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"Don’t Be Evil" April 21, 2006

Posted by Brian L. Belen in Odds and Ends, Technology.
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I now appreciate why a cornerstone of Google’s corporate philosophy is “don’t be evil”: One day, Google will rule the world.

Of that I am sure. It’s not a matter of if but of when, and of course how. It’s inevitable. With the bursting of the late ’90s tech-bubble, Google is establishing itself as the wunderkind of corporate America, if it hasn’t already done so. And the way things look now, Google can do no wrong.

What prompted me to write about Google was learning recently that they now offer a service called Google Calendar. This might not be news to most of you, but it was news to me. Fundamentally, Google Calendar is a service that allows people to share calendars on the web, allowing users to view multiple schedules at a glance. The applications of this don’t seem quite groundbreaking to an individual, perhaps, but for families and/or companies who have to coordinate schedules, it does present interesting possibilities. Clearly, the concept is nothing new: on balance it’s the same thing that Microsoft Outlook or Apple’s iCal strive to do. But there is a difference. This is Google.

Personally, I like Google and have been amazed at the expansion in the range of services they offer. Google News. Google Finance. Google Desktop Search. Google Print. Google Scholar. Google Groups. Google Maps. Google Mail (Gmail). Google Messenger. Google Earth (!). The list seems to go on and on (and I suppose I should mention that Blogger is now owned by Google as well). Of course some are better than others, but the overall success of Google’s ventures is in little doubt (didn’t Bill Gates quip – in a backhanded compliment – that he thought Google was opening a franchise of burger restaurants?). Think what you will, but in my opinion this tells us three things about Google.

First, they’re quite in tune with what their clients want. I won’t argue that to some degree this is part of a Darwinian process of corporate survival, that Google is better off trying these things out (and failing) than not doing anything and watching its competitors fly high. But if you’ve ever used any of Google’s services, you’ll find they put a whole lot of thought into it. It just seems to make sense in very pragmatic terms. Admittedly, I’m biased – I’ve long since stopped using other search engines and only use Gmail, though I am locked into Yahoogroups and Yahoo messenger – but if my anecdotal experience is anything to go by, I am one happy customer.

Second, Google is well aware of what its core competency is: taking information from those who have it and putting it in the hands of those who desire it. In short: search. You can see this by those ventures that aren’t explicitly search engines. Gmail is a good example. When it was launched, Google made it clear from the first that the whole point was for people to keep every message they ever receive, precisely because all you had to do was search for a particular message if you needed to read it. I’m willing to bet Google Calendar operates in the same way. (No, I haven’t been moved to try it out yet.)

Last, in my opinion Google just does what they do better than anyone else. This is not to say that they offer the best type of a particular service (though their search engine is still at the top of my list, thank you very much), but rather that overall they are way ahead of the competition. Google Desktop Search is one example to illustrate this: not long after it was introduced, Apple included a “Spotlight” function to its Tiger OS. The two may not be related, but you get the point. Further, and more important, Google’s services stay beta for a very long time, maybe even permanently, which tells us something about their desire to continually improve on a good thing. I’m willing to bet that Google’s search engine will eventually offer snapshots of the pages listed in a search result, much like Ask.com now does. Another matter of when, not if.

And that’s the point exactly. Google has slowly become a true web portal. A single Google account – which you personalize at your convenience – opens a world of possibilities. Searching the internet. Reading your mail. Staying in touch with your friends. Managing your schedule (and that of others). Keeping track of your financial portfolio. All from the convenience of one company, one set of servers, one set of saved preferences, one account. That’s a lot of information at Google’s fingertips. About you. About thousands of other people on the planet. That’s a lot of power in their hands – power that we bestow upon them – in exchange for their promise not to “be evil.”

So far it seems that Google has been walking their talk. Just recently Google staunchly refused to release data regarding online searches and IP Addresses to authorities seeking to use this information to weed out child predators over the internet. The rationale: to do so would violate individual privacy. Three cheers for Google! Yet one cannot help but wonder for how long Google will be able to stay true to their corporate philosophy. After all, someone once said something about corrupting power becoming absolute. You can look it up on Google.

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1. Life Statement « BRAIN DRAIN - January 3, 2009

[…] was that whatever I came up with had to be as catchy as Google’s. It’s no secret that I admire the company’s philosophy, particularly that part of it that can be summarized in the words “don’t be […]


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