A Modest Proposal: Google, Take My Money

Hey Google.

How are you? I’m doing fine (but then again you probably knew that already from all the data you’ve collected on me).

That’s what I wanted to talk to you about, actually.

Google, as you continue to make it easier for us to be tracked all over the Internet (and harder for us to opt out), it seems to be dawning on more and more people (though I would say far from a critical mass by any stretch) that the Google we all know and love is steadily creeping away from its original mission of simply being the world’s best search engine.

I’m not going to ascribe this to some sort of evil intent as others seem to be all too happy to do. I get (and rather love) capitalism, and understand you need to make money to continue existing. I understand that it costs money to build and run your awesome Internet services (I for one am particularly dependent on Gmail, contacts and calendars—all of which work swimmingly with my Nokia Lumia, thanks for that btw).

Right now the only currency I can use to pay for most Google services is myself—my eyeballs and my data, which are worth a certain monetary amount to you. Let’s eliminate the middle-man (advertisers) and let me give that money directly to you. In exchange for a monthly or annual fee, you will give me the Google services I know and love with no ads, and no tracking tools behind them. You can detect my device’s useragent to ensure an optimal experience, and my location if I choose to share it with you, but everything else about me remains my business and nobody else’s. I get a better service—cleaner, and without the analytics gobbletygook that is now pushing the size of a typical web page up to 1 MB, probably a good deal faster too.

Meanwhile, you get the same money you would have gotten—and possibly more if you charged a premium over what you would have made on ads (I don’t know if you make $100 a year on me now, but I’ve been known to pay that much for .Mac/MobileMe, and those didn’t even work).

Moreover, it’s not as if this were an unprecedented idea; it’s precisely how a growing number of apps work. For the typical Zynga game, there is usually the option of a free, ad-supported version and a paid, ad-free one. Apps give us a choice of pay or ads, why can’t Google? I know plenty (if not the majority) of your users don’t want to pay, and are happy to deal with ads to get Google services for free. But you should offer the option satisfy your power users. Think of it as the Android Nexus version of Google writ large.

Make Nexus premium brand across all of Google's properties.

The longer you don’t do this, the more likely it becomes that a competitor will—be it a nimble young upstart, an old wealthy nemesis, or newer and even wealthier nemeses will (or perhaps an old struggling nemesis looking for a Hail Mary?)

In short: Google, you deserve to be paid for your services. I just wish you’d take alternative forms of payment besides my eyeballs and my personal information.

Oh, and Facebook: Same goes for you.


14 thoughts on “A Modest Proposal: Google, Take My Money

  1. Definitely would love this! I don’t know if it would work financially because advertisers are probably targeting the people with the money to pay as opposed to those that want/need a free service, so the value of ads might be lessened since the target audience is not ideal.

    Keep up the awesome blog though, love reading your thoughts!

  2. If Google offered a subscription-based, ads-free version of its services, it would make it seem more like most other services that are “punishing” you for not using their paid service.

    With its current, less transparent method (with having that “middle man”), Google presents itself more as a free service with bonus paid services. Advertisements are less intrusive and provide them with research data. The value in the data acquired from how we responds to ads far exceeds any fixed subscription fee. I’d even assert that for the same reasons, Facebook uses the slogan, “It’s free and always will be” on its homepage.

    I’m not disagreeing with you — I just think that paradigm shift would hurt their image, business model, and their number one tool: search.

    • Then again, their image and number one tool are already suffering, regardless of whether they did this. And when those two suffer, it’s only a matter of time until the business model suffers as well as Google leaves itself open to a competitive challenge.

  3. I’ve suggested multiple times that I would pay for Google Voice no problem if they’d resolve a few oddities/issues. I give them props for everything they give me for free, and it would just be some incentive to beef up the service that last little bit…

    I wouldn’t mind if Google became more like a utility, just like internet access. I actually don’t mind the ads much, but paying for the service would make me a stakeholder in its destiny; right now since it is free, I am subject to their own roadmap decisions, and some of them are a bit annoying…

    • Well even if you did pay, I don’t think you’d have much say in the roadmap decisions. I paid quite a bit for my MacBook but don’t see Apple asking me what features I want in my next one! 😉

  4. I second the last commenter, us Disconntect Me or another Chrome plugin to disable tracking and if you haven’t already, installed AdBlocker and like me, you will never see Ads on Google, Gmail or any other pages.

    • Right, but that goes against my feelings that Google DOES deserve to be compensated for the services it provides me. It’s capitalism, after all. I would prefer to have the option to live ad-free and still know Google was fairly compensated.

  5. Your style is very unique in comparison to other people I’ve read stuff from.
    I appreciate you for posting when you have the opportunity, Guess I’ll just bookmark this site.

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