Google’s famous “Don’t be Evil” mantra has been questioned time and time again for many years, but it’s back in the spotlight thanks to comments made recently by co-founder and CEO Larry Page.
Do you think Google has done a decent job of keeping in line with the “Don’t be evil” mantra? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Page did an interview with the Financial Times in which he talked about how, as the FT put it, “the search engine’s original mission is not big enough for what he now has in mind.”
The mission is actually that whole thing about organizing the world’s information and making it universally accessible, but the evil thing did come up. This is the part that deals specifically with that. FT reports:
It is a decade on from the first flush of idealism that accompanied its stock market listing, and all Google’s talk of “don’t be evil” and “making the world a better place” has come to sound somewhat quaint. Its power and wealth have stirred resentment and brought a backlash, in Europe in particular, where it is under investigation for how it wields its monopoly power in internet search.
Page, however, is not shrinking an inch from the altruistic principles or the outsized ambitions that he and co-founder Sergey Brin laid down in seemingly more innocent times. “The societal goal is our primary goal,” he says. “We’ve always tried to say that with Google. I think we’ve not succeeded as much as we’d like.”
After that, the actual mission statement was discussed, and Page said he thought they probably needed a new one, and that they’re “still trying to work that out.”
The reason they need a new one is basically that Google has grown so much, and has become so much more than the search engine it was when it was founded. I mean, they have robots, self-driving cars, smart glasses, smart contact lenses, and are trying to work on a cure for aging. It’s probably not too unreasonable to be thinking about updating the mission.
Some took this story, however, and spun it as something along the lines of “Google has outgrown its ‘Don’t be Evil’ mantra”. I think this misses the point.
Either way, Matt Cutts, who is currently on leave from Google (and it’s unclear whether he’ll actually be back or not), weighed in on the topic on an episode of This Week in Google.
He said, “They have tried to have a culture of ‘Don’t be Evil,’ and you can argue over individual incidents, and you know, whether this specific thing is evil or that specific thing is evil, but Google as a whole, whenever I look at the DNA, the people try to do the right things. So if you’ve got Larry marching off in one direction, and you’ve got the rest of the company saying, ‘No, we disagree,’ then they drag their heels, and they create friction. That, in my opinion, helps to move things toward a consensus of maybe a middleground, which works pretty well.”
He added, “And then having that critical mass of smart people lets you say, ‘Oh, now I can do voice recognition better. Now I can do image recognition better, and I can unlock all kinds of good applications to improve the world that way…’ It’s a tough call…It’s a good problem to have, I guess.”
Here’s the full episode.
This takes place roughly 28 minutes in, but the discussion about this whole topic lasts for quite a bit. The episode also has a lot of discussion about Cutts’ future with Google.
Cutts thinks Google tries not to be evil. Do you believe him? What are some specific areas that you think the company needs to improve on in that regard? Share in the comments.
Image via YouTube