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Advertising Google Wireless Networking Hardware

Why Google Wants To Sell You a Wi-Fi Router 198

lpress writes: Last quarter, Google made $16 billion on advertising and $1.7 billion on "other sales." I don't know how "other sales" breaks down, but a chunk of that is hardware devices like the Pixel Chromebook, Chromecast, Next thermostat, Nexus phone and, now, WiFi routers. Does the world need another $200 home router? Why would Google bother? I can think of a couple of strategic reasons — they hope it will become a home-automation hub (competing with the Amazon Echo) and it will enable them to dynamically configure and upgrade your home or small office network for improved performance (hence more ads).
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Why Google Wants To Sell You a Wi-Fi Router

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  • by mbone ( 558574 ) on Saturday August 22, 2015 @07:15PM (#50371915)

    Comparing various Starbucks locations (suburban and next to college campuses) where AT&T wifi networks were replaced with Google wifi, I would not buy a Google wifi router at present. In each case, the Google service is worse than its predecessor. This surprises me, but all I have to do is listen to the complaints of the students around me to know that I am not alone in this feeling.

    • That's been my experience with Starbucks' "Google Wifi" as well. I usually end up turning it off and relying on my T-Mobile LTE.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Not only does it spy on your every move, you pay $200 for the privilege and unlimited advertisement injection for all!

  • ADVERTISING (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 22, 2015 @07:17PM (#50371925)

    They want to control your network. They want to inject advertising into everything you do. They want you to have no choice but to use DNS servers they control.

    This isn't some benevolent endeavor, its purpose is to make money by selling you again.

    • ^^^^ THIS times a million billion trillion.

      They want total control/monitoring of your network and they want to inject their ads into every page you view. They'll put ads on about:config if they could.

      • Um they could. They don't. Just saying.
      • ^^^^ THIS times a million billion trillion.

        They want total control/monitoring of your network and they want to inject their ads into every page you view. They'll put ads on about:config if they could.

        Yeah, just wait until they get their dirty hands on the world's most popular browser... Oh, wait!

    • Re:ADVERTISING (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Dutch Gun ( 899105 ) on Saturday August 22, 2015 @09:12PM (#50372309)

      No, I think it's quite a bit more subtle than that. Trying to inject advertising into your internet stream would be a ham-handed approach the idiots at Lenovo would try. Google is more clever than to slit their own device's throat with something so stupid as that.

      Google has a vested interest in improving people's online experience. That's why they invest in all sorts of network/internet technology, including a web browser they give out for free, fiber access to homes, and under-the-hood improvements to internet communication standards that make things more efficient and more secure. They want people to be safe, secure, and happy to be online. They want people connected to the internet all the time, with fast and stable connections, and they've seen that the current market of wifi routers is pretty much garbage, in terms of features, stability, and security.

      ALL OF THIS relates to encouraging people to stay online, which in turn means relying on Google services, which they can then mine for data to sell to advertisers, which is how they earn their money. Yes, it's about advertising in the end, but not like you're thinking.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        THIS! I know everyone always assumes nefariousness when it comes to google, but this seems plain as day to me. Right now buying a good router is not an easy task. Walk into best buy and drop a decent chunk of change and you may still end up with junk. This is why I always recommend Apple's AirPort routers. Are there better routers for less? Absolutely. But with companies changing chipsets and keeping the same labeling sometimes you even have to look down the rev number on the router to know whether it is ju

      • That makes sense: not selling to us, but selling us.
      • by Raenex ( 947668 )

        You seem to be missing the main point: the router can data mine all your traffic at a very low level. Google is spreading its tendrils everywhere, not to make people, "safe, secure, and happy" online, but to be there watching what you do so it may better sell ads.

      • Google has a vested interest in improving people's online experience.

