Saturday, 5 September 2020

When the Guide Becomes the Gatekeeper

Hard on the heels of the US congressional hearings questioning four of the tech giants, Google's latest 'feature' releases beg the question 'what happens when the guide becomes the gatekeeper? 

Never one to stand still, Google implemented a raft of new search features in the weeks after the Washington sessions. Google Search will now recommend what to watch on live tv. There is a pilot feature in the US offering mortgage information including a rates section. Ostensibly a collaboration with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), Google doesn't say how or from where the mortgage rates are selected.

This looks the next step into the financial services market after credit cards. This has the potential not only to disrupt and push out the traditional players, but capture millions of enquiries without users bothering to go anywhere else.

And if that's the case, then anyone not bidding a large amount to go on Google's 'approved' recommendations list could be cut out of the market altogether. You can bet anyone stumping up to pay the Google kick-back (commission, protection money, whatever) is going to look to recoup that from consumers. So the recommended 'best' rates may be anything but. Net winner?  Not the financial sector, and certainly not the consumer.

Not only will existing players find it harder to compete, startups may hit a wall at the first turn. 

There's no physical lockout of 'non-approved partners' here, you just know that large numbers of users completely immersed in the Google-verse simply won't bother to click anywhere else but the top result, because 'Google knows best.' They will simply take the sign-posted path because the guide tells them it's the easiest.

This is what happens when the guide becomes the gatekeeper. RC

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