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Episode 128 July 31, 2018 | 28min

When Great Experience Design Gets Penalized

Our co-founders discuss the European Union, Google, and antitrust.

Show Notes

Does Great Experience Design Lead To Anti-Competitive Practices?: In the wake of the EU’s decision to issue Google a $5 billion fine, Paul Ford and Rich Ziade talk about how great experience design obliterates competition while antitrust laws cramp designers’ style.

Rich Ziade Ul— ultimately—

Paul Ford No, let’s pause. Let’s— let’s tell them about the store around the corner. How big is it?

RZ Let’s pitch it, actually.

PF Yeah.

RZ First— it’s the size of a—

PF Closet.

RZ— like walk-in closet.

PF It’s a large walk-in closet.

RZ Yeah.

PF And you go in there and there’s [pause] seven chocolate bars on the wall with an estimated value of two or three billion dollars.

RZ [Laughs] And there’s this one purveyor and it’s usually a she and she looks like a prisoner.

PF Yeah because there’s not— I don’t know how they get in or out [Rich laughs]. They probably have to sleep behind—

RZ She’s behind the counter.

PF You can get two customers in [yeah] but it’s snug.

RZ It’s a little snug. It’s uh— but they have—

PF What’s the most expensive bar in there? 15 bucks?

RZ Uh I think about 20.

PF Ok. 20 dollar chocolate bar [snickers].

RZ Yes. And it spectacular, by the—

PF It’s good. If you like a sort of bitt—

RZ It’s a—

PF Here’s the thing—

RZ No, no, no, no—

PF You gave me some. You gave me some once and then you screamed at me for like ten minutes for chewing [Rich laughs]. Like, “Are you chewing?!?”

RZ Is this gonna be on the podcast?

[0:57]

PF We should share with this with people.

RZ Ok.

PF Rich likes white chocolate—

RZ The Amadi Porcelana is [yeah] just—

PF Ok.

RZ — other wordly.

PF We will put the link to the video where’s there’s a Steely Dan song and people sniff the chocolate.

RZ [Laughing] It’s Joe Cocker.

PF Joe Cocker. People need to understand the world that exists around chocolate [music fades in, plays alone for 16 seconds].

RZ [Music ramps down] Paul.

PF Rich.

RZ I’m a [pause] — first off: we can have our own podcast just talking about the difference between user experience, user interface, experience design, information design [music fades] — I’m not gonna do it.

PF Don’t do it.

RZ I’m not gonna do it. I’m a user experience designer at Google, specifically at Google’s Android division.

PF Pfft. Big division.

RZ And I said, “I’ve got it, guys.”

PF Mm hmm.

[1:56]

RZ “Rather than opening a browser up, then going to google dot com.”

PF [Suspiciously] Yeah.

RZ Ok? “I’m gonna put a big “G” at the bottom of the first screen you see when you unlock your phone.”

PF I’ll tell ya I— I have an Android phone. Very convenient. I like that feature.

RZ [Clears throat] I think you— I think you hold the button. I don’t have an Android. You hold the button down?

PF Um, no, it’s here. I got— it’s here in my hand—

RZ You can talk into it.

PF Yeah, no, and you can just kind of like— the G is right there in the bottom, the little search bar right on the bottom of the phone.

RZ It’s beautiful.

PF Yeah.

RZ And then you—

PF It’s all Google and you can talk to it. You can hit the microphone and you can be like, “Hey, roll a die!” [Alexa speaks:] “Alright.” [Sound of die rolling] [Alexa speaks:] “You rolled a five.”

RZ Ah that’s kinda neat.

PF It’s useful, right? [Yeah] I do it actually what I do is I use that with the kids a lot when it’s like who’s got first shower.

RZ Oh that’s pretty smart!

PF I say, “Hey Google, flip a coin.”

RZ Yeah. That’s pretty cool.

[2:48]

PF It’s good.

RZ Alright but [it plays—] let’s talk about Google for a second. I mean there— it does a lot, right? If you say, “Where’s the nearest pizzeria?” Or you say, “When was Winston Churchill born?” It’s just— it’s a whole world. The whole world is in that button.

