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Evil Google makes some good products December 29, 2006

Posted by sk in Computers & Internet, Google, Technology and Software.
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When several people tell you something is good, it must be good, right? Lately, I’ve been reading a lot about how good Google Reader is. So I finally decided to try it out myself yesterday. And my verdict? It rocks. It truly does. I spent a couple of hours transferring my feeds from live.com and arranging them properly. I liked Live.com but it’s good for a few rss feeds. It took me a while to figure out, though, that the key ‘j’ is for next feed and ‘k’ is for the previou

s feed. I would have preferred ‘pg up’ and ‘pg dn’ but it’s a minor annoyance. Another minor annoyance I have is that sometimes my feeds are not marked as read even after I’ve read them. Overall, I think it’s a very easy to use rss aggregator with a clean interface. So, now I’m officially using Windows Live Writer for writing posts and Google Reader for reading them.

Anyway, one of the first feeds that I added was that of Mike Torres, who works in the Live Spaces team. He wrote a post about how Google may be compromising its ethics. The gist of his argument is this: when you search the keyword “blog” on Google, Google Blogger doesn’t figure among the top results (and not even in the first 5 pages). However, right below the sponsored links, there’s an orange blogger icon with the text, “Tip: Want to share your life online with your blog? Try Blogger.” Mike has this to say about it:

For a company that prides itself in its integrity (or at least used to) this is a pretty messed up thing to do. I can’t even find Blogger in the organic search results; I stopped looking on page 5. Which means that instead of earning its spot on page 1 (or any other page for that matter) they decided to promote their own service in a way that no one else can do at the top of the organic search results. This makes it look like Blogger is actually more popular than TypePad, Windows Live Spaces, Yahoo 360, and WordPress.com when in reality, according to Google’s own algorithms, it isn’t.

Ultimately, the folks who end up suffering the most are the Six Apart guys who are paying Google to run ads against the word “blog”. Now, if you were in charge of Six Apart’s advertising strategy, would you continue to pay for this ad when your competition has an unfair advantage? Which one would you click on? The one that looks like an ad or the one that looks like a friendly tip from your friends at Google HQ?

Come on guys. You can’t have it both ways – you’re either biased or you’re unbiased. But don’t say you’re unbiased and then sneak little orange B icons above your competition. Especially after saying you don’t ‘smooth the way’ for your own ads.

I initially didn’t pay much attention to it. After all, Mike is ultimately a Microsoftie. 🙂 but Mike provides a link to Blake Ross’s blog (a Firefox developer). Blake has this to say:

Google lost me today.
Google is now displaying “tips” that point searchers to Google Calendar, Blogger and Picasa for any search phrase that includes “calendar” (e.g. Yahoo calendar), “blog” and “photo sharing,” respectively. This is clearly bad for competitors, and it’s also a bad sign for Google. But I generally support anything that benefits users, including monopolistic packaging. I believe, for instance, that shipping Internet Explorer with Windows was a good move.
Google is predicated on the idea that the democratic structure of the Web will push the cream to the top. Search for “photo sharing” and you should already get the highest quality services. According to Google, Picasa is not one of them. These “tips,” then, can only be a tacit admission of failure: either the company does not believe in its own search technology, or it does not believe its products are good enough to rise to the top organically. I’d guess the latter.

Paul Thurrott linked to this article on Blake Ross’s blog and added his own comments at the end:

This is just the tip of the iceberg. From Google’s sad IE 7 toolbar that actually prevents users from changing the browser’s search preferences to the EULA in Google’s phishing filter that admits it makes no attempt at all to perserve your privacy, Google is pure evil. That makes their corporate motto both ironic and hypocritical, but mostly it makes us all chumps for using their services. And yes, I use GMail. I’m an idiot.

Interesting.

My take on this: I think Google should simply abandon its “Don’t Be Evil” motto. I don’t know if it’s possible for any company to survive in corporate America without being evil to a certain extent. Yes, Google is evil, just like Microsoft or Yahoo!, but they make some great products, so, big deal.

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Comments»

1. parmanu - December 30, 2006

i dont use reader because i prefer reading the articles directly on the source’s website.but yes i think its pretty good.

google personalized home page gives me good enough functionality with all the feeds and gadgets..

i think google spreadhseets is the worst of their products and gmail is the best. (i dont even include google search now, its far beyond any comparison now)..

regarding evil or not evil, honestly i dont even know how does it matter for most like me,
someone makes a good product i will use it. period.
why do i care what their corporate policy is?

2. ramare - December 30, 2006

I agree with parmanu on this. As long as company is not breaking the law or is not pushing its customers between a stone and hard place, I am fine with it.

May be working for a credit card company blurred my values or may be being nice was never one of my values.

3. sk - December 30, 2006

I’m fine with Google too. Although I don’t think highly of GMail (but that’s beside the point). I think it’s sad that they screw the advertisers. As Blake Ross mentions, when you see a sponsored link and a friendly tip from the people at Google, you’re obviously more likely to click on the link in the tip.

…in many ways, Google’s new age “bundling” is far worse than anything Microsoft did or even could do. Microsoft threw spaghetti at the wall and hoped it stuck, and likewise there’s nothing wrong with Google’s arbitrary front page ads. The difference here is that Google knows what users want and can discreetly recommend its products at the right time. Microsoft can’t easily hide a program packaged with Windows (and doing so would defeat the purpose), but competitors can only discover Google’s bundling, which might be transient or limited to certain regions, through trial and error searching.

After all this, Google shouldn’t complain about anti-trust practices at Microsoft. In a way, Google is the new Microsoft and more…

4. Cotton - December 30, 2006

What may be legal may not necessarily be ethical. A company should be both legal and ethical to be socially responsible. In today’s day and age, companies that are not socially responsible don’t really last for long enough, and this is especially true when we are talking about a company in the Technology industry.

5. parmanu - December 30, 2006

“and this is especially true when we are talking about a company in the Technology industry.”

will anyone ever stop using the gross misuse of the word
“Technology”???

6. ruhi - December 30, 2006

It’s not a gross misuse. Type it in Bloomberg or Yahoo! Finance or any other website. You will see that Apple/Microsoft/Google are listed under the “Technology” Industry Type.

7. parmanu - December 30, 2006

i dont mind calling apple, microsoft, google as technology, i object use of word “technology” to mean by default “software”.
and thats creeping in everyone’s language.
a guy coding in C language at infosys is called tecnhology specialist and so is the guy at DRDO who is making engines…

i find that unfair.

8. ruhi - December 30, 2006

Paramoon,

You have totally misunderstood me.

“from what i understand u were referring to ’software technology’ ONLY.
(i dont think u had nanoscale manufcaturing on mind)”

No, I didn’t mean it in this context. All that I meant was companies like Google etc. are a part of the “Technology Industry”. By this, I don’t have any implications regarding their software/hardware operations. All that I mean is that they are listed under the Industry Type Technology. Period.

Let me explain why I said ” ““and this is especially true when we are talking about a company in the Technology industry.”

This is because this Industry is marked by many changes. Companies in this particular industry come and go. They have a very short life cycle. So, the companies can’t really afford to anger their customers. That’s it. I didn’t mean anything else.

9. parmanu - December 30, 2006

ruhi,
i still go by parmanu,
paramoon was to be released sometime soon but i dont think its going to make it anymore..!!

i am editing my earlier comment


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