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No longer loving Google (somebits.com)
246 points by robk on Jan 31, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 123 comments

Like any anti-Google post lately, this one has been reflexively upvoted, but if you look at his reasons for not loving Google, they're pretty thin. The Kenyan episode was obviously one rogue branch with insufficient oversight; as soon as the guys in Mountain View found out what was going on, they stopped it, and with a minimum of the sort of corporate doublespeak you'd expect from most big companies. The changes to privacy policies are the sort of thing hackers love to gripe about, but don't actually matter much. (How many HN readers are going to stop using Google because of them, for example?) All it really boils down to is that he's mad because his friend got cut off by Adsense. And it is uncool the way Google just blows people off like that, but it's not new. They've always been that way. So if you didn't hate Google 5 years ago, this post offers no reason to hate them now.

When a single company has a record of almost everything I do online I have to hold them to a much higher standard than other companies. Arguments about Google's intentions tend to swing to the emotional because the nature of their business requires that we trust them indefinitely. And the way they've handled a handful of these issues recently signals to me that they're feeling more and more comfortable straining that trust if it suits their agenda.

So the increasing frequency of these posts is, I think, barometer of the growing, gut-feeling discomfort among the geek community.

Arguably, it's also a barometer of Google's increasing status as the primary corporate enemy of Apple Computer, Inc. My gut tells me that if someone actually did the survey they'd find that "Google is Evil" posts and upvotes correlate less with Civil Libertarian politics than they do with the manufacturer of the poster's phone and laptop.

That seems to be an odd 'gut reaction'.

Is it not possible for someone to be an Apple/iOS or $Manufacturer/Android user and have their own opinions about _anything_ without it somehow being either labeled as fanboyism or anti-fanboyism?

I am tired of this false dilemma.

From my 19 years of experience on the internet watching platform flame after platform flame (yes, OS/2 was clearly superior to NT 3.1!): No. No it is not.

Clear principled opinions are wonderful things. Some people have them. Most, sadly, do not. Virtually everyone, however, cheers for some team or another. Lacking other arguments, these people will cleave to whatever argument of principle they find in front of them. Thus: Google is Evil.

Well, I haven't noticed that but I'm not out there in CA or an iPhone or a Mac user. The alleged Google/Apple hiring blacklist conspiracy seemed to cast them both in a pretty awful light.

But the plural of "gut feeling" is not "data", it's...hmmm.

The no poaching agreements also included Adobe, Intuit and Intel.

I find myself agreeing with the last sentence. Gut reaction, but it seems to be a "something doesn't smell right" moment for Google.

(Whether or not such reaction belongs on HN? I don't know; for all the rational thinking in this group, intuition still seems to play a pretty strong role.)

Arguments about Google's intentions tend to swing to the emotional because the nature of their business requires that we trust them indefinitely.

Actually, you only have to trust them for 9 months after you decide to stop using Google:


When does Bing or Yahoo anonymize your search data? When does Joe's Random ISP delete your email from all their tape backups after you cancel your account? Google is being honest and open about what they do; other companies hope you don't realize you should care.

It's a personal story of when someone stopped believing Google, not a deep analyses of why Google is "evil".

For me Google stopped being credible when it did a 180 on net neutrality. There were good reasons before that, and there were certainly good reasons after that, but when someone or some company loses the benefit of the doubt is a personal thing.

What currently pisses me off most about Google is their blatant disregard for privacy, more specifically their open and arrogant disdain for the way privacy is perceived (and protected by law) outside the US.

In hindsight I "should" have started "hating" Google much earlier, and OMG, I still use Google. Doesn't make any single individual argument criticizing Google any less valid though.

But most of all, the value in this post does not lie in his arguments, but in the fact that it illustrates the way in which Google is losing its supporters and its credibility as an ethical corporation.

In my humble opinion, and I apologize to any Facebook engineers who read this, but Facebook has touched off an ethical race to the bottom with regards to users, their privacy, and their information that can be sold to advertisers.

It seems obvious in hindsight, but it's too bad nonetheless.

Facebook was always in the game of collecting private data and exploiting it. It's in the nature of their product, you pretty much sign up for that up front.

Google offered services that didn't explicitly require users to register personal data (with some exceptions, like Orkut), and only much later started collating and exploiting all the information they gathered by observing.

The latter is much creepier. It's the difference between someone asking you to fill out a form with very personal information and someone who's spying on you through binoculars.

Also, Google betrayed people's trust with their whole "don't be evil" thing. Most people never trusted Facebook very much to begin with. Many of us trusted Google. Betrayal pisses people off more than just being screwed.