PF It knows everything. It’s very smart. And it’s a giant company that doesn’t just provide [pause] sort of search interfaces anymore, even though that’s it’s base. And it’s worth noting: the way it makes money is by advertising products on top of those search experiences.

RZ Correct.

PF So people— brands. Like if you— if you want to promote something you can buy search advertising and you can also buy banner ads that Google runs through its network. Like, it’s actually one of the— Google and Facebook are two of the largest advertising companies in the world— or advertising related companies in the world.

RZ Absolutely.

PF And so um—

RZ So, wait, I— I put the button.

PF Well, this is what’s tricky. Android is an operating system that’s open sourced.

RZ Correct.

PF Anyone can download Android, although sometimes they go back and forth as to how open they’re being that day with all the source code for Android.

RZ I think there are layers that are not.

PF Well it’s like anything. It’s a big platform. Anyway, so there’s Android. You can download it uh but it comes mostly it comes on your phone and it’s got Google search built right in. Right there.

RZ In— in essence, they made it more convenient. [Stammers] The design team decided uh that gosh, people are using this all day.

PF Who the hell wouldn’t want a big “G” on the bottom left— first of all: nobody wants Duckduckgo down there. Like the people who do have already opted into [Rich huffs through nose] like and they— they’ve hacked their Palm Treo— and they—

RZ Exactly.

[4:28]

PF Right? So— so it’s Google. Nobody wants Bing Phone.

RZ Correct. So—

PF But it’s worth noting—

RZ — good thing for everyone, no?

PF Well, but it is worth noting, right? You get that iOS device and it doesn’t— it has Apple Maps and App— and maybe it connects to another search besides Google. Like it’s not necessarily—

RZ It doesn’t— it doesn’t even have that convenience though. They won’t let you sort of let that functionality bleed out of the— the app context.

PF [Sighs] I love— love my Android phone. I hate to say it. I mean I hate to say I love—

RZ Yeah. It’s good stuff, man.

PF I don’t like to love a consumer product but boy is that thing easy to use.

RZ Yeah. I have an i— a— a feature idea before we get into the crux of this [mm hmm hmm hmm hmm] podcast. If you whisper into it—

PF Yeah, no, it’s— that’s the incognito mode.

RZ It goes into incognito if you’re whispering.

PF Ahhh! That would be great!

RZ How good is that?

PF Incognito whisper mode.

RZ Yes! For the uh—

PF [Whispers:] Google.

RZ For the uninformed, what is incognito mode, Paul?

[5:19]

PF Ahhh I’ve never used it but in— [Rich laughs boisterously] incognito mode is a— a special mode on your computer that [chuckles] actually um it doesn’t automatically log you in and track you through cookies like it— it— like if you are using Twitter, let’s say [mm hmm] and you go into incognito mode, you’re suddenly not logged into Twitter anymore while you’re in incognito mode. You can login but when you close out of incognito mode all of your cookies go away and—

RZ Context is gone.

PF That’s right so it doesn’t— it— it can still track you through things like IP address and all sorts of other ways that computers—

RZ And your cable company or your internet provider.

PF It’s not exactly security but it is a kind of privacy and it gets rid of your search history if you look at things on the internet that you probably [Rich whispers, “Hey, Google” and laughs]. I don’t wanna say shouldn’t look at but just like sometimes you don’t want a record of your behavior. Some— people, users. Users don’t and so incognito mode exists for that.

RZ [Whispers] Hey, Google, can you please go to— [laughs]. A lot of whispering.

PF Yeah. That saves a lot of whispering.

RZ Alright so great feature, incredible convenience. Nobody’s gonna complain about that button. Just— it’s something you do all day. It’s the world at your fingertips. And it’s right there.

PF Well, not nobody. Europe complained that button.

RZ Here we go.

PF Europe! Home of Europeans who don’t always see giant [chuckles] privacy busting companies that track you everywhere you go as a good thing. It’s a damn shame. Like I mean what is the point of America if not to make those companies happen [laughs].

RZ It’s a very circuitous way of getting to where we’re trying to get to. [Laughs] What happened? This is— this is recent.

[7:04]

PF Ok. The thing that happened is that Europe— the European Commission, the European Association, the European Commission has fined Google five billion dollars which actually is a meaningful amount of money finally.

RZ Ok. For what?

