If you have leverage, do not be afraid to use it. That was Google's modus operandi in the news and publishing world in the last year or so, as it pushed its AMP platform, funded various news-related ventures, and powered its personalized Chrome tabs on mobile devices. The latter, as Nieman Labs notes, rose by 2,100 percent in 2017.
You may have noticed that Chrome is a popular mobile browser and this setting is enabled by default, but the "articles for you" automatically appear in every new tab, so a series of articles show the company things you want. And it has been reduced from 15 million article views to a staggering 341 million last year.
At the end of 201
As I said, as I'm visiting a Google site, I expect that. But a browser should be a tool, not a private platform, and the idea that every tab I open is another data point, and another opportunity for Google to put its algorithms on me is a challenge.
It has unappetizing ancestors. Do you remember Internet Explorer 6, which came with MSN.com as the default home page? This incredible positioning has driven so much traffic that for years (and indeed, today) it drove disgusting amounts of traffic to anything it showed. But this traffic was corrupt: they knew that firehose was mostly clicks from seniors who held MSN for the entire Internet.
Of course, the generated pages for individual users are not the concentrated fire of a link on a large portal, but they are subject to Google's approval and, of course, the required ranking bonus for AMP content. I can not forget that!
But wherever you see the news first, that's your news provider. And you can not start much sooner than "once you open a new tab". That's pretty much the ultimate positioning advantage.
How this amazing growth occurred is unclear. If there was word of mouth, I missed it. "Did you try scrolling down? The news is right there!" It seems unlikely. I suspect that the feature has been steadily introduced in new regions, with new users occasionally scrolling down to see these stories.
And unlike many other news distribution platforms, there is not much for publishers or websites like this to learn about. How are stories qualified for inclusion? Are there any overlaps with Google News? What is displayed when people are not logged in? I asked Google for more information.
Do you like me, not the idea that every time you open a tab – not just when you use its services – does Google use an opportunity to monetize you, but indirectly? Luckily, and I can say that it's consistent with Google's ease of use in this sort of thing, you can easily turn it off – on iOS anyway.
Open the menu on the top right of a tab and press Settings. It should be a "Suggested articles" toggle – disable that and you're done. While you're at it, you can just go for privacy and disable search and site suggestions and usage data.
On Android? You have to dive into the flags of the app and switch the hidden setting there. Not so user friendly.