate clicks

      Human viewers employ ad-blockers.

      ...because ads that jiggle, flash and obscure text are annoying and because of MSAA (Malware Served As Ads). Get rid of both and you might see fewer people running ad-blockers. Do nothing and the ad-blocker kill ratio will surely grow.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Botnet armies generate clicks

        MSAA (Malware Served As Ads).

        If you change that to "Malware as a Service" you could claim to have coined a new term - one we sadly need all too often.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How long can a monopoly survive unregulated?

    I offer no answers to that question, just that simple question. Absent some remarkable new form of profitable growth, the only way they can now please investors is by milking the monopoly through higher pricing. My view is that won't end well for all parties, although generous lobbying and political donations will help fend off the day of reckoning.

    1. MyffyW Silver badge

      Re: How long can a monopoly survive unregulated?

      An interesting point @Ledswinger. I read the article and thought of Standard Oil.

      Of course the blocker to any anti-monopoly action will be the global nature of the market. World leaders are actually not that, just representatives of some powerful parts of the world.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How long can a monopoly survive unregulated?

      I just heard from someone who was "Smart Priced" by Google - essentially their Adsense clicks become almost worthless compared to what they were before. (Thus leading to greater profit for Google - advertiser still pays the same but publisher gets significantly less).

      He removed the ads which caused Google to give him a call (he is a *very* large Adsense publisher). They took him off "Smart Price" but told him it would take 6 months to take effect and after 6 months his revenue would still only be approx 50% of what it was before they "Smart Priced" him.

      I'm sure he's not the only person this is happening to. Google's bottom line's going to look really good for the next couple of quarters as I'm sure most Adsense publishers will have to take the hit.

    3. CCCP

      Re: How long can a monopoly survive unregulated?

      Google has about 90% of web/mobile searches in Europe. Which, yes, more or less makes them a monopoly.

      Owning the "intent" of the consumer is terrifically powerful, which is why they are so insanely valued. There are two big "buts" (no, not that kind):

      Facebook owns "identity", which is why they bought Atlas and why they now tout their efficiency above Google's. In other words they serve ads to more of the right people. (yes, there is Google+ and Google Mail, but they are footnotes in the scheme of things compared to 1.6bn FB accounts)

      Secondly, a monopoly, even fairly acquired, is a precarious position as any hint of abuse will attract the wrong attention. And here is one area where Europe and the US usefully have a similar stance. So Google can't leverage their advantage because they'll get called out.

      So you could say Google is snookered, though that will take a long time to play out.

      1. Someone Else Silver badge
        Coat

        @CCCP -- Re: How long can a monopoly survive unregulated?

        Secondly, a monopoly, even fairly acquired, is a precarious position as any hint of abuse will attract the wrong attention. And here is one area where Europe and the US usefully have a similar stance (at least until the next Republican administration is voted buys its way into office). So Google can't leverage their advantage because they'll get called out.

        There, FTFY

        1. Turtle

          @ Someone Else Re: @CCCP -- How long can a monopoly survive unregulated?

          '"And here is one area where Europe and the US usefully have a similar stance (at least until the next Republican administration is voted buys its way into office). So Google can't leverage their advantage because they'll get called out."

          Do you have ANY idea how many ex-Googlers have been recruited and employed by Obama's administration? (And just to remind you because you probably don't know, Obama is a Democrat.)

          Or how often Google lobbyists visit the White House? Or how much money they spend on lobbying? Apparently you know nothing about this stuff.

          And here's one reason why the Department of Justice has not started any lawsuits against Google for their abuse of their monopoly: the government official whose decision it is on whether to okay such lawsuits is... an ex-Google employee!

          Do you remember Andrew McLaughlin?

          And as for "the next Republican administration buying its way into office": remind me why Hillary Cow is getting money from Wall St, would you? Or the money that's being funneled to her and her husband via their foundation, "Cow And Pig, Inc".. ooops, I meant to say The Clinton Foundation. Where'd that US$2bn come from, and why? Or tell me about George Soros, you know, the guy who owns the Democratic party.