PF For what we’re talking about: having all that convenience [chuckles].

RZ Five billion dollars for too much convenience is what you’re saying.

PF Well, that’s not how they see it. What they see is that Google has pushed manufacturers to use Android on the phones that they create. It’s locked them into an Android ecosystem that Google controls and while Android is nominally open source, clearly what the EU Commission is saying is that these handheld manufacturers felt some kind of pressure or that the commercial relationship that they had with Google got them to put the Google search into the core Android experience as the default.

RZ Yeah I— I don’t think—

PF And Chrome—

RZ I don’t think you have to do any work. I think if you pull the latest Android it is how it works, right?

PF Yeah, that is how it works.

RZ I don’t the details—

PF And so the same is also true of the Chrome browser which is the default in Android.

RZ That’s right.

PF And made by Google.

RZ Ok. So what?

PF Well, now you’re in a position that’s actually uh not dissimilar from back in ye olden days when Microsoft got in big trouble for bundling Internet Explorer and really integrating with the Windows operating system in such a way that it became less interesting and— and more sort of a challenge [Rich laughs] for people to download something like Netscape or other web browsers— to use.

[8:44]

RZ A huge fine because it became less interesting?

PF Well, a huge fine because they have stifled the competitive environment in which another web browser or another search company can thrive because they have 85 percent of the global smartphone market. So now it’s serious, ok? Now we’re in a situation in which Google owning and controlling— cuz many of our listeners are probably on iPhones and they’re actually very much in the global minority.

RZ Yes.

PF Uh high powered phones there’s a lot of iOS devices out there but a lot of phones aren’t that high powered. A lot of phones cost 60 to 100 dollars and are prime computing platforms for— for citizens and uh and they run Android. That is very, very much what the global smartphone pop— just in the same way that—

RZ I mean we’re talking a huge cut of the smartphones in the world is uh Android.

PF Well and this is what—

RZ Absolutely dominant.

PF You know this is also— it’s worth remembering like most computers still run Windows too like we— we often— people who are listening to this, people in our industry, we live in these very rarefied technical spaces. Um and you only really into how most people use computers when you are testing a product on, you know, 20 different Android phones [yeah] but this is real. So the EU has said, “Hey! You can’t do that. You can’t own the whole market and make your stuff the total default and that is a— uh that’s anticompetitive, that’s monopolistic and you owe us five billion dollars.”

RZ [Laughs boisterously] “And change it.”

PF “And change it.” That’s right.

RZ Alright, Paul. This— this isn’t working for me. I— I don’t get it.

PF What do you mean?

RZ What’s anticompetitive? It’s a phone. I’m gonna be anti-antitrust. That’s a double negative. Sort of.

PF That’s a— ok.

[10:35]

RZ You wanna compete.

PF Uh huh.

RZ Design a phone.

PF Mm hmm.

RZ Sell a phone.

PF Ok.

RZ But, wait a minute, it’s not about the phones cuz there’s a million phone makers.

PF I don’t know. Do you— if you own the block, do you get to tell me what kind of store I put on the block? Like I mean they just sort of own the platform. They do. It’s open source but Google owns it. They have control over distribution and influence over handset makers and that creates an environment in which other— see this is what’s tricky I think as a technologist because to catch up to Google feels right now like an absolutely impossible task. So there’s this element of like, well, of course they’re gonna have their search on the phone cuz what other search is gonna be there? Bing? Duckduckgo?

RZ Aren’t you happy though? I’m happy with Google.

PF That’s the thing: I’m overall happy with Google. They— they got me. They got me. Right? But like that’s not— that’s not the rules. The rules are that you’re supposed to be able to have competition, you’re supposed to be able to thrive, and people should probably have to opt in. That’s what— that’s what the EU is saying. They should have to. They should have to which search provider, which browser they’re gonna use.

RZ Yeah. Uh— I— I think [pause] I— I get it and I actually I don’t know if I agree with the fine. That’s bizarre. I don’t even know how they get to that number but whatever.

PF Well you just— you— you [the spirit of that—] you pick a billion and then round to that.

RZ Yeah. A lot of the motivation around antitrust, right? Is um control. And you’re ability [right] to control um uh the value of things, for example. If I only had one place where I could buy chocolate [pause]. I like chocolate.