        I agree, but OnHub is much more than improving Internet connectivity. With OnHub, Google will control the network inside your home. Every dialogs between your devices. Especially as OnHub also includes 802.15.4 layer (on which ZigBee [zigbee.org] is already based, and on which Thread [threadgroup.org] (created by Nest, owned by Google) is also built) that allows to to connect battery powered devices. Google will be able to much better understand how you live... for more targeted advertising (but this is also the door opened for more nefa

    • Re:ADVERTISING (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Wycliffe ( 116160 ) on Saturday August 22, 2015 @09:35PM (#50372393) Homepage

      They want to control your network. They want to inject advertising into everything you do. They want you to have no choice but to use DNS servers they control.

      This isn't some benevolent endeavor, its purpose is to make money by selling you again.

      I agree with the first part: "They want to control your network" but I don't think the intent is to screw with your network. I think the intent is actually defensive and it's to keep other people from screwing with your network. Same with DNS servers. They want to provide fast and reliable DNS servers so that their own service is fast and reliable. I think that's the same reason they initially entered the mobile phone market and the ISP market.. They are scared of walled gardens and the more they control the connection from you to them then the less dependent they are on the whims of some other corporation that would like to interfere with and steal their customers.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        For a company that has demonstrated zero respect for your privacy, then using their device, which every single piece of data flows through, wouldn't be such a prudent decision.
        • For a company that has demonstrated zero respect for your privacy, then using their device, which every single piece of data flows through, wouldn't be such a prudent decision.

          Oh, I wouldn't put it past them to attempt to data mine what sites you visit, but I don't see them trying to inject ads into your packets like the person I was replying to was implying.

    • They want to control your network. They want to inject advertising into everything you do. They want you to have no choice but to use DNS servers they control.

      This isn't some benevolent endeavor, its purpose is to make money by selling you again.

      Thank yOU!

      If MS were selling routers everyone here would be screaming MURDER and SPYWARE etc. Google does ... oh that is because they want to advance technology as they care about all of us and never do any evil. BS Google will always spy and sell your information and push ads. That is who they are and what they do.

      • If MS were selling routers everyone here would be screaming MURDER and SPYWARE etc. Google does ... oh that is because they want to advance technology as they care about all of us and never do any evil. BS Google will always spy and sell your information and push ads. That is who they are and what they do.

        Apple sells WiFi routers.

        Actually, I bought one because the BT HomeHub 5 provided for free by British Telecoms is just absolute rubbish, trying to be "helpful" when it loses its internet connection and failing miserably. (The Apple Airport Express + BT modem doesn't seem to lose its connection, and if it does by unplugging the modem, it reports truthfully that the internet connection is gone).

        What amazes me are some reactions to Google's marketing bullshit. So it picks a channel that is less congested

    • They want to control your network. They want to inject advertising into everything you do. They want you to have no choice but to use DNS servers they control.

      That was just about my first thought too: "what are the odds this will have/allow something like Privoxy to do ad-filtering?" To be fair, I haven't bothered installing that on my own firewall just yet (relying on ABP and Ghostery for now), but it's on the to-do list - and having seen recent upturns in ad-blocking usage lately, I'm absolutely certain Google will have noticed that upturn too, and strongly suspect it's a factor in any move like this. (It's also interesting to note that Apple have just added su

  • by Anonymous Coward

    When I bought a Libre router I was doing it more for privacy and because I care about free software. What I didn't realize was I was going to get the benefits of being able to get latest bells and whistles not found in other routers because of the proprietary bits. The router I bought was from ThinkPenguin.com and runs a distribution called Librecmc. That distribution only runs on a small # of routers because there aren't any proprietary bits supported. The result of that though is I get the latest kernel a

  • I think the comparison to Echo is obvious based on the design alone. That was my first thought when I saw a picture. But when I read the specs, it looks more related to the Nest products than Echo.

    That said, I do hope they move to compete with Echo. I really like the idea of it, but Amazon tends to keep things too closely tied to their services for my taste. I would prefer to have something a bit more open (play local media, for example).

