The Evil of Google Is Steeped in Perception, Potential

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2009-01-05 Print this article Print

I love Google's Web services. I use its search, Reader and Gmail daily to do my job. But I'm also not blind as to how Google is so good at what it does and part of that is the company's fierce competitive streak, which is deliciously masked by numerous statements of good will and just trying to please the customer jargon.

After reading comments to my post, "Has Chrome Pushed Google Over The Evil Edge," it's clear there are people out there who are fully in love with and trusting of Google. They see nothing suspicious and argue that just because Google seeks to compete with Microsoft in Chrome, Apps and other areas, doesn't make it evil. Fine.

Who are we to say whether a company is evil or not? And do we mean evil in the biblical, avoid-it-at-all-costs sense? I don't think so. First, I don't believe Google is evil in the biblical sense. I grant Google the use of my data knowing that somewhere along the line something could change and something bad could happen.

I trust Google in so far as I know it won't ruin me, because to ruin me would be to ruin itself.

I do this because I refuse to live in fear, to join the conspiracy theorists who won't send e-mails from anything but a proxy server, people who do other things because they can and makes them digitally hard to track. The way I see it, if someone wants to find me, they will, no matter what I do.

But I don't for one second think everything Google does is "good," "innocent," "humanitarian," pick your favorite superlative. Companies that get the size of Microsoft or Google get that way by being greedy.

They don't set out to be that way. Bill Gates didn't set out to rule the desktop software world in 1975. He set out to solve the problem of making computers more useful for people.

Larry Page and Sergey Brin didn't set out to become billionaire search kings at Stanford. They wanted to improve the woeful state of Internet search. But as companies get larger, they get more reliant on the people who run them to do the right thing. As companies get larger, they require more people, more resources, such as money, to feed the machine. Mo money, mo problems? Yes, and more money equals corruption.

Each pinnacle of growth introduces a new quotient of corruption, however slight. Companies that get so large they have more to lose and therefore undertake more dubious practices.

Some people argue that nothing is wrong with competing fairly, how Google competes with Microsoft, et al, is fair. Okay, well how about this? No one, no sports team, no company on the planet competes fairly. No one.

It is human nature to find an edge to win, to want to beat the other guy. Often, others try to cheat to gain that edge, like the football player at the bottom of the pile who pokes his adversary's eye when no referee is looking.

What we see from Google with Chrome, Apps and other things to combat Microsoft with is deemed fair competition by the law, sure, but you must believe there are things going on that we don't know about that are less than kosher. I'm not saying these things breach law, but there are gray areas where companies like to crucify ethics for competitive advantages. There is serious eye-gouging going on we don't know about. Sometimes this rises to the surface.

Does anyone not find it a little odd that Google would support Mozilla Firefox, pledging its allegiance to it, all the while creating a browser of its own? Google didn't need to build a browser, they could have just backed Firefox as it continued to gain ground against Microsoft Internet Explorer. By the way, have you seen the new stats? IE is under 70 percent. Can Chrome capitalize?

No, Google either changed tack or lied to us when it dismissed the importance of the browser. This should make you a little uncomfortable if you believed Google's do no evil don't be evil mantra and should horrify you if you distrusted Google for years.

That queasy feeling in your stomach should pass. After all, you saw this in the '90s, when Microsoft systematically wiped out every competitor to challenge it on the desktop and in the Web browser. But ain't karma a bi&!#?

What's wrong with Chrome, you say? It's great, it's fast, it delivers us another alternative from IE? Yes! It is and does all those things. It's only got less than 1 percent of the market, so it can't possibly threaten IE.

Well, not at present, but don't mistake Google's intent to kill IE and eventually, if Google Apps and other SAAS offerings take off, kill Microsoft. Some call that competition. Some call that evil.

I say it's both at the same time. Competition by its nature is evil. What we see on the surface may be on the level. Evil resides in the dark undercurrents, masked in intent. It's the nature of the beast.

Embrace it, or don't. But let's not continue to delude ourselves. After all, just because we acknowledge something as evil doesn't mean we have to ignore it. Microsoft was confirmed as a monopolist by the U.S. and European governments, yet Windows and IE remain the dominant players in their markets.

The U.S. government threatened to sue Google for wanting to strike a search ad deal with Yahoo. Google wisely backed out because it was one step away from warranting Microsoft's monopolist tag. Are you no longer using Google because of what might have happened? No.

Google makes great Web services and I will continue to use them. But I'm not blind to the devious actions that Google may or may not be undertaking under the guise of competition. These are necessary evils I will endure so long as Google continues to provide me with fast search, Web browsing and useful Apps. |

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