Do Backroom Deals, Secrecy Make Google A Fallen Hero?

Or Can They Be the Anti-Microsoft Once Again?

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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.
Google Super Hero
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about the same time the company went public, when Sergey Brin, faced with the realities of doing business in China, repealed the Don’t Be Evil policy.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 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 over 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.
Google Super Hero 2
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 a part of that also.

But what’s more disturbing for those of us 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 the SEC about engineer layoffs in a lame attempt to keep it out of the press—which one can no longer read about 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 a 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 Google—whom we love for various reasons, not the least of which is they still do good things via Google.org and other outlets—become more like Microsoft if the company expects to compete with Microsoft. But we hope, once the economic smoke clears, Google returns to that virtue 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.

Do Backroom Deals, Secrecy Make Google A Fallen Hero?
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  • http://www.thetarottree.co.uk Richard

    When I first became a Webmaster, I struggled to find adequate advertising for my Site. Along came Adwords. I placed a minimum budget and the clicks came in. Month by month the clicks lessened to next to nothing for the same keyword searches, etc. The cost of my budget went up dramatically to the point where I couldnt afford Adwords. This isnt small business friendly at all. Lots of problems with Adwords pages-Keyword parameters changed without notification. Budget decreased with no clicks. Found myself unable to change geographical targeting without increasing my budget by 50%. Come on Guys!! This developed into a major profit making machine when the results for the webmaster were ever decreasing.
    I now refuse to use Adwords unless I need a quick burst of advertising for maybe a week. any more and you throw good money after bad. Anyone else agree?

    • Guest

      I don’t want to defend Google because they are not the warm fuzzy company they used to be but I think what you are experiencing is your competition bidding for the same terms. I also have a small business and it happens to me. If someone sees you making money or getting placement on a particular term, they will also bid the term. Sometimes, these are big companies making large bids and sometimes they are small competitors who hope to place a large bid temporarily to force you out of competition for the term. Then they drop their bid back. Go for the long tail and find cheaper keywords and make sure your quality score is at least a 6 for each term. That’s my two cents. Good luck.

  • Guest

    Turpitude is the incorrect word to use here. Perhaps you meant virtue?

    • Jason Lee Miller

      nobody caught that…I’d always heard it used incorrectly and continued the trend…thanks for pointing it out

      • Guest

        You’re welcome Jason :)

  • http://www.conference-coordinator.com Sarah Madison

    Unfortunately whilst money still dictates the world and corporates rule is to create more and more of it then it will always be this way.

    Perhaps its about time we all started looking at things like the Venus project.

    As for good leaders, they are, from my admittedly limited knowledge of these things, only killed off by some extreme group (the people with the money) anyway.

    • http://www.hughzebeezlaughs.blogspot.com/ Hughze

      Venus Project? Wonder if I can Google that and see what it’s got to do with Google.

  • Guest

    I guess geeks are the most neive of all when it comes to marketing.

    I went off Google about 6 yrs ago – thanks to adwords and the way it was all a rip off.

    The net is becoming advertising blind and that is Google’s achilies heel. The more it looses in revenue, the more it is going to go down the licensing route. Google won’t disappear, but its lost it magic – that now belongs to Twitter

    That is just the way the IT goes

    • http://www.roomfurniturechina.com wholesale bedroom furniture

      Well, I’ve only recently started to try and market my website as this is a completely new venture for me. I’m not sure I still really understand the meaning of twitter to be honest, but from the feedback I have read on it so far it seems to be a substantial means to improve your web traffic if used correctly. I’m going to give it a shot anyway and shall let you know how I get on!

  • http://www.kvmansion.com kv

    kvmansion is apartment
    very good location nest bts sky train comfortable to go
    to travel around bangkok

  • http://www.auto-ak-seeds.com jj

    well google sure not what it was a few years back lets just wait and see how they continue

  • http://www.hughzebeezlaughs.blogspot.com/ Hughze

    Maybe it’s time again for a new hero.

    • http://www.hophunt.com Free PPC Search

      Agreed with that.

      Do not do evil, but the evil itself can do also good and bad at same

      Maybe the World Wide Web needs a new Hero and that would not
      take for so long.

      The prophecy is what we may call a G o o g l e A p o c a l y p s e.

  • Guest

    Don’t be evil. LOL

    Google is the king of Porn pushers, Gambling and seductive practices. Fraud, click monkeys, web site frauds and other code related black hat operations. Google is truly evil. Sergey Brim is nothing more than a dirty Russian immigrant who got lucky meeting Larry Page. Those two morons couldn’t even figure out how to monetize the site and nearly went out of business many times. Stanfornot’s are the worst humans. How much do they sell those degrees for these days ? Go to hell Brim, you are Russian Scum.

