Sit, Google! Sit!

    February 15, 2007

As Google grows and evolves, so does public perception of it. For those of us outside the Googleplex, Google has represented a broad spectrum of things. For a lot of people they’ve made the transition from fun-filled upstart to Evil Empire. We have always known Google for producing fast results, and their speedy evolution is no exception. They’ve run the gamut in less than a decade.

Sit, Google! Sit!
Sit, Google! Sit!

Of course, I’m not suggesting that everybody hates Google. Quite the contrary, most of us (myself included) are still quite fond of Google. Google is like the Internet equivalent of a big fuzzy puppy that has grown up and become a big dog. A really big dog. A really big dog that… while we still like him, in the back of our minds, we sometimes worry about what he’s capable of.

Some of us worry more than others. The Belgians for example, aren’t buying into the ‘candyland of information’ philosophy. The mission statement from Mountain View says; “Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” Just a minute, say the Belgians… A lot of that “world’s information” is copyrighted material. So they filed a lawsuit… and have apparently won (pending appeal).

Oh and that’s only one element of their copyright infringement woes. Google bought YouTube. When they did, Mark Cuban was among the first to roll up the proverbial newspaper and swat them on the nose. YouTube is literally infested with copyrighted material being used inappropriately. In December, Cuban did a survey of the top 20 videos on YouTube and guess how many of them were actually user created content? 3. 17 out of 20 were either copyrighted material or fake porn.

Google maintains it cannot possibly police all of the videos submitted to YouTube. However, as Cuban more recently observed re: YouTube, they do somehow manage to keep out all of the real porn. Now, I frequently find myself rolling my eyes and shaking my head about a lot of stuff Cuban does and says, but when you’re right you’re right. And he’s right. How is it Google can keep out the porn but not copyrighted material? Doesn’t make a lot of sense, does it?

Earlier this week, Google was accused of complicity in online piracy. While they weren’t the actually purveyors of the pirated material in a direct sense, according to the charges, they earned a pretty penny in the form of advertising revenues. Studios have alleged that Google representatives went so far as to suggest keywords like “bootleg movie download”. Bad dog! Bad!.

I recently took a jab at Yahoo for not buying YouTube before Google did. Since then, I’ve read so many negative things about YouTube that I’m starting to think Yahoo might have the last laugh after all. – And I only wrote it two days ago.

Case in point. Mexican drug gangs are using YouTube to send intimidating messages to rival gangs. The videos are a cross between snuff films and propaganda pieces. While they don’t actually display a live murder, they show plenty of dead people. Before you go with the “CNN shows dead people too" defense – CNN doesn’t show dead FoxNews people as a message to the Fox News management. The fact of the matter is, these things shouldn’t be allowed.

Of course, YouTube “does not allow videos showing dangerous or illegal acts.” But the one I saw (NSFW) had been viewed 567,915 times and it’s pretty much nothing but dangerous and illegal acts… Way to go guys. The comments, at least the ones in English that I can understand, are – for the most part, as obscene as anything in the video itself – social media at it finest – but that’s a whole other post.

So Google has some issues. I still prefer to think of them as the LEGO loving upstarts looking to change the world and make it a better place. I’m sure they still have that in them. All of the Googlers I know are smart, conscientious people. That said, it’s fairly obvious that the pressure to flip dollars has had an impact on some of the larger company directions and decisions.

I know, the growing pains for a company the size of Google, with the lofty goals and aspirations of Google, are immense and challenging. They’re going to have to stop chewing up the furniture in the process though.

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