At the SMX Melbourne Conference last month, a certain speaker made the valid point that Google has become such a money-making monolith that they seem to have lost sight of their original philosophy of Don’t Be Evil.
I’m protecting the identity of the speaker, in case he attracts unwarranted attention from Google, but his words really rang in my ears.
Let’s take a look at an extract from Google’s “Don’t Be Evil” philosophy:
“Don’t be evil… is about providing our users unbiased access to information, focusing on their needs and giving them the best products and services that we can... The Google Code of Conduct is one of the ways we put ‘Don’t be evil’ into practice. It’s built around the recognition that everything we do in connection with our work at Google will be, and should be, measured against the highest possible standards of ethical business conduct.”
Apparently, “Don’t be Evil” was originally suggested by Google employees Paul Buchheit and Amit Patel at a meeting. Buchheit, the creator of Gmail, said he “wanted something that, once you put it in there, would be hard to take out,” adding that the slogan was “also a bit of a jab at a lot of the other companies, especially our competitors, who at the time, in our opinion, were kind of exploiting the users to some extent.”
It got me thinking – are Google still living up to this slogan? Or have they become so powerful that they are doing the very thing they were accusing their competitors of doing and exploiting users in their bid to keep market dominance? Has Google been placing the needs of their shareholders above the needs of their users? Have they lost sight of their own motto?
Some of Google’s recent product releases and acquisitions do seem to be dollar-driven as opposed to user-driven. Some of their business decisions lately have also seemed questionable. Their move into China, for example, required them to self-censor data for Chinese users, a seeming hypocrisy which attracted skepticism worldwide. Then there was their collection of personal WiFi data during Streetview routes in Europe, triggering concerns over personal privacy. It’s hard to see how decisions like these are beneficial to users.
The SMX speaker suggested that Google has such massive market share that they AND their users have become blase about search quality. The tendency is for everyone to reach for Google whenever we need to search for something online and only use other engines for comparison shopping. His point was that the more blase we become about Google’s dominance, the more blase Googe will become about users.
The only way to take a stand against Google’s market dominance is to use other search engines regularly. That’s why he suggested that one day a week, instead of automatically reaching for Google, we should make the effort to use a different search engine, with Bing Friday being a good starting point. If enough people do it, Google might just sit up and take notice, but even if they don’t, at least we will shake ourselves out of our Google stupor and stop taking everything they do as gospel.
Now if you read my blog regularly, you’ll know that I am a big fan of Google. But I have been worried about the direction they’ve taken lately, particularly some of their recent acquisitions. I also believe that more competition is good for the industry and keeps all players on their toes for the benefit of everyone.
There are aspects of Bing Search I prefer over Google and I’m keen for Bing’s partnership with Yahoo to work out so it will help them leverage some market share away from Google. But I admit to being a lazy searcher and using Google as my automatic default engine. If I’m to make a difference, I need to take a stand and I feel this is a great start.
Will you join me and participate in Bing Fridays? To show your support, please comment on this post and/or tweet about it using the hashtag #BingFriday. Let’s see if we can get some traction!
POST SCRIPT : The speaker who came up with the concept of Bing Friday has given me permission to publish his name now. It was none other than Greg Boser of BlueGlass Interactive, Inc. He tells me that Bing Friday seems to be gaining momentum and to keep an eye out for a new project a friend is working on in relation to it. Sounds intriguing!