          You've got to be pretty damn myopic and hypocritical to think that the Republicans are any more guilty of attempting to "buy" an election than the Democrats.

          1. DocJames
            Mushroom

            Re: @ Someone Else @CCCP -- How long can a monopoly survive unregulated?

            More guilty? No.

            Guilty? Yes, beyond reasonable doubt.

            I think the point is that although the lobbyists have significant links with the Democrats, presumably in order to buy reduced regulation help formulate the best policy, the Republicans are ideologically in favour of no/minimal regulation, and damn the costs.

            Solution to politics and politicians -->

            Then we can all live in a cave happily ever after.

            1. Turtle

              @ DocJames Re: @ Someone Else @CCCP -- How long can a monopoly survive unregulated?

              "I think the point is that although the lobbyists have significant links with the Democrats, presumably in order to buy reduced regulation help formulate the best policy, the Republicans are ideologically in favour of no/minimal regulation, and damn the costs."

              "Minimal regulation" is very, very different from "bought-and-paid-for regulation" - to confuse them is naive, to say the least: there's no reason to think that grossly-distorted laws and regulations implemented thanks to corruption are any better in any way than minimal laws and regulations and there's good reason to think that they're much worse.

              Incidentally, the "lobbyists" or corrupt actors could also want, along or separately from decreased regulation for themselves, increased regulation - for their competitors.

              Corruption is corruption. And that's all there is to it. That you want to whitewash the Democrats is irrelevant. That you think that there is some benefit, relative, comparative, or otherwise, to having wealthy entities completely bypass the political process of law-making by purchasing political influence and government actin is delusional.

              And for as Pig And Cow, Inc they are the embodiment of "corrupt politicians lining their pockets in exchange for government action". And there's NO benefit for anyone except them and their paying clientele.

        2. This post has been deleted by a moderator

          1. Someone Else Silver badge

            Re: @CCCP -- How long can a monopoly survive unregulated? @ someone else

            Dear AC-

            You can have your own opinion, but you can't have your own facts.

            Actually, you can have your own "facts", but they are indistinguishable from your opinions....

  3. NoneSuch Silver badge
    Alert

    Strange

    I read that article and thought "ENRON".

  4. Turtle

    How Great Minds Occupy Themselves.

    "Google employs some of the best brains in the world in this cat and mouse game"

    This is a pathetic and trivial occupation for the "best brains in the world". And one of the reasons why the world is like it is.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How Great Minds Occupy Themselves.

      They also spend a lot of time doing trolling each other's code reviews, waiting for slow batch processing (the old mainframe model of design), circling through bureaucracy, and looking for accurate documentation. They're hiring like crazy to maintain productivity, which is drinking a lot more poison than cure. Half the employees don't know there's a problem because they haven't worked anywhere better while the other half are waiting for stock grants to vest. My bet is that Google will lead the next cycle of dot-com crash. It will be devastating but, like forrest fire, it promote rapid new growth.

    2. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      Re: How Great Minds Occupy Themselves.

      Ooh, "The Best and the Brightest" - that takes me back.

    3. AMBxx Silver badge
      Paris Hilton

      Re: How Great Minds Occupy Themselves.

      And the rest of the Great Minds are spending all their time helping global companies avoid tax.

      Such a waste.

      Parris because she's neither a waste or a Great Mind

    4. Philip Lewis

      Re: How Great Minds Occupy Themselves.

      In Elon Musk's bio, he comments the sad fact, that some of many great minds of his generation have spent their careers figuring out how to make people click on ads, rather than building stuff.

      Elon is right, it is a waste of talent

      1. Finder Keeper

        Re: How Great Minds Occupy Themselves.

