The first is the tax we each pay so that companies can bid against each other to buy traffic from Google. Because their revenue model is (cleverly) built on both direct marketing and an auction, they are able to keep a significant portion of the margin from many industries. They’ve become the internet’s landlord.
The second is harder to see: Because Google has made it ever more difficult for sites to be found, previously successful businesses like Groupon, Travelocity and Hipmunk suffer. As a result, new web companies are significantly harder to fund and build. If you’re dependent on being found in a Google search, it’s probably worth rethinking your plan.
I think there’s a widespread assumption that Google’s search engine is a relatively benevolent and impartial directory of the web at large. The Wall Street Journal’s recent investigation sure makes it sound like that’s the expectation; the authors seemed surprised by how often the ranking parameters are adjusted so that spam, trash, and marketing pablum doesn’t find its way to the top — albeit twisting their findings to imply that Google is pushing a political agenda. There simply isn’t a good way to make search engines truly neutral; that’s fine, but users need to understand that.
Non-Google search engines also need to be more competitive, but it takes time to chip away at a company with complete market share dominance — particularly when they use it as leverage for obtaining an advantage in other markets.