Absurdly Driven usually looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.

You may not even remember when the change happened.

Once, any company could advertise on Google's Product search pages without paying.

One day, Google realized some of these listings may not be offering true customer satisfaction. How could the company, after all, vouch for the product or service being advertised?

So in 2012, Product Search became Google Shopping and began to charge for listings. Logically, any company that now advertised with Google had more at stake.

Things have changed, so last week Google announced it's making those product listings free again. 

After all, Google has much deeper means -- just think of all the data now in its possession -- of seeing whether a listing is legitimate or not.

Oh, and there's also the existence of Amazon.

Jeff Bezos's company began to realize it could not only make money out of retail, but out of ads for that retail. Why, last year Amazon made $14.1 billion just from advertising.

Its method is to charge businesses for featuring in more prominent positions -- and, of course, to enjoy a percentage share of their sales. Google surely envied that.

The ultimate catalyst for Google, however, is the coronavirus crisis. As Google's president of commerce Bill Ready explained on the company blog

As consumers increasingly shop online, they're searching not just for essentials but also things like toys, apparel, and home goods. While this presents an opportunity for struggling businesses to reconnect with consumers, many cannot afford to do so at scale.

Now, then, every struggling business, smaller or larger, can try and sell to precisely the customers that need its products, but may not be immediately aware of those products.

The caustic will, of course, only see the direct strike at Amazon. Google's been somewhat passive in the shopping arena, while Amazon has coldly reaped the customer attention that flows to its pages.

But even if the motive for this new move appears purely mercenary, Google is cleverly helping retailers at precisely the time they need it most.

Many have had to close their physical outlets and are relying entirely on online sales.

Moreover, Amazon hasn't shown an enormous penchant for giving things away for free. Rumor has it the company even uses third-party sellers' data to create its own products.

Amazon also currently struggling to satisfy deliveries. The recent pause on new signups for grocery deliveries is just one example.  

Google is, therefore, genuinely helping businesses compete with their biggest adversary. 

There's a caveat, of course. Google can sometimes enter a business but not give it sufficient attention or momentum. Can it really make its Shopping Search a more aggressive competitor to Amazon?

And can consumer habits change from their current Pavlovian twitch to go straight to Amazon?

Google insists this change isn't a temporary measure. This quick step to freedom will now be the permanent state of things.

Ready explained: 

For retailers, this change means free exposure to millions of people who come to Google every day for their shopping needs. For shoppers, it means more products from more stores, discoverable through the Google Shopping tab. For advertisers, this means paid campaigns can now be augmented with free listings.

This, in time, may -- well, there's a chance -- also seduce shoppers into thinking they'll get a more objective view of the market for their desired product on Google than they'll get on Amazon.

And, right now, objectivity is an extremely valuable commodity indeed.