Pretty much every company does this. Your phone company keeps a list of all people you call. (And happily give that list to anyone that asks nicely.) They collect information from your phone about dropped calls and keystrokes. Retail stores move stuff around and see if it changes your buying habits. Grocery stores track every item you buy and then have targeted ads print on your receipt. Amazon changes the price you see based on some profile it has built on you. Google does nothing worse than any of these companies -- when you have users, you accumulate user data. You can just leave it lying around for the government to collect, or you can fold it into your product to make it better. Google uses it to make their products better, and they have written policies on when the data gets anonymized and when the data gets discarded completely. Does your phone company or grocery store do that?

Furthermore, Google is one of the few companies that actively tries to educate you on how they care about your privacy. There are ads in the subway. There are ads on TV. There are ads (right now) on the top of every Google property. They really want their processes to be transparent so that you know what you're signing up for when you use Google products. It seems irrational to hate Google when every other Internet company is collecting the same data that Google is, but they hide their policies it behind 300 pages of legalese and Google buys ads to make it easier for you to understand.

I think there has to be some deeper issue than "they changed their privacy policy" or "my friends' pictures show up on the results page" that is causing all the Google hate. Because it just isn't justified for the privacy policy change or Search Plus Your World.

@jrockway - I know you just started at Google. Anyway, here are the deeper issues.

1. I had mentioned this in another post to you before. Anyway, some people(not all) are upset because your company said you were better than everyone else. "You can make money without being evil" "What is the best for users?" All that crap Google said to us and continues to say like it still exists. Google was the poster child of the business of the future. Everyone felt you were the ones that were actually going to do good. Facebook/MS/Apple never posed as is this. You did. And that is where the anger comes in. When you are told one thing and the opposite happens people get mad. They should have tried to manage expectations.

2. Thousands of businesses depend on your search engine. With some of them 80% of their business comes from you whether thru paid ads or not. Many of these companies never would have built their websites if Google didn't exist. When your company changes things to place their irrelevant content over the content of other websites/companies people are going to be pissed. What if Apple created their own applications for 50% of the categories in the app store and then placed their apps at the top of each category? Wouldn't you expect some sort of anger? Do you think Zynga would be pissed if Facebook placed all of their games higher than Zynga's games? Its the same thing.

When you are told one thing and the opposite happens people get mad.

What is so evil about adding social networking features to everyone's account? You have a Docs account and a Picasa account too, even if you don't use them, and nobody complains about that. What's the difference between Docs and Google+?

Thousands of businesses depend on your search engine.

This I understand. People are upset that they have to play with us even though they don't want to. Nobody likes to do things that they're forced to do. But this seems like shooting the messenger; it's not Google being evil because users won't use any search engines other than Google. That's just loyalty to a pretty nice product.

Google's customers are the people that click on search results. So while re-ranking your site may kill your business, you're not a user and that re-ranking makes the experience better for our users. If the social cues that Google now adds are truly irrelevant as you say, they shouldn't affect users' behavior at all. Users are not going to stop searching for something to buy just because they have to scroll the results page. If the social features are relevant, though, then users are getting a better experience. And that's a good thing, even if individual pages get less traffic from Google. Instead of being able to SEO the entire Internet, businesses can now only affect the search results for a tiny percentage of users. That's a good thing because SEO can't scale, and SEO isn't good for users or the Internet at large.

If you look at the Google experience from the standpoint of customers, it's pretty good. Users get relevant search results and ads. Advertisers get their content on top of everything else. It's a good compromise between advertising and usability, and it works really well. It's a bug that you could rank highly in Google without buying ads, and Google is trying to fix the bug. Manipulating Google results shouldn't be something you feel entitled to be able to do. If you want to rank highly in Google, be relevant for the user currently searching. Engage him in social media or email, provide relevant information about what you're selling, and, generally, be a "good match" for what the user wants.

What if Apple created their own applications for 50% of the categories in the app store and then placed their apps at the top of each category?

They already do this. Apple's apps are included for free on every phone. And you aren't allowed to replicate their functionality, either. It's expectee. Apple makes phones, Apple gets to put whatever they want on the phones. Google makes search engine results pages, Google gets to put whatever they want on search engine results pages.

This isn't quite the right analogy, though. I can see why MapQuest would be upset about Google Maps and why Yelp would be upset about Google Local. But even in those cases, Google ranks things as you'd expect. Yelp results often appear over the Google business pages, because Yelp is more popular for reviews. So overall, I don't see Google as being evil. They're being competitive and they make good products.

"Google makes search engine results pages, Google gets to put whatever they want on search engine results pages."