        Either Elon Musk has a tendency to indulge in a false dichotomy, or he is a megalomaniac.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Can anyone having the right knowledge tell us

    what is from the advertiser point of view the difference between ads I never look at and ads clicked-on by bots ? Don't they realize they're being cheated ? I mean, come on, they're paying insane amounts of money just in the hope that someone might look at those ads. This means Google takes their money without offering any guarantee which smells like some sort of fraud to me.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Can anyone having the right knowledge tell us

      Google analyzes clicks, categorizes them, and then figures out which are humans or bots. This information is used to create new fraud prevention systems whenever enough advertisers demand it.

    2. Snowy Silver badge

      Re: Can anyone having the right knowledge tell us

      No difference between that and any other form of advertisement?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Can anyone having the right knowledge tell us

        I wouldn't be surprised if Google classifies me as a bot given the way I rapid fire clicks.

      2. LDS Silver badge

        Re: Can anyone having the right knowledge tell us

        I guess there are more chances your remember better an ad campaign run through TV or press, than any run through the Internet.

        IMHO the advertisers were blinded by the sheer number of people they could reach with an investement they thought were smaller, without actually understanding the very media itself made the ROI much smaller, and they have little ways to check if the figures they pay for are correct.

    3. CCCP

      Re: Can anyone having the right knowledge tell us

      You analyse the performance per network and campaign. It's pretty obvious when clicks don't generate revenue. However, when you run at scale across countries it becomes trickier. The cross-over is when your staff cost to check becomes higher than the incremental efficiency gain. Nowhere near a perfect science.

      Also, you need to consider the "display" value of an ad. I know we all hate ads, but the good ones, even banners, catch a fleeting moment of attention. Advertising was always thus.

      You could say ITV is into the same "fraud" as Google. In the end you have no guarantees, just exposure of an uncertain value.

    4. Wensleydale Cheese

      Re: Can anyone having the right knowledge tell us

      "they're paying insane amounts of money just in the hope that someone might look at those ads."

      There was apparently a saying in the (pre-internet) advertising world:

      "We know that half of an advertising campaign is a waste of money, but we can never work out which half."

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Can anyone having the right knowledge tell us

      From Billboards on main roads to adverts on the side of buses, there is never a guarantee anyone will take notice, only the chance of more people being exposed to it. And advertisers, like spammers use the numbers game, the more people see it, the bigger their 1% who fall for it will be

    6. captain veg

      Re: Can anyone having the right knowledge tell us

      Traditional advertising creates exposures to the message. It is assumed that such exposure will have some positive effect -- possibly intangible, such as increasing brand awareness -- even if it can't be measured.

      Google's value proposition is that the effect of online advertising can be measured. A click-through is considered to be a tangible conversion, and so much more valuable than mere exposure. That these supposed value-increasing conversions are so easily faked is a problem to the industry.

      -A.

  6. Mikel

    You can be the next Google

    Just be better than them at what they do. Simples.

    1. Spoonguard
      FAIL

      Re: You can be the next Google

      Are you familiar with the concept "Worse is Better"

    2. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      Re: You can be the next Google

      I can has venture capitalz plz???

  7. TechnicalBen Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    Every time I hear the name Alphabet...

    I feel like they chose that because "Umbrella" was too obvious a give away if chosen.

    Or worse, they were already using it!

  8. Keven E

    "Alpha" as in primary...

    ..."bet" as in capitalist *gaming.

  9. Rainer

    Everybody calls Apple a "one trick pony" (which they're really not) - but was is Google without search?

    It's just hamsters in mice in comparison.

    Hopefully, all the ads will move to Facebook soon, where I can't see them (lack of account).

    Maybe the content will move there, too - but then my productivity at work might skyrocket.

    And I would get to read a book once in a while.

  10. Someone Else Silver badge
    Coat

    Instant karma gonna get you!

    The loser is the advertiser, who is growing wary of online advertising.

    One can only hope!

  11. David 164

    Does it matter why do you risk upsetting an existing business model, all that matters is Google is doing it by charging 9:99 to get rid of ads on Youtube, why providing a bunch of other services as well in the same package.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What value means in the digital economy?

    "Alphabet, Google’s parent company, has made the front page with its latest financials – overtaking Apple as the world’s most valuable public company. But size isn’t everything."

