Google in 2003 vs. Google in 2015

Probably you have heard about Google’s Contributor, a new service since November 2015. In essence it is built upon the following premise:

“Contribute a few dollars each month. See fewer ads. It’s that simple. The money you contribute helps fund the sites you visit.”

Wait a minute. Did Google just offer me to pay for the removal of the ads it serves?

Something felt strange about this concept, so I decided to look up the original Google AdSense site - where publishers can decide to display Google ads on their websites - from 2003 and this is what I found:

Google AdSense site in 2003

That’s right. You should display Google ads to:

“Enhance user experience with relevant ads that will interest your users.”

In not much more than a decade Google went from: “Our ads are great for your readers.” to “Our ads are so annoying that your users will be willing to pay each month just to avoid it”.

Yes, you are right, I oversimplified the analysis and jumped to a conclusion. There are numerous things which should be taken into account:

  • Contributor might just be an experiment at this stage, not a strategic direction
  • Ad-blocking is more prominent than ever, Google’s approach has to adapt
  • Maybe some people still like Google ads. Let’s serve both groups
  • Maybe the original 2003 statement was no more than mere marketing lingo

Somehow it feels a bit sad, and a bit of a defeat.

Google’s original vision may represent a utopia, but as a simple user I prefer the “magical ads” concept as opposed to the Contributor system.

It will be interesting to look back again another decade on from now.