    • > but Amazon tends to keep things too closely tied to their services for my taste.

      And Google doesn't? lol.

  • by anwyn ( 266338 ) on Saturday August 22, 2015 @07:26PM (#50371955)
    I don't buy a router unless I can put openwrt on it. Too many router companies have been caught putting deliberate backdoors on their routers. Free software is the only way to prevent this.
    • by corychristison ( 951993 ) on Saturday August 22, 2015 @07:34PM (#50371973)

      Apparently its built with Gentoo Linux.

      I'm not sure how locked down this thing will be, but I am sure we'll be able to hack/mod it.

    • Whaddabout DDWRT?

      • DD-WRT is a disaster compared to OpenWRT. But probably still better than the stock firmware.

        I would recommend Tomato over DD-WRT if you can.

        • by hodet ( 620484 )

          Can you expand on why? I have a couple of old routers that were given to me. One WRT54GS and a Netgear DIR-825. I installed DD-WRT on the Linksys and it seems pretty good. I have had no luck upgrading the 825 even though it says it is compatible.

          From the comparisons I read, Tomato does not have the same amount of features and OpenWRT is more of a platform to build on. So I went with DD-WRT. But since I have these things that I don't mind bricking I am open to other options.

          • by hodet ( 620484 )

            I mean Dlink DIR-825

          • by corychristison ( 951993 ) on Saturday August 22, 2015 @09:23PM (#50372343)

            DD-WRT works, it just isn't very clean under the hood.

            - The entire interface is a mess of PHP spaghetti code with intertwined HTML
            - Old code with poorly implemented features bolted on
            - outdated UI that is honestly a little confusing to navigate
            - poorly documented, and outdated documentation
            I will say the user community is huge and that is one major benefit.

            OpenWrt is more like a Linux based router OS, but is well organized internally, incredibly stable, and very flexible. By default it typically does not have a UI. There are a few different ones to choose from [openwrt.org].

            The original Tomato is actually a partially closed system. I should have been clear that I meant Tomato based firmwares such as the Toastman mod, Tomato Shibby, etc. which are based on TomatoUSB, an early fork of Tomato before it went commercial.

          • by RR ( 64484 ) on Saturday August 22, 2015 @10:08PM (#50372495)

            In my opinion, OpenWRT is better than DD-WRT because OpenWRT is under pretty active development and has features that matter for making a better Internet.

            DD-WRT is very difficult to compile, so in practice when a device comes out, you have one guy making a firmware stuffed with like 4 hotspots and 4 VPNs and 2 VoIP switches and DynDNS, or as many of those things as he can fit, and there’s no space for your own programs on the router. IPv6 is not a top priority at DD-WRT. And then nobody makes a new firmware for that device ever again, no matter how many security holes appear over the years.

            In contrast, the latest OpenWRT comes with FQ-CoDel, IPv6, and DNSSEC. The default web-based administration these days is not bad, and the package system allows you to add interesting stuff, if your device has enough space. The Kconfig build system and the plain text configuration files make customization pretty easy.

            The main downside is that OpenWRT is more picky about hardware. For DD-WRT, you have an ancient WRT54G, that’s fine, just install an equally ancient firmware. Ignore the problems; everybody else ignores the problems. Current releases of OpenWRT insist on a device that can run a modern kernel, with at least 4MB of flash and 32MB of RAM.

          • Linksys has a new WRT54 series that is up to date and fully open source with full Tomato. A lot changes in 10 years and Linux is too bloated today to run on such old hardware with limited specs and ram of 2005 at the embedded level.

    • I have yet to see a single router/ADSL2+ modem combo that supports OpenWRT. And I'm too sick of thousands of devices with a spagetti mess to get my life working to buy separate equipment.

      I treat my own network like a foreign network. Let them back door my router and gain access.

