Thursday, February 09, 2012

Google - Don't be evil is bullshit

What should have been one of the Internets greatest success stories, Google has in more recent times come under scrutiny about its business practices and ethics.  A company that in 2004, set out with the inspiring goal to make sure that all of Humanity's information could be accessed from its Search engine.  Now finds itself coming under criticism as it broadens its reach beyond Search and Advertising into Telecoms, Mobility and Social Networks to name but a few.   

A company that aspired to a value system that became well known as "Don't be evil" has been replaced by a new motto asked by many now -- "Is Google evil?".

 Back in 2005, i actually believed that Google was a benevolent company, and blogged about it here (   

I have changed my position of that over the last few years.

It hapenned with Microsoft, in the late 90's, when they grew too fast, became big, became arrogant and now, ironically, act as a good internet citizen with humility.  There seems to be increasing evidence that Google is operating like the early Microsoft years.  Now you might say what makes Google evil?

Several examples to cite:

1. Patent-Theft:  Eric Schmidt then the CEO of Google, sat on Apples board between 2006 and 2009.  The very time when Apple had been preparing its iPhone into the market in 2007.  It turns out that Google had previously purchased Android in 2005 (before the iPhone came to market) as a mobile operating system to compete directly with front-facing QWERTY physical keyboard devices like Blackberry and Windows Mobile phones.  Android was designed from the outset for keyboard devices, which did not have a full-screen, or multi-touch gestures.  Google later stole many iPhone multi-touch features and included them in Android.  Steve Jobs in his last days promised to "go thermonuclear on Google... to right this wrong".

2. Disingenuous:  When Vic Gundotra, said: 
"If Google didn't act, it faced a draconian future where one man, one phone, one carrier, were our choice.  Thats a future we don't want....  If you believe in openness, if you believe in choice, if you believe in innovation from everyone, then welcome to Android".
We are led to believe that consumers have a choice between a curated, tightly managed AppStore where content doesn't contain malware, tracking cookies, porn vs. the Google free 'open' Android marketplace.  Thats the real choice with Open -- it doesn't seem so attractive now does it?  When Gundotra says that Android is open, it means as a handset maker you have access to latest source code?  that as a handset maker you can contribute back into the main source code?  err no.  In fact Google says that you must ask permission and explain to Google exactly what your plans are before receiving the latest source code.  How is that open?  When Gundotra says that "it turns out that on the internet, people use flash" - what he didn't want to admit was that Flash sucks on mobile phones and are drain on processing power and battery life.  How ironic today, 2-years later, with the just released Chrome browser on Android, they chose not to support Flash.

Being disingenuous -- doesn't make Google evil, but it portrays a company that will exploit a populist viewpoint to characterise itself to be benevolent, to give the impression that its the vanguard of technological idealism. 

3. Monopoly:  In 2008, DOJ filed a file suit against Google at its unlawful attempts to tie search advertisement prices with Yahoo.  In 2010, a federal district court in new york agreed with the DOJ again at Googles attempts to monopolise book content by forcing publishers to give Google exclusive access to content.  Google has imposed technical constraints to make it hard for Microsoft Bing search engine from correctly accessing sites like YouTube - in effect Google is creating a walled garden on prime internet real-estate.  Lets take where Google is very dominant and that is in search advertisements - they make it almost impossible for advertisers to export their ad campaign data to another advertisers.  Over Googles second failed attempt at social media, the FTC alleged that Google used "deceptive tactics and violated its own privacy promises to consumers" over the use of consumer data with Google Buzz. 

4. Patent War:   Google is being chased by Apple, Microsoft and Oracle for patent infringement in Android.  Apple view is simple - multitouch is a competitive advantage that they will protect aggressively -- and they have chosen to attack Google by indirectly suing handset makers like Samsung and HTC.  In what has become a patents arms race, things escalated when Google purchased Motorola with the sole aim of acquiring its patent chest, a desperate attempt after it had failed to win the Nortel patents.  None of these Motorola patents could seriously be used to defend Android against Apples claims.  So why spend $12Bn on a company losing $250M each quarter?  It turns out Google is willing to hold the industry at random by allowing Motorola to to request unreasonable license fees (2.5% of selling fee of products) on FRAND licenses (FRAND licenses are meant to be reasonable license fees to enable telecommunications interoperability in the industry).  

Feb 2012 - So the Google acquisition of Motorola was approved, but take note of the carefully worded statements from:

(a) the US Justice Department - "the company has not made sufficient promises to license essential patents in fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms".
(b) EU Competition Commissioner - ""This merger decision should not and will not mean that we are not concerned by the possibility that, once Google is the owner of this portfolio, Google can abuse these patents, linking some patents with its Android devices. This is our worry. … We might be obliged to open some cases in the future. This is not enough to block the merger but we will be vigilant."

5. Social Media Search:  Right now if you search the Internet using Google -- you get a biased internet search result that will favour Google properties.  Don't believe me try it out.  Try and find and content from Twitter -- where is it?  Same crap as we hear before, Twitter claims that Google doesn't need permission to index Google.  Wrong according to Google -- Twitter needs to provide certain metadata before Google can index Twitter.  Well this seems like a special rule that Google makes for special competitors like Twitter.

Should i stop here or carry on?  Let see how the rest of 2012 plays out shall we....

In the meanwhile recent postings (10 ways in which google runs the world, The case against Google, Google gets big for its britches, Google: The Hero becomes the Villain, Is Google facing the beginning of the end?, all seems to coincide with many things of the things i have been saying here.   

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