Google as evil, now from The Wall Street Journal

WSJ ends year showing a misunderstanding of technology

Last week I wrote about someone who seems to be paid to bash Google whether the facts support the bash or not. This week the topic is a different type of misdirected bashing -- and The Wall Street Journal should know better.

The headline in the WSJ story reads "Google wants its own fast track on the Web." Because Google has been one of the strongest supporters of network neutrality over the last few years, any backing down from that position would be and should be big news. You have to read to the end of the article, however, to find out that Google is doing is what Akamai did a long time ago, and it has nothing to do with fast-tracking the Internet or with network neutrality.

According to an official Google response to the WSJ article, Google is putting Web caches in ISP networks to bring its content closer to ISP users. This helps the ISPs because they no longer have to get the content multiple times over their connections with other ISPs and, assuming the ISPs are smart about where the caches are placed, they can reduce the load on their infrastructure. It also benefits users because they may get better response times.

Google's use of Web caches is not all that interesting to me. But I do find the Journal article interesting and disturbing. I hope it's not an indication of what is to come now that Rupert Murdoch owns the newspaper. The headline is sensationalist and inaccurate, and most of the article is quite confused and misleading. If this is a taste of things to come, it will be quite sad; but if it is, it is a leading indicator, because I haven't noticed other examples.

The Journal has undergone quite a makeover since Murdoch took over. I subscribe to the Web-based version and generally like the revisions. (Although I do find it hard to find the place where one can enter the name of a stock and find out how much it's down today. That feature used to be on the front page and now it's buried somewhere nonintuitive to me.).

Network neutrality is one of the key technology-related issues the new Obama Administration will be facing soon. There is no indication, as of this writing, of whom Obama is thinking about appointing to the FCC, where the network neutrality issue will get most of its discussion. Whoever that person might be, it is quite likely that the FCC is in for some significant changes. A new chair will bring new topics to focus on (and maybe less of a fixation on capricious reactions to broadcast naughtiness). 

Google's deployment of Web caches is not a topic for the FCC or Congress to get involved in. But if any of the rest of the WSJ article is at all accurate, the already complicated network neutrality issue has gotten even more complicated.

There is serious work on the future of the Internet to be done, and it would be good if the Journal could figure out a way to accurately help the process move forward.

Disclaimer: Harvard is in the middle of serious work on its own future (you may have noticed the reports in the newspapers), and has not commented on the Journal's coverage of Internet matters, so the above is my own review.

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