  • by JustAnotherOldGuy ( 4145623 ) on Saturday August 22, 2015 @07:41PM (#50372011)

    ....they want to be able to mine your data at the lowest possible level, have a handy backdoor available in case the NSA comes calling, and so they can insert their own ads on every page of every website you ever browse.

    • Exactly. And there is no way in hell you should be trusting a Google which has remote access to your network, home automation, doors and every other thing Google thinks they're going to sell you.

      Google is going to have access to the entire thing, be able to remotely control it, be forced to hand this over to law enforcement ... and in all likelihood introduce new security holes as they ensure they can remotely manage it.

      No way, now how, not going to happen.

      Google wants to do this to further own interests,

      • Exactly. And there is no way in hell you should be trusting a Google

        Exactly. And there is no way in hell you should be trusting a Verizon

        Exactly. And there is no way in hell you should be trusting a D-Link

        Exactly. And there is no way in hell you should be trusting a Cisco

        is there any name you can plug in here that would be any different?

  • by rockmuelle ( 575982 ) on Saturday August 22, 2015 @07:42PM (#50372019)

    That's more likely what they're doing. Seeing how far they can expand the Fi network.

    • by lpress ( 707742 )

      That's more likely what they're doing. Seeing how far they can expand the Fi network.

      In what sense does this let them expand the Fi network? Maybe they could do a deal with an ISP like Comcast to let them do public facing access over home routers (http://cis471.blogspot.com/2014/03/isp-competition-testing-time-warner.html), but why would an ISP go for that?

      • ISPs would go for it if Google is paying for the FI traffic. Remember, not too long ago telephone service was the cash cow for most of the big ISPs (anyone with an investment in last mile and network wires). Moving phone traffic to Fi gives them back that stream and chips away at the wireless carriers' current dominance of voice and mobile data traffic.

        Google could buy bull bandwidth and put Fi connectivity into their routers. ISPs wouldn't count Fi traffic against their customers.

        -Chris

  • Control the living room.

    Why do you think Microsoft spent billions of dollars to develop its gaming platform? Control of the living room and of the house is a huge deal. Google has made major inroads in the area by its purchase of NEST and this is an extension of that. In thirty years they want to be the company running every home's electronics.

    • by PPH ( 736903 )

      Personally, I welcome our thermostatic overlords [postimg.org]

    • In thirty years they want to be the company running every home's electronics.

      This is much more than that. With OnHub, Google will control the network inside your home. Every dialogs between your devices. Especially as OnHub also includes 802.15.4 layer (on which ZigBee [zigbee.org] is already based, and on which Thread [threadgroup.org] (created by Nest, owned by Google) is also built) that allows to to connect battery powered devices.

  • by swillden ( 191260 ) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Saturday August 22, 2015 @07:57PM (#50372081) Homepage Journal

    I know a couple of people who were involved in the development of OnHub and, FWIW, they say that the motivation was that there's a need for a Wifi router that performs better and is more secure. Not a strategic bet, just a perceived market opportunity which they thought Google was well-equipped to fill.

    With regard to performance, the antenna design of the OnHub is supposed to be dramatically better than anything else on the market, and the device incorporates ideas from the Software Defined Networking stacks Google developed internally for its data centers, to optimize data flow. I wouldn't have thought there was much you could do to make Wifi work better, since the ISP connection is generally the bottleneck, but apparently there is. With respect to security, it adopts a number of ideas from ChromeOS, plus fully-automated updates. Probably the biggest security benefit compared to the competition is that security is actually a primary design goal, which isn't the impression I get from makers of home routers.

    We'll see if OnHub actually is enough better than the competition to justify its premium price. Based on what I know of the people working on it I expect that it will. I ordered one.

    • With regard to performance, the antenna design of the OnHub is supposed to be dramatically better than anything else on the market

      I remember driving through a small country town one day and seeing a bicycle rim hooked onto every TV antenna on every house. Asking the locals they said that was their only way to get the SBS TV station without buying some fancy expensive high-gain antenna. A BICYCLE RIM!

