Ever wondered why Google never sends you a bill at the end of the month for using its services? It’s not because Google is some super hip generous company like they would have you believe. It’s because they want you to get used to and comfortable with their particular brand of productivity apps, like Gmail, YouTube, Google Drive, Google Search, Play Store and the like, at home so that when you get into the office you will use the same things all over again.
It’s worth it for Google to give out these samplers to attract the real money which is business-to-business sales. The popular belief is that it makes money from advertisements on Google Search and on its other products you use. But do advertisements generate so much revenue that Google’s market value has pole-vaulted from nothing to over $1 trillion? When it launched Gmail in 2004, Google offered each of its Gmail account holders two megabytes of space for emails – which was very attractive to millions of people embracing the new form of communication.
Then came a swathe of new products, including Google Calendar, Google Contacts, Google Maps, Google Docs, Google Photos, and more – all at no fee. Google’s services look like a generous gesture meant to enable communication and boost business. But the real crown jewel of Google is data – our data. It collects an inordinate amount of data from each of its services and sells them for a song.
The company compiles the information by tracking every search you make on its website. When you click a link, it commits to memory. It does this for billions of people who devotedly use its services. Google’s Gmail is a treasure trove of information that constantly tells the company your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. For every person who types an email for business or social, Google curates their contacts.
When you exchange emails with a friend, note that Google is the third person in that exchange. Its systems scan and keep keywords and key phrases of your communication. For every contact you save on Google Contacts, Google can trace them and “know”- what they do, their purchasing habits, who they interact with, where they live and work. How is that possible? In 2012, Google merged its data from across its products and services, making it possible for it to pull a thread between one’s search patterns, to their Gmail and places they log on GPS.
Together with pictures on Google Photos, Google can create a holistic view of your life and that of your contacts. Companies pay top dollar to get a piece of this data. They pore into the data to understand people’s’ interests, values, and buying behaviour. They then tailor products and services to suit them. So, is Google altruistic? It gives you a platform – an email, a Google Drive, GPS, and a search engine so that it can harvest a trail of data that you leave behind as you use the services.
Google is by no means alone in this. Hundreds of other social media firms live off your personal information. So, when Google does not send you a bill, it’s not because it’s benevolent. It’s because you feed it with a steady diet of your information and make billions of dollars from it. Google hasn’t historically charged for its services because of the revenue brought in through ads which is as a result of selling our data to other businesses which serve us with what they call “personalized ads”.