Google and Obfuscation: Who Cares?

March 24, 2021

Google began the process of obfuscating the source of Web pages years ago. There were services which would convert a weird Google version of a PDF’s url into something one could use in a footnote. I have one tool which performs this function now, but I am reluctant to identify it. Why? Google will kill it.

I noted the GitHub item “Addon Unavailable on Google Chrome” which explains that ClearURLs were blocked by Google seven hours ago. The short item explains:

ClearURLs has made it to its mission to prevent tracking via URLs and that’s how Google makes money.

Yep, this is a good statement.

However, let me add several observations:

  • Google, like Facebook, IS the Internet for many people. Both companies want to keep users within the sheep pen. The reasons include tracking, monetization, and, oh, did I mention, tracking?
  • Looking up search results adds computational cost; therefore, serving Google identified as relevant content from caches near a user makes economic sense. How does one know the “provenance” of a Google item? Well, it’s from Google, so it has to be good.
  • The walled garden has been part of the Google system and method for many years. I wrote about this years ago in the Google Legacy and expanded on some of the ideas in Google Version 2.0.

Net net: Thumbtypers, seniors in a haze, and most online “users” are blissfully unaware of the power of obfuscation. In the good old days, one had a url which provided the source domain and a mostly human readable string pointing to the page.

Hasta la vista. The corral is a clean, well lighted place for those who own the ranch. Who cares? Hey, visit a sheep ranch and let me know how many out of flock sheep there are. What happens to those sheep? Sheep dogs chase them back to the flock or wolves just eat the recalcitrant.

Why not think in terms of a digital delicacy?

Stephen E Arnold, March 24, 2021


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