by Da'Von B.

Best question of the year.

Gigaom

“Google is like a crack dealer,” one frustrated startup founder told me recently. “They give you something that gets you hooked, but you end up strung out. You’re so dependent on somebody that you can’t do anything about it.”

He was talking about a now-familiar bait-and-switch that Google (s:GOOG) keeps running on web businesses. First, the search giant offers a little traffic boost to sites that organize data in certain useful ways. Then it turns the game on its head and — without any notice — starts using that structured data to inform its own services. Finally, with a disturbing inevitability, it launches its own competing product that steps in and replace yours.

By the time it starts happening, you’re already in… and there’s no way back.

Google has done this across a number of areas, perhaps most famously in local listings — witness the clash between Yelp and Hotpot

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