      Why do I tell this story? Well a 2 year old with down syndrome could design a better antenna than what is shipped with 90% of routers on the market. The vast majority of them emphasise form over function integrating their all in one antenn

      • Why do I tell this story? Well a 2 year old with down syndrome could design a better antenna than what is shipped with 90% of routers on the market. The vast majority of them emphasise form over function integrating their all in one antennas supposedly capable of the wide bands needed for wireless N as a little wire run around the inside of their modern looking cases.

        What do you think makes an antenna _better_? You typically have 11 channels to chose, but only three can be used simultaneously without interference. Now anyone can design a _stronger_ antenna for their router, but that just means more interference with all the other routers in your neighbourhood. I don't want my neighbour's routers interfere with my home, so I shouldn't use WiFi that interferes with their homes.

        What helps is for example a directional antenna, that aims at the device that is connected an

        • What helps is for example a directional antenna, that aims at the device that is connected and gives a good connection with that device, without affecting anyone else.

          The right Wi-Fi antenna and the right emitting power is the one that allows all my devices to connect at the best performance.

          OnHub seems to be the first device I know that claims to have software that will adapt dynamically your connectivity.
          And as it is coupled with an app on your devices, I expect it will also be able to monitor quality on both sides of the connection.

          So OnHub seems to have all in hands to be able to not use to much emitting power to connect my devices.

          Google seems to really bring innova

        • What do you think makes an antenna _better_?

          Oh any one of the many metrics used to define how an Antenna works. Low VSWR, low losses, selective to the spectrum you require, dispersion characteristics that suit the installation, correct impedance so you don't burn off part of your signal as heat going into the device.

          Antenna gain is not about blasting your neighbour, .... unless you're an ass. It's about targetting the signal to where you want it. Classic example is a two story house, look at the E-field maps of a typical antenna in a home router and

  • by Luthair ( 847766 ) on Saturday August 22, 2015 @08:11PM (#50372107)

    Unfortunately the trend for the past 10-years has been ever worse consumer router hardware, a lack of security updates, decreasing performance and increasing prices. Further, a number of manufacturers have been going down the 'cloud' rathole. The industry is as bad as the telcos & cable, I for one welcome our new Google overlords.

    While I'd rather run a pfsense box, these may still turn out to be much better than standard routers and be the one to recommend to your friends & family.

    • I have learned to never spend less than $100 on

      • hard drive
      • printer
      • router
      • video card

      I think you can still get a good mouse for under that, though.

  • by wonkavader ( 605434 ) on Saturday August 22, 2015 @08:31PM (#50372177)

    I don't think this is what Google had in mind, but I hope this will become part of their plan:

    The real problem with Comcast isn't the connections to the home or to Comcast's servers, it's the routers which move traffic to other networks. Not just their peering relationships, but the hardware they overload along the way.

    These devices have a network test function. They provide Google with a whole bunch of edge devices in the consumer Internet space which openly say they're going to communicate with Google. I'm hoping that Google will use these to map out ISP network and use the information to A. spoof DNS results to avoid overloaded equipment, B. Tattle on problems to partners to adjust BGP (or whatever ISPs are using now for routing tables), C. Use the information to bludgeon the ISPs (OK, really that just means Comcast) in the press and in Congress to force change to facilitate faster, cheaper connections.

    So they can push more ads.

  • I think it's pretty obvious why Google wants to monitor every bit of information they can get their hands on. The more information they can track, package and re-sell about your identity the better.

    • The more information they can track, package and re-sell about your identity the better.

      the chinese are already in your router, but this doesn't seem to bother you

  • Hackable as in can I install *BSD on it?
  • Is Google (or any other ISP, for that matter) an SSL CA (Certificate Authority)? If they were, they could MiTM-attack all your HTTPS connections...

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