    Michael Angel.

    • http://www.worldhookah.com worldhookah.com

      Here we go again. We all Love Bill Gates. He is the under dog. Now that Bill made more then we will ever see and the media shoots this in our faces how rich he is and OMG He was not nice one day Wow now we hate him.

      Same deal here with Google. Well I didn`t hate Bill gates and I am not going to hate youtube.

      Just a heads up. Google is the #1 search engine Can you guess who #2 is? Yea suprise its freaking youtube. I noticed in the article Yup they bought that also.

      Learn from the urban community all my white narrow minded D&D playing friends. Don`t hate the Player Hate the game.

  • http://www.wncsportinggoods.com WNC Sporting Goods LLC

    Everyone love’s the idea of being famous or rich or the top dog in any field, behind the scenes their are those who values and morals will never fit into a clean mainstream idea of true success and I made it to the top with this halo over my head and company…Like the commenter before said…Love the player and Hate he game…dont like it…then roll up your sleeves and change it, You become the next Hero…We need any and all we can get these days with all the crooked politicians and Corporate greed…still we just slap the offenders on the hand and lock away the little man for life for exposing the crime(s)… As for back room shady deals…get rid of money and greed and lockup the offenders in a regular prison with hard labor instead of federal “health spa” prisons and you may get American business back to it’s former glory of the 50’s and 60’s…Made in the USA used to stand for something and respected around the world…Next Hero stand up please your over due!

    • http://www.vip-o.co.nr owner of vip-o.co.nr

      heell yes google is a hero
      ho helps you with html sherly not yahoo or ask.com its google.com dipeshit

  • History

    Yes. Google is a FALLING hero. How far they drop is up to Google. I remember the excitement I felt when they first came on the scene. The search, mail, and philosophy of simplicity which I shared. The plethora of images to search. Google was what I NEEDED. Invariably, when something becomes more complex it takes on a life of its own and ceases to serve the very needs that created it. It cannibalizes itself from within tearing Good to pieces while feeding faceless shareholder’s greed and lust for bigger and better returns.
    As for bad-mouthing its creators, why bother? It’s human nature that this would happen. I can remember moments of sadness when realizing that Google would become a cog in the machine. So to end, time will take care of Google and we’ll just have to watch it go and wait for it’s replacement… hopefully sooner than later. :)

  • Mekhong Kurt

    Google remains, on balance, considerably more good than evil, though certainly its compromise with the Devil in China was a major misstep, particularly the almost insulting-our-intelligence way in which it tried to handle the PR inferno that erupted. (This is from an American who lived several years in China, married a Chinese woman — and loved the entire experience. I still visit on occasion from my base in Thailand. In other words, though there is much I dislike about the Chinese government, there is much I love about the country. So I don’t damn Google out-of-hand.)

    Google has put much of the world at our fingertips (much to the chagrin of Microsoft, Yahoo!, Ask.com, etc.). Which brings me to a second point that bothers me, because I myself am a web writer (articles, etc.). While I admire the concept of scanning in whole books and other works, Google’s legal beagles do show a fine disregard for copyright in some cases.

    Beyond those two issues, overall I think they’ve done a pretty good job of living up to the motto.

    They’ve held the course on net neutrality (and let’s forget leaks from people who may have just been speculating without their blabbing having anything at all to do with official company policy).

    Being a rather strong environmentalist myself, I applaud their efforts towards developing energy efficiency and alternate energy sources. They have put a fair chunk of change where their mouth is on energy.

    Their employment benefit package was unbelievably good, and is still very strong, even with the cutbacks. I guess I should add I might not say that if I were a Googler and lost some of those benefits, especially the education one for employees’ children, though since I’m childless, it wouldn’t impact me — but I *am* a teacher.

    From the public’s point of view, I feel we should consider the value we receive versus the costs to us: tremendous value at zero cost. No one makes us click on one of their ads, so I see no way to fault them for having such a strong presence in the online ad industry — I read just a day or two ago that the company derives a rather astonishing 97% of its revenues from advertising.

    Some of my friends use gmail — and bitterly complain about the ads. Their complaint, most of the time, isn’t based on privacy concerns — most of my friends in this situation are older and don’t have a firm grasp of such concerns — but is based instead on the mere presence of the ads. My answer to them is “Don’t use it then. There are other excellent, free web-based e-mail services, Yahoo! and Hotmail being among the biggies.” It’s the same as with free-to-air television and radio. How *else* is a TV station or radio station to survive if not through advertising when they’re providing their broadcasts at no costs to the viewer/listener?

