Google has vowed to pull out of the Australian market if there is new legislation governing its partnership with news publishers.
So, what’s the whole row about?
Why does Google get out of Australia?
The government is proposing legislation to resolve a long-running controversy about whether tech giants can pay for news that appears in search or is shared on their platforms.
The proposed law would compel Google to have commercial agreements with any news organization-or to enter into mandatory arbitration, which they claims is “unworkable”
“If this version of the code were to become law, it would give us no real choice but to stop making search available in Australia,” said Mel Silva, Regional Director.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said “We don’t respond to threats“
What are the alternatives?
It has around 90-95 percent of the market share of search engines in Australia-similar to the rest of the world.
But there are other search options-mainly Microsoft’s Bing and Yahoo, but also privacy-focused ones like DuckDuckGo.
But though Alexa’s website consulting company rates Google as the most-visited site on the Internet, Yahoo is 11th, and Bing is 33rd.
Will the loss of Google actually affect people?
In 2018, the writer for Wired Magazine spent three months using Bing exclusively-and concluded that it performed fine nearly all of the time.
But in very particular cases-such as locating old articles-he failed because the methods he learned to search using Google did not produce the expected results.
And it is not only a search engine-its search technology is also powered by services such as Gmail, Maps and YouTube, among others.
It’s not clear at this point if the threat from Google-if implemented-would have an effect on those other applications.
Alternatives to these do exist, but are not frequently used, and many consumers consider Google apps to be essential.
When Huawei’s phones lost access to Google networks in a row with US regulators, it was even more difficult to market phones in the West.
Will it set a global precedent?
Australian Senator Rex Patrick said, “It’s going to go worldwide. Are you going to pull out of every market, are you?”
But Google and other impacted businesses, such as Facebook, are based in the US.
And the US government-at least the former administration-has cautioned Australia not to “rush” the new legislation, warning that it is “extraordinary” and could have “long-lasting negative consequences”
Although there is no perfect match for this situation, it has already left the country due to local rules.
It has been largely inaccessible in mainland China after a row in 2010 over suspected Chinese hacking and has stopped censoring search results for Chinese users.
There’s also a distinct, but identical, row going on in Europe.
A contentious new EU copyright law specifies that search engines and web aggregators can pay for access to news sites.
In France, this week, publishers agreed to an deal with Google about how it could operate.
But only a handful of such agreements have been signed, with notable French newspapers, making it a somewhat different matter from the wide-ranging, even stricter Australian plans.
How much money is it worth to Google for Australia?
Australia is a significantly smaller target market relative to China.
Google Australia made sales of A$4.8 billion ($3.7 billion;£2.7 billion) in 2019. Advertising sales accounted for much of it, at A$4.3 billion. Still add in all the prices, and Google Australia made A$134m in profit for the year.
To put that in perspective, theeir parent company Alphabet is estimated to have $100 billion or more in cash available to fill any revenue gaps.
But it’s more than just money.
The larger issue is whether Google needs a new Western democracy to prove how it can be completely viable to use its competitors.
Can’t the Australians use US Version instead?
Google will be able to guide Australian Google users to the U.S. (or other) country edition of Google. This would certainly strip localised search results, but leave the service accessible.
However, it could also be that Google will block Australian users on the basis of their geographical location as determined by the IP (internet) address.
One easy way around that is to use a Virtual Private Network or VPN, which makes your device look like it’s somewhere else-a technique also used by tech-savvy to access streaming channels in other countries.
But it’s slower, and reputable providers need a subscription – an issue many users would like to ignore with simple search results.
What does Australia want Google to pay for?
The exact money involved is undecided.
The proposed law involves negotiation and arbitration, leaving the matter open-if Google cannot negotiate an agreement with the news source, a judge will decide what is “fair”
But the government has said it needs “fair” compensation to news media who have seen print advertisement revenue dropped by three quarters over the last 15 years.
On the other hand, digital advertising on major platforms including Google and Facebook has increased dramatically at the same time.
Will it really help publishers?
Australia has a thriving news industry-Media Titan Rupert Ferguson, who owns News Corp., was born there.
His networks will benefit, as will public broadcasters like ABC News in Australia.
Support for ABC has been cut by hundreds of millions of dollars since 2014, resulting in cuts in services.
Local media were also injured in the lack of advertising-with more than 125 News Corp-owned area newspapers going online-only earlier this year, resulting in hundreds of job cuts.