[12:17]

PF Yeah.

RZ That vendor, if there was no competition—

PF First of all: you wouldn’t survive. If there were— in— in 3o minutes.

RZ I used the worst example.

PF Yeah you would melt down if there wasn’t a choice between like Italian and Vietnamese coffee in your life—

RZ Did I ever tell you about the Vietnamese beans?

PF No, go ahead.

RZ They’re exceptional.

PF Yeah, it’s—

RZ Rare!

PF Is it a— is it a single source—

RZ Sublime!

PF Single source bean to bar?

RZ [Snorts] Alright. If I’m the only chocolate maker [mm hmm] and I dominate and I bought all the other chocolate vendors [yeah] and consolidate them into one, I can charge you anything I want.

PF And also, welcome to Snickers world. That’s not [Rich laughs] — that’s not the place that you’re gonna get a variety of like . . . you know on one side your chunky and on the right side the uh you know the single source bean to bar Vietnamese handpicked beans.

RZ [Sighs] I just really wanna move on from that.

PF [Laughs] I know but it’s— I want the audience to know what it’s like to be in business with you [laughs].

[13:12]

RZ [Laughs] This is ultimately about the consumer. [Both laughing] This is ultimately about the consumer because if there— if competition does not thrive [mm hmm] and people are not given the opportunity to innovate for the benefit of a consumer then too much power gets concentrated in one place.

PF And look: this is really tricky cuz you’re talking about a company like Google stifling innovation. Google has vast control over what people see and gain access to on the internet.

RZ Yes.

PF That is just a fundamental reality. America and the American approach to business is actually surprisingly friendly to a sort of semi-monopolistic approach. Like, we had for— and this is not me being my lefty like hand wagey self. For a hundred years we had a government approved monopoly in the form of the phone company. There was one way to get long distance connectivity [yes, yes] and that was the Bell system which broke up in I think 1983 or 1984 but like um and the reason it broke up is they were trying to get into— there were lots of reasons but they wanted to get into computers [mm] and so the— the— they couldn’t do that and be the phone company and they broke up for that reason. I think they were kind of angling for IBM.

RZ Yeah I mean there are laws here, out of fairness. In the United States, there are the Sherman Antitrust Laws.

PF There are but like we have a—- we are a giant network that controls all communication in America to [yeah] like a very— to a relatively fine tolerance is something that we will accept as a country. And I’m not saying like good or bad. Like that is just— we have proven that you can—

RZ We let power—

PF Incentralize and consolidate. They—

RZ And then reimpose itself on a marketplace. It’s— it’s— you’re right. I mean I have a theory that Intel kept AMD around.

PF Oh I think that’s real. Right? Like I think you need— you need one competitor.

RZ It just keeps— you get to keep pointing in that direction.

PF Like Facebook and Google are—

RZ Cuz Intel I mean if they were every central processing unit of every machine, that’s a terrifying prospect.

[15:06]

PF Facebook and Google are kind of at war. Apple too but like if you had Facebook without Google or vice versa it would be a— it’s— it’s even— it’s a harder conversation.

RZ Correct.

PF I think what we— what we are comfortable with is we like giants duking it out. We allow centralization as long as there’s a couple of giants going.

RZ Competition.

PF We’re ok.

RZ We wanna see that competition.

PF That’s said I mean the— the baby Bell companies that got broken up have all sort of acquired each other and now they’re even— some of them are, you know, unimaginably [music fades in] large. Like Verizon is unbelievably big [music ramps up, plays alone for seven seconds, ramps down]. People love ads in the middle of their podcast, don’t they? [Music fades out].

RZ They really do.

PF Isn’t that something they really do?

RZ Yes.

PF Um Postlight is a company that partners with you to think through big challenges and then usually, as we define those big challenges and understand how your business is going, um we then help you build platforms and products and software that help you really meet those challenges in your business. That’s what we do. It’s very abstract, right? So let’s— let’s play it out for a second. I come to you and I say, “Um I think there is a huge market for people who like to walk their cats on leashes.”

