I got all angry about Google’s Matt Cutts waxing poetic about Amazon Mechanical Turk as a form of sweatshop labor for linkbait. I shouldn’t be surprised that they’re not just interested in getting the written word on the cheap… they actual want professional artists to work for free! (Because Google really has to worry about their budget these days – they only reported a profit of nearly $1.5 billion in the first quarter of this year.)
The New York Times reported that Google has been courting professional artists to create skins for their Chrome browser. Sounds pretty cool, right? The problem is that the sole compensation they were offering is exposure. I’m hoping that exposure means more than a single mention of the artist’s name on the browser skin download page, but who knows?
Because, you know, they’re just artists. They just sit around and be creative all day. This is Google we’re talking about! Everyone should bow and scrape before them because everyone and their grandma uses Google to search the Web! Why should they have to pay artists money for their little doodles?
The sad part is that they did get some artists to work for them for free. Because, you know, they’ll get so much exposure to all of those people who use Google Chrome for their browser. Because those 500 people are totally going to hire a professional artist based on the funky browser skins they may or may not download.
I wanted to equate this to freelance writers who accept ridiculously low wages for creating content. But then I realized that was a poor analogy. It’s far worse than that. It’s like every single one of us who has ever created any form of content online. Because we’re totally working for Google (and, to be fair, the other search engines) for free – because they all profit from scraping our content and putting so much of it on the SERPs that users don’t even have to click through to our sites anymore to get some of the information they want.