    Over the past few weeks I’ve been reflecting on an unlikely parallel — unlikely until you think about it a moment: Google and President Obama. In case the parallel isn’t obvious, the expectations for both are sometimes, even often, too high. No company is going to be 100% perfect, just as no one person and no one organization can ever be. To expect perfection is simply unrealistic.

    It seems some people hate Google just for the sake of hating Google. I mean the sort of person who would seek out someone else to hate if there was no Google and never had been. (I read discussion boards a LOT — as in several hours daily — and I regularly see the same usernames of Google-bashers all over the place.) That’s plain unfair.

    I’m not arguing everyone should feel warm and fuzzy about Google, nor even to like it. But a person who doesn’t like it *does* have other choices, though they may get fewer results with alternatives. However, for most purposes the other search engines do a fine job, too; I doubt any of us need 1,987,567,231 results for an ordinary (and most extraordinary) searches.

    Guess I’m gonna get flamed. . . .

  • http://www.evisiblemarketing.com Ron Jones

    Not good, not evil.

    If you are foolish enough to base your moral compass on the Google Webmaster Guidelines; or anything else Google does, then you are bound to be disappointed.

    A company is in business for one reason…It was, and is, and always will be about money. They don’t owe you anything.

    Sure, I disagree with some of the things Google has done, and will do in the future. However, I am not a shareholder, so I don’t have an ownership interest. Therefore, they don’t owe me anything either.

    Google’s modus operandi is simple: Deliver the most relevant search results possible, in order to keep searchers coming back for more. Deliver relevant PPC ads to those same searchers; a percentage of which will click the ads & increase google’s revenue.

    Relevance = Revenue…This is Google’s raison d’etre.

    When you understand this, and structure your behavior accordingly, you will prosper. Try to project some sort of benevolence upon their corporate visage, and you will forever be wasting emotion.

  • Muskoka

    Who leveled the traditional ultra expensive marketing playing field that small business can now thrive in with good SEO and PR?

    Who educated web masters free of charge and with accompanying blogs and forums where real experts reply and help-for free?

    who passed on apps, fun, scripts, add-ons-picassa-woo the list is endless really-all for you to use FREE?

    who encourages user feedback and actually interacts and acts on input?

    Heck millions of people use it to research academia, commercial projects, and a kazilliuon how to’s at home…all for FREE-guess you are all too old to remember what it cost to try and research incinerator emissions papers from around the world 20 plus years ago! Big Bucks-sevral thousand! NOW IT IS FREE!

    GMail service-FREE

    The China thing is SUCH a RED HERRING! Nations like Canada who consider freedom of speech and human rights worth fighting for conducted the debate -as all people must do-do we trade with China and try and move closer and awaken their sensitivities to such issues by example and discussion or do we abandon the Chinese people because we don’t like the policies of the government of the day? PLEASE!

    Unless you who critique Google about China are willing to rant about your own governments trading policy then you are applying a double standard-unless you resolve to never purchase another thing from China because you disapprove of the human rights policies then you too have the double standard.

    I guess this article grabs traffic though but really Google is the best company my internet generation has seen to date. “He’s Da Bot!”

    • http://www.pr-interactive.com florida web design

      google still has the best results. that’s why it’s not going anywhere.

      Peter Roesler owner of a Florida Web Design Company

    • http://www.shelko.com/ Priyanka

      I think it is absolutely true. Google is THE GOOGLE!

  • http://homeproud.blogspot.com Yvette Kelly

    You guys really know your stuff.All that info right at your fingertips?Great reading and informative.
    Thanks.Will keep coming back

  • http://suppalink.com JIM

    great reading, google is google and goole will always be so, but in the future what form it will become is the question, the next genteration of search format are near we have been building and testing such search platform for the past ten years, in a small scale test, simple, control and pin point information, bright colourfull and true to local and country search, we have seen corperate world try to close this a number of time, buy out offers to stop the platform going live, the problem is the events of teh corperate world proves the protentual of such plateform, we are looking for operators in countries around the world to take this and expand our test platform into the next generatration, So google will be google and always will but in what form these bot search engines become is the question, by the power of the net and the computer operators all around the world will control the next G in search, How long this is a question many may ask and the result is how many geeks want to help expand what is already their to run, interested in been part of the change then email me, disagree with what I said then tell me.

  • http://www.brane.com.br Peter (IMC)

    I liked this article. But I don’t agree with the idea that Google is one of the greatest companies of these times. I don’t think such a company would actually exist.

    In the end they

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