RZ Ok. As a— as a salesman I will say, “That’s a great idea.” [Laughs]

PF And you know what, Rich? There are so many cats at home and there’s a lot of people— there’s a lot of business going on in dog walking right now and I’d like to do a cat walking app that would bring cat walkers to uh to people’s homes and then they could take the cats out for walks [on a leash] and then take them home. On a leash. So it’s like an app that would both match people to cat walkers and then also tell them and like share pictures of their cats on walks.

[15:44]

RZ Right.

PF “I have 200 billion dollars to do this [Rich laughs]. Can you help me?”

RZ And then off we go! [That’s right] And we’ll talk about it.

PF Cuz we gotta build a big API to match people up. People have to be able to log into the service and then there has to be a really beautiful mobile experience to help match people with their cat walkers. Also, you’re gonna wanna sell leashes cuz—

RZ All. All of it.

PF You can just go down to the bodega and get a cat leash. It’s really specific.

RZ [Laughs] So, wait, what kind of talent do we have, Paul, to solve these problems?

PF Well, you know, we’re— we’re a— we build products. We deliver product strategy and we build products. So we have a lot of product managers. That’s really key. They help you get it done. And then they work very closely with designers who really drive the engagements as from a visual point of view. How’s it going to look in the end?

RZ An interaction point of view.

PF It’s very important. And then to actually make the thing real, we have a large um front-end and back-end engineering team that can sort of take something from an idea and then get it out absolutely into reality. And we joke around um we would actually push back very hard on the cat walking go to market plan because that— I would like to see a lot of uh sort of focus groups and studies before I would encourage a client to go down that path [Rich snorts] but if you— if you have a path in front of you um we are a natural person to call and we’re very easy to have a conversation with.

RZ Extremely!

PF Yeah. So it’s just like you’re having right now, you’re hearing in your ears, that’s what it’s like when you call us. So.

RZ We like talkin’ anyway [music fades in].

PF [email protected]

RZ That’s an email address [music ramps up, plays alone for seven seconds, ramps down].

PF Ok so—

RZ So here’s the key section [music fades out]. Section two of the Sherman Antitrust Act.

PF Let’s go.

RZ “Every person who shall monopolize or attempt to monopolize or combine or conspire with any other person or persons to monopolize any part of the trade or commerce among the several states or with foreign nations shall be deemed guilty of a felony.”

[18:33]

PF Mm hmm.

RZ In essence—

PF A felony, too! Not just a fine. Like you could go to jail.

RZ Yeah.

PF Ok.

RZ It’s [stammers] gonna be enforced. They’re gonna shatter you into little pieces [wow] if you don’t. Or change your behavior and this happened in 19— 2001 [mm hmm]. Microsoft was getting its lunch eaten in the quote/unquote “browser wars” [that’s right] at the time. They did not— they— they were kinda blindsided by it.

PF A company called Netscape—

RZ Showed up.

PF — was making browsers available and available freely.

RZ And very good ones.

PF Yeah.

RZ And very good ones. And they uh—

[19:08]

PF The web was new, too.

RZ The web’s new. Microsoft I think put a crappy Internet Explorer one or two. And it was like, “Oh, this is cute!” It was probably a team of 12 who just kept complaining about not doing it.

PF Well, look: this was not the way it was supposed to go. Right? The way it was supposed to go is that AOL existed and then there was like MSN, the Microsoft Network, and there’d be like, you know, four or five of those and they would duke it out to provide cool services and interesting media content to people through their modems.

RZ I think that was later, no?

PF Well, that— that sorta came along as the web is growing.

RZ As access to the internet.

PF And they were like, “What the hell is this? This is some guy with a mushroom collection with a web page? What the? No, no, no, no, no. That’s not what people want. They want access to Star Wars and Star Trek content in an organized folder.”

RZ Right.

PF “We’re gonna give it to ‘em.” And so then the web shows up and they’re like, “Alright, screw it. Here’s your browser. We’re gonna get on this too. We’re gonna own this just like we were gonna own their attention with the old network.”

RZ And an operating system version comes out. I forget which one. Three or four, 95, or—

PF It was like 98.

RZ 98. 98.

PF Yeah, it was Windows 98.

RZ There was an update or somethin— or as you [stammers] at some point when you installed it, on the desktop was the Internet Explorer icon.