- Are you sure you've read the ten commandments? If you haven't here's the link. http://www.google.com/about/company/tenthings.html

In case you don't get the time to visit the link, let me include the very first paragraph of the very first commandment; it goes something like this

"Since the beginning, we’ve focused on providing the best user experience possible. Whether we’re designing a new Internet browser or a new tweak to the look of the homepage, we take great care to ensure that they will ultimately serve you, rather than our own internal goal or bottom line."

Since people are taking what I've said out of context, I thought I'd clarify this statement:

It's a bug that you could rank highly in Google without buying ads

I shouldn't have mentioned ads here. Position on the results page should only depend on the quality of your content; if your site has the best content on the Internet for the user's search terms, you should be the top result. You shouldn't be able to change your position in the organic results any other way, like by exploiting bugs in Google's ranking algorithm. The specifics of the ranking algorithm may change, but if your site is the best, you won't have to worry about it.

So how would you explain the Google+ profile ranking for a query like "Mark Zuckerberg". Is that really the "best content" on the web for that query?

Most likely lots of your friends have added him, so he shows up highly as he is popular (though for ironic reasons) member of a site you are a member of.

wait... "What if Apple created their own applications for 50% of the categories in the app store and then placed their apps at the top of each category?"

So ummm none of Google own products are featured at the top of each search category? Most of the time this is not a good user experience but users and businesses have no real option!

I buried this in the post, but of all the things Google's done this month the promotion of Google Search Plus Your World (aka Search+) is what concerns me the most. The other negative stories are less significant, I only mentioned them because they're part of the trend I'm feeling.

I think it's interesting that anti-Google posts are reflexively upvoted. Ten years ago that would have been Microsoft.

I agree that's the most worrying sign. In the past Google won by making what people needed. But it seems clear that was not their primary motivation for SPYW. Their primary motivation was clearly fear of Facebook. That hasn't made Google evil yet. It's just the first step down the road to mediocrity. Which may lead to evil in the long term, because to make lots of money despite being mediocre, you generally have to do evil things.

I don't think it's that interesting that anti-Google posts get reflexively upvoted though. The cause is one of the more common and least discriminating aspects of human nature: whenever any person or organization is successful, there are a lot of people who want to see them cut down to size.

I think the last year has been fairly tough on Google (ever since Page took over). It's been the first real time that Google has put a concerted effort into

a)making money outside of pure search ads

b)cutting expenses

It's this sudden turn into becoming a real company that has shocked and angered lots of people and burned up most of the good will capital they accrued till then.

As painful as it is for us freeloaders, this might be a good thing for Google as a company that will help ensure long-term viability and growth.

It echoes Bezos's push into uniforming the architecture inside of Amazon http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3102800

Painful, but may ultimately be necessary. Google's far too long been the place of half-finished ideas.

It's this sudden turn into becoming a real company that has shocked and angered lots of people and burned up most of the good will capital they accrued till then.

If being a "real" company means only thinking about profits, well, then it is only fair that you lose the goodwill capital that you accrued by not only thinking about profits if you stop doing that. Is this the case with Google? For me the jury is still out, but it is undeniable that my OnyProfitsCountRank(tm) algorithm is getting a lot of signals that Google might be trailing the lots of Microsoft, Apple and Facebook.

I'm genuinely curious: Why the downvotes? Possible reasons:

A) Because I wrote that If being a "real" company means only thinking about profits, well, then it is only fair that you lose the goodwill capital that you accrued by not only thinking about profits if you stop doing that

B) Because I wrote that it is undeniable that my OnyProfitsCountRank(tm) algorithm is getting a lot of signals that Google might be trailing the lots of Microsoft, Apple and Facebook.

C) Both

SPYW certainly seems like the only real, new issue. It seems to me like a clear case of sacrificing a product's short-term quality for long-term quality. I.e. diverting as much traffic as possible to G+ will drive up usage, which will give Google more data on which to optimize search results.

It strikes me as analogous to Apple's move from OS9 to OSX. OSX performed poorly at first, but it was a necessary if painful infrastructure change for the sake of the product's future.

Another reason I'm not worried is that Google's only lock-in is search quality. If a challenger appears and really does perform better for searches, then people will eventually shift over. I think this is ultimately what will keep Google from going completely off the rails vis-a-vis search.

Conversely, I think it's what allows Facebook to get away with a lot. Its lock-in feature is ubiquity/network-effect, which is at best orthogonal to quality of product.

> whenever

Why doesn't it happen to Apple, then? Apple is much much more successful than Google, and, arguably, more "evil".

What I think people react badly to, is hypocrisy (real or perceived). Apple does what it says and doesn't apologize. Google has this whole blurry theory of "not being evil" which many of its own actions prove false, hence the backlash.

Also, at least at the moment, Apple's profit model is easy to understand - you pay money, receive something in return and they pocket the profit. Google's model is based upon understanding who you are so they can place the best adverts in front of you. When you're an upstart, that "who you are" bit doesn't seem to matter too much, when you're a behemoth, it becomes pretty scary.

