Backroom Deals, Secrecy Make Google A Fallen Hero
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Today, we would like to focus the light fairly and squarely on our friends at Google. There is a very interesting article floating around these days that turns on the heat on Google and we urge you to read this article before making up your minds. After all, one needs to hear all sides before passing judgement.
We hope you find this article interesting.
Have a great day.
Your Research team
Backroom Deals, Secrecy Make Google A Fallen Hero
Jason Lee Miller | Staff Writer
Do Backroom Deals, Secrecy Make Google A Fallen Hero?
On its way up, Google rarely talked about anything–especially its algorithm. The more the company let fans into its world (that is, once the company learned of the power of branding), the more carefully the Googtopia narrative was built, a narrative with a kind of Justice League ring to it–Don’t be evil, be good, be transparent, be groovy, man. With recent maneuvers one wonders if those days are over.
The first chink in Google’s moral armor came about the same time the company went public, when Sergey Brin, faced with the realities of doing business in China, repealed the Don’t Be Evil policy. Sometimes, one might proffer, business requires a little evil to survive. The boardroom ain’t exactly Sunday School.
Some time later, thanks to some either uninformed or unapproved chatter from up high in the legal policy ranks, it appeared that Google was reconsidering its stance on Net Neutrality. Those words were taken back post haste by those who understand public relations better than lawyers. We troubledly pondered beneath that brief flicker of doubt if good companies going public meant that shareholder demands would outweigh the company’s commitment to certain core values and need for geek credibility, if entangling alliances as meganational corporations collided and dealt in the online space would crush Google’s popular Internet romanticism.
No, no, there’s Vinton Cerf still pounding the Net Neutrality pulpit.
And there again is Google playing hardball with AT&T and Verizon on the wireless spectrum front. Open access, open applications, open everything, and Google came out as the Internet’s white knight fighting for public policy that was actually good for the public instead of a handful of gatekeepers. Even there, though, was the creeping suspicion that’s Google’s business interests happened to coincide with our own idealism.
There was a time when Google seemed happy even to litigate–Eric Schmidt in Japan comes to mind, speaking on how lawsuits are just a modern day business expense–and turned up its righteous nose at complaints over Google Book Search, over merely snippeting and linking to Associated Press content, with image indexing precedents in the back pocket. Google’s fights were our fights, and the Web grew because of them.
But then something changed, and it seems to have started to change about the same time Google bought YouTube. Those lawsuits Google didn’t mind so much started coming in billions rather than millions thanks to Viacom’s aggressive litigation. Google boldly stepped to the courtroom rather than settle–how could they settle with so much on the line?–but since then the company seems to have shrunk away from such battles.
Next the AP gets a deal. Then book publishers. Google, our champion, then became beholden to the dreaded DMCA notice, shoveled out of entertainment company lawyer offices and into the broken URLs of shallow-pocketed fair-use believers all over the Net. The sudden timidity was new, even shocking. Where was Google when Congress handed the entertainment industry even more power last summer? Well, it’s been said for some time Google evolved from search company to media company. Fair use, even when applied to indexing or user-generated content (Google’s two biggest presences) is no longer the most prudent business option, and those fights are best left to nonprofits and the academia from which Google spawned.
Part of that could be the economy, which has GOOG stock at disappointing levels despite killing estimates, which has led to layoffs, cuts in food budgets, and–quelle horreur–Google reportedly stocking only domestic beer for Friday beer bashes. Lots of companies are sacrificing in this economy, and Google’s sudden fear of litigation could be part of that also.
But what’s more disturbing for those of who’ve idolized Google as a company for so long is the marked increase in quiet maneuvering and apparent backroom deals–which always get leaked, of course. Apple and Google in secret anti-Microsoft, no-touch-screen-for-the-Google-Phone cahoots, for example, or Google deleting Blogspot posts without notice or explanation at the music industry’s request, or, our digital paperless hero, filing on paper only with SEC about engineer layoffs in a lame attempt to keep it out of the press–which one can no longer read on Google’s special AP news page.
Sigh. Is this the end of our transparent, fight-the-good-fight Justice League Google and the beginning of more Microsoft-like, fight-the-good-fight-only-if-it-makes-fiduciary-sense meganational media super-giant Google? Have we lost another one to the almighty faceless shareholder?
It may be a necessary evolution that a company like Googlewhom we love for various reasons, not the least of which is they still do good things via Google.org and other outletsbecome more like Microsoft if the company expects to compete with Microsoft. But we hope, once the economic smoke clears, Google returns to that turpitude which propelled it to Microsoft competitor status, to that which drove Microsoft mad with jealousy, despite being very unlike Microsoft.
That’s the Google we love, hope, and root for.
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