[20:17]

PF I think it was even more too like it was kind of integrated and like you can put a URL in any folder and it would bring up a browser.

RZ Is that true?

PF Yeah.

RZ Yeah. Stuff like that. Anyway—

PF So like suddenly— and it looked kinda— I remember when it first came out, I’m like, “Wow! Microsoft has really gone all in on the web. It’s built all the way through this operating system.”

RZ And it’s probably out of fear when it happened.

PF Right.

RZ Right? And United States of America sues them under uh the Sherman Antitrust uh sections one and two. And what they’re essentially saying is you can’t do that because consumers— and at that time, by the way, worth noting: you can go get Netscape.

PF You could still run it!

RZ You could still go downlaod it.

PF Well this is true and on Android and you can go get a replacement for Chrome or you can use other search engines.

RZ Probably could. And this is, by the way, probably what they’re gonna nudge them towards which is just interface changes. The impact of anticompetitive practices and how they have to be modified actually affects the user experience.

PF Well it’s subtle stuff, right? Because, you know, Microsoft sells the operating system to the— to the various hardware providers and then there’s this real estate on the desktop and you pop— and they sell that to companies like AOL and so you get your new laptop and you would click on it and it would say, “Sign up to AOL,” and you’d click on that and it would take you to the signup. And so like there’s this very weird thing where they’re— Microsoft is creating this space that other people can kind of colonize and resell but if they go too far in one direction then they’re getting in the way of all that competition but the problem is it’s all sort of like tacky and gross too. So, I remember being— watching that stuff and just sort of feeling dirty all around.

RZ Yeah. Right.

[21:55]

PF Right? It’s not— you’re making way for [chuckling] people to— it’s almost like, “You know, you’re pretty scuzzy and you need to make room for other people to be scuzzy too.”

RZ Right. Right. So, the fine, I can’t rationalize the fine which is like, “You’ve heard us and now please pay the bill.”

PF I’m sure there’s some spreadsheet.

RZ It’s not a hospital bill.

PF I mean it’s like us when we come up with what it’s gonna cost on a project. Like somebody got in there and plugged in their like— their antitrust spreadsheet. It’s probably in Google Docs. It’s called Antitrust dot xls [both laugh] and it’s like— and you just pick one to five [yeah] and it came up with five and it went ka ching!

RZ Five point one billion.

PF Ka ching! Five point one billion.

RZ What’s fascinating is it’s not even one nation. It’s the EU [yeah] got together. And then that—

PF I guess Brittain gets part of the fine. For like a minute.

RZ Northern European kind of this angry short-haired women with that heavy kind of Northern European accent. I don’t know if it’s German or whatever. It’s just like shit— shit’s going down, right?

PF Oh yeah.

RZ This isn’t a fun press conference [laughs].

PF No, no, no. It’s not like, “Hey, well, we all make mistakes!” [Both laugh] It’s like Google has tried to undermine the fundamental structure of our culture [correct] and our— our— the ability of people to access information and of companies that compete, and they must be hurt badly as a punishment.

RZ It’s— I don’t know how you unwind this. To be honest. I think the— the— the— just the sheer momentum of Google and the desire to— the need, not even desire, to have it be a part of how you live. I think the train’s left.

PF What’s tricky here: Microsoft was very smug and they got slapped hard and I don’t think Google’s as smug. I think they’re like, “Oh. Alright.” They’ll— they’ll adapt.

[23:34]

RZ I mean it could be when you first— the very first time you open your Android phone, it says, “Choose your browser.”

PF Almost invar— it’ll happen on a—

RZ Something like that.

PF — on a per-market basis. Like if you’re selling this in the EU territories it must have— they’ll be the EU opt-in.

RZ It’ll be something like that.

PF It’ll still—

RZ And they will win 90— and you know what it is? You start to negotiate how easy it is to change it, wait a minute you buried it in the settings too far, I bet you could do it now maybe. I don’t know.

PF I don’t think so. I think it comes up with that G on the bottom.

RZ Yeah, I think that’s right.

PF I think you’d have to mess around with Android. So what’ll happen is there will be a—

RZ It’ll be seven levels deep in Settings. And it’ll say, “Hey, check it out. We took care of it.”

PF No, it’ll be a switcher that the handset makers are— have to implement uh that allows for— and Google has to— will have to make it part of the software.

