• AU Government Proposes New Media Law
  • Open Letter from Google
  • What It Means to Be Without Google

Google headquarters

Google is threatening to pull its search engine from Australia if a proposed law goes into effect, forcing them to pay local news media outlets for their content. 

AU Government Proposes New Media Law 

The government is pushing for a law that would mandate Google and other tech giants to pay for news that appears in Search. It would also apply for local news shared on Facebook and other platforms. 

The proposed law would stipulate that Google has to reach deals with local organisationssomething the search engine company says would break the way Google Search works as a free and open service. In a worst-case scenario, it has threatened to cut off Search to Australian users should the government press ahead with plans to enforce the code. 

In a statement, Mel Silva, managing director for Google Australia, said that the ability to link freely between sites is at the core of the Search’s business model and the code would create unreasonable financial and operational risks to the business. 

“If the Code were to become law in its current form, we would have no real choice but to stop making Google Search available in Australia,” Silva said in the open letter. “We think that would be a bad outcome not just for us, but for the millions of people and businesses across Australia who use Google Search every day,” she added. 

Addressing the statement, Prime Minister Scott Morrisson said that the government doesn’t respond to threats and that they remain committed to carrying out the code. 

But, if Google does pull out its search engine services, how would it affect your way of searching? 

What It Means to Be Without Google 

For most of the world, Google is the Internet. A study reveals that in 2018, Google accounted for 90% of search traffic from desktop users in Australia, and 98% from mobile users. If they were to remove the search engine from the country, it highly means that it may be time to start looking for alternatives. 

Below are some possible scenarios that could happen with Google’s potential exit. 

  • The Australians will have to look for other alternatives to access the web. While it’s true that Google takes up the majority of the search market in Australia, there are many other alternatives—albeit being little-used—such as Microsoft Bing, Yahoo Search, Ecosia, and DuckDuckGo.
  • Businesses will have to work harder to be seen. Google’s search algorithm, along with their other products like Maps, has made local businesses discoverable, including their opening times and directions. But, with Google’s potential exit, they will have to work harder to drive foot traffic using the Internet. 
  • Businesses will have to redirect their advertising budget. The digital advertising market for Google in Australia rakes in about $4.3 billion annually. But, with a more fragmented search market, local businesses will have to advertise across different search engines, forcing them to rethink their strategies. 

Google is more than a search engine. It also powers apps such as Gmail, Drive, Maps, and YouTube, to name a few. It’s unclear at this stage how the potential exit would affect these services or even its smart home products that run on its search technology—Google Home, Google Nest, Chromecast, etc. 

While Google supports Australian journalism and its financial future, the company maintains that the code poses unfair arbitrary processes, which includes payments for links and snippets. It also states that if an online platform and a news organisation cannot agree on a price for news, a third-party panel would make a binding decision on payment. 

Whether Google will actually remove its search function in Australia remains to be seen and that still depends on the passing of a new code that could benefit the country’s news industry.