    Yea, Google Dollars are worth less than everyone elses Dollars.

  13. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

    Alpabetti spaghetti?!?

    Cue Arnold Rimmer:

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Ar7u8zBbUJE

  14. Sirius Lee

    Actuarial

    Andrew, has you actually talked to Martin Sorrell about this issue? Quoting a 'warning' isn't quite the same thing. Sorrell is an accountant by training not a marketing guru. A bloke that lives by numbers. You have demonstrated that in an imperfect world, he has good data on which to model his business. If he knows 52% of adverts are never seen by humans, he knows 48% are and can adjust his model accordingly.

    Like many of your posts, this one indicates you want to live in a perfectly fair and honest world. We all do but sadly other humans are not so obliging. In the absence of a perfectly fair world, honest and reliable data about its unfairness is very helpful.

    Interestingly you don't quote the same statistic for last year or the forecast for next year. If the number of ads seen by humans will be 48% today, 90% tomorrow and 20% the day after that will be a problem because these numbers are not useful for their predictive value. However if the numbers are 48% today, 47% tomorrow and 46% the day after, then fluctuations can be accommodated.

  15. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    Perhaps there is hope...

    "You can’t perform keyword arbitrage, "

    But what if you could?

  16. Flywheel Silver badge

    Pi-Hole

    .. must be going to hurt them. I see that at least 20% of all my web traffic is (was) ads, and I surf a lot.

  17. naive

    There is no free lunch

    Suppose it is 1995 again, somebody knocks at the door, trying to sell you a device which can:

    - Replace all the Michelin maps which always created heated discussions with the spouse on holidays

    - Offers access to millions of little program makers with TV programs ranging from raising parrots to repairing BMW M54 engines, and everything else one can think of

    - Offers an interactive search which can find all the information in the world

    The cheapest device on offer costs $200, the most expensive $600. Probably, nobody would have bought the device, some would even have called the police or the hospital to have that sales man admitted in the nuthouse.

    It was google, and google only who had this vision and made it happen. Everybody else was too busy milking decades old cows like OS licenses, over prized alu cased Intel pc's and what more, but not with innovation. So yes, innovators often create a monopoly because they are far ahead of competition. And google is different, we do not have to pay google hundreds of dollars up front, we just lend google content and time. Google also does not use technology which is patented, intended keep out competition. Yes, ads are annoying, so are tax bills. Watching the occasional ad seems a small prize to pay for all the great changes they brought.

    1. calmeilles

      Re: There is no free lunch

      But in 1995 Mapquest was doing that and a double handful of web search engines had been launched. Two years later ShareYourWorld gave us video.

      Google came along with a better search engine algorithm. Arguably eventually a better everything they subsequently bought. But looking at their long list of acquisitions from Deja News in 2001 onwards Google's vision has been how to market and monetise products while fundamental innovation has been very thin on the ground. Do it better / faster / slicker / wider / higher / deeper is all good stuff for the user and has created Google's success. But every genuinely new concept has come from outside.

      After all, why invent when you can buy.

      1. Yag

        "Google came along with a better search engine algorithm"

        I know I may only speak for myself, but the main reason I switched to google over yahoo back in last millenium was the absence of crud.

        Yahoo was already a "portal" with tons of crappy categories, links, ads on the search page.

        Google was a single picture, a text field and two buttons.

        If you remember the speed of '99 internet, you'll probably understand why "better algorithm" was not that high on the priority list.

        1. Mk4

          Re: "Google came along with a better search engine algorithm"

          I used AltaVista and in my circle Yahoo was poopoo'd :-). The nicest thing back then was being able to bounce around search results and find things that you would never have known existed. It was a joy.

          I finally switched to Google as everyone else I knew/was working with used that and at that time the search results were better ("competition" forced me to use Google).

          These days it's all "bubble" this and "echo chamber" that. I use DuckDuckGo as I like to avoid tracking but ironically that's based on Yahoo search and now my search tool use has come full circle.

          Can someone restart the internet please... (it's non-responsive).

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019