RZ Yeah.

PF And it will allow for people to um choose their browser and choose their default search experience and that will be embedded into Android and you won’t get, you know, the ability to search with your voice if you don’t opt into Google.

RZ It’ll— and people will— it’ll be a 99 percent success rate for Google. Right? I mean probably.

PF Yeah that’s the thing like— well, this is actually a very good reminder. They coulda just done this, it woulda cost them probably about four million dollars in development.

RZ Yeah.

[24:53]

PF You know.

RZ But why would you do it? It’s bad design!

PF Because there was a ton of precedent and their lawyers could’ve talked and figured this out directly.

RZ Ah! Ask for forgiveness, Paul.

PF That’s not how you do it. No, I know. Five billion dollars.

RZ How about that?

PF Welcome to five billion dollars of forgiveness!

RZ Yeah. Look: I think—

PF But this is— yeah, you launch the rocket ship and it either crashes or it gets into orbit. That is— that’s the Google approach.

RZ Yeah and they’ll be fine. I mean let’s face it.

PF Yeah, no, they’re gonna do ok. But it is interesting, right, because the question is: who controls that territory? Right?

RZ Well you know you’d think the designers do. This is what’s fascinating to me is that great experience design [uh huh] leads to anticompetitive practices.

PF That’s right. And no and we—

RZ I think that is great.

PF And we sort of often talk about design as being, you know, it’s this sort of sacred practice and how do we take care of the user? And so on. It’s easy to argue that Google’s design is intensely ethical.

RZ Exactly.

[25:42]

PF And really good and then at the same time the EU is going like, “Uh uh!”

RZ Yeah.

PF And what’s—

RZ Too good.

PF What’s strange is that this has to get— this has to get hashed out legalistically with five billion dollars in fines. There probably is a way for this culture to have more conversations up front, not go to disrupt everything, be aware that it will be perceived as threatening, and then maybe avoid those five billion dollars in fines, and not lose a lot of business opportunities as a result, but—

RZ Very tricky.

PF That’s not— that’s not how— American capitalism went to Europe [chuckles]. Didn’t— didn’t really—

RZ I don’t even consider honestly American— it’s just a company trying to make their products more engaging and useful. And they did. And they made them so engaging and useful that it became difficult for uh competition to really compete with that experience.

PF This is meaningful, right? There’s two realities and the internal Google reality is that human access to Google technologies is incredibly good for humanity.

RZ That— that is—

PF And there’s an argument to be made that that’s true! Like I mean [yeah] it’s not ju— you know, and there’s argument but the EU point of view is that a wide variety of information access services is much better for humanity than one single point of access. And when you get into something like 85 percent of people having Android smartphones you start to risk the ability of a civil society to define itself.

RZ That’s a compelling—
PF The thing is is both ar—

RZ — macro ethical argument.

PF That’s the thing: both realities can kind of be shown to be really consistent. And so this is where it gets so tricky.

[27:10]

RZ Yeah. I— I — I think the— I— I think, I don’t know the history of how we got to our antitrust laws but I think the antitrust laws is if I’m a grocer and I sell pickles, if I buy out all the pickle people, I can charge whatever I want.

PF Sure.

RZ Cuz there’s nowhere else to get the pickles. I think it was as simple as that. I think by anticompetitive that’s kind of what they meant. I think applying those laws, right? Which were chiseled into wood essentially.

PF Yeah.

RZ To the complexities and the— the dynamic aspects of technology and information [music fades in] is just— your head explodes.

PF It’s hard but this is what law has to do when— as this stuff changes.

RZ That’s right.

PF These are the precedents. The precedents are like, “Don’t buy too many pickles.”

RZ Yeah.

PF You know or like, “I’m gonna charge you 800 dollars for a pickle.”

RZ Yeah.

PF And you say, “Wait a minute, it used to be 44 cents for [right] over 200 pickles.”

RZ I mean if there’s another search engine out there that wants to play, they’re probably using Google [snort laughs].

PF Uh so grizzly.

RZ Under the hood.

PF I gotta say: I do find that part— the competitive—

RZ I mean let’s face it, right? [Music ramps up, plays alone for eight seconds, fades out to end].