Well, it's happened. Google is now Microsoft. I've been wondering if we weren't moving this way for a while, but after being silently forced into the new Google Groups interface, they've undoubtedly moved into an embrace and extend of usenet.

Here's a line from my Google Groups summary page:

Group New items Members Role Last Visit
alt. fan. nietzsche 0 26 Member 4 days ago

This is listed alongside of other groups that are Google-only, like those I subscribe to from lowendmac.com.

Here's the rub: There are more than 26 "members" of even this extremely low-traffic usenet group of alt.fan.nietzsche. And this is part of the beauty of usenet -- it's distribution paradigm makes it nigh impossible for any centralized source to quickly ascertain the number of members.

Of course, this is the number of members who subscribe via Google. Useful and accurate in the context of a Google-hosted group. Not so here.

Which brings me to the question, Why doesn't Google use usenet for its groups? Is there even an API for treating Google Groups' servers like usenet servers? (I don't know if there is one, btw, on that last count.)

Why not expand on the infrastructure you're exploiting to give yourself an automatic critical mass of groups for folks to search? Why not give back to the community, here usenet via deja-news, that's making your successful [in this specialist arena]?

The answer's an easy one. Google is treating usenet the same way Microsoft treated html. They want to slowly augment the service until people have no choice but to access all of usenet plus Google's additions solely through Google. So what happens if Google goes belly-up? What if they decide to dump Groups in 15 years? Should one company even try to have this much power over what amounts to a standard?

That's officially evil, and means that Google the behemoth has lost its previous high ground.