Apple is not responsible for large chunks of Internet infrastructure, such as search, advertisements, email, maps, analytics, and many other services that are automatic "go-to" solutions for hundreds of millions of users of Google services. They just want to sell you an overpriced phone/table/laptop (God I can't believe I just defended Apple!).

They do increasingly dominate the online music business with iTunes, much in the same way that Amazon does with digital books, but that is nothing compared to the global Internet reach of Google and hence a higher level of responsibility and scrutiny.

"High trees catch lots of wind" (Dutch proverb)

"it" manifests itself differently for Apple. Apple, not being in the content hosting as much as Google, gets attacked on its environmental (Greenpeace) and its social (Foxconn reports) stances, not necessarily because it is behaving badly relative to its peers, but also because it is a more visible target.

I don't believe Google is intentionally being evil, but they are definitely behaving a lot like the company they coined the phrase because of.

In the 90s Microsoft was using it's huge installed user base advantage to push it's less popular and new-to-the-game browser on a group of people, while also keeping out the competition with some unfair ways.

This seems identical to how Google is using it's position as leader of search to push it's late to the game and less popular social network onto it's users, while keeping out the competition.

Changing your search engine is easy. Changing your OS is not.

How about changing your webmail provider, your mobile OS and the cloud services integrated with it?


I'm not saying Google is perfect, but they seem to take customer choice seriously. That's the exact opposite of Microsoft 10 years ago.

That's where the android strategy Is paying

That Verizon can change the default search engine to Bing? Let's see a Windows Phone phone ship with Google as the default search engine...

Another common aspect of human nature: Interpreting people in the worst possible way.

My opinion of Google has turned from positive to negative in the last 5 years, and it has nothing to do with how big or successful they are.

Google has been very successful for years. They've only been losing their high esteem in the last year or less. At least in my social circle.

>But it seems clear that was not their primary motivation for SPYW. Their primary motivation was clearly fear of Facebook.

This is my main issue with Google. Most of their products/services were created/acquired not because they want to innovate or create something awesome. it's usually to copy or kill newer and more innovative start-ups and products or more established companies (many of Google's services are mediocre versions given away for free).

Case in point: Yelp, Groupon, Twitter, Facebook, Apple, Skyhook, Yahoo, Microsoft, etc.

I'd say Search Plus Your World is a cause for concern, but not for the reasons most people think. I'd say SPYW isn't evil, it is an admission of failure. In particular, I think it is an admission that Google believes that without new kinds of input (i.e. social signals) it will not be able to stay ahead of SEO spam and the like over the long haul.

> Google believes that without new kinds of input (i.e. social signals) it will not be able to stay ahead of SEO spam and the like over the long haul

Assuming you're right, I am very curious as to what research led them to believe that social signals would be that much more beneficial for search results.

My own experience with what's on my social dashboards (facebook, google+, and the like) is that it's at best useful for discovery (HN is really good at it and sometimes there are a few gems in the others) but most of the time it's noisy and mediocre content, and more to the point: it's an ecosystem that values popularity above everything else.

I'm not trying to sound like a hipster here, and I understand that SEO is also about having your content show as popular in the search engine rankings. But except for communities like HN, most social streams are not regulated by any means.

My main concern with SPYW is that I don't want to start having to curate my social graph in order to avoid getting articles from theOnion when I make a query about foreign politics.

Regarding your last line: reading some of the anti-Google stories going around (e.g. anything John Gruber or MG Siegler produce) actually made me stop and think whether I needed to go back and re-evaluate Microsoft as I may have just been swept along by the Apple cult attacking its strongest perceived competitors.

>I think it's interesting that anti-Google posts are reflexively upvoted. Ten years ago that would have been Microsoft.

Ten years ago? How about now? The hate for Microsoft around here is so bad that winsupersite.com (the premier inside and latest Microsoft related news site) is completely banned from even submitting to HN, probably because of excessive flagging by haters [1]. Google hate is nothing compared to that.

[1] http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3408883

Observe the cognitive dissonance of people accusing Google of Big Company Badness and then going on to recommend Bing in the same breath.

One reason for which I don't like Google anymore is that they broke their primary promise, which they were emphasizing more and more around 2004-2005 (if I remember correctly): to make most of the world's information easily accessible and shareable, and, why not?, trying to make a difference in this world.

In my ideal world the Wikileaks info would have lived in a Google sub-domain, climate change discussions would have been based on open charts and data which would have been also hosted by Google (with available info going back since the first meteorological observations were made), mashups about Iraq and Afghanistan wars with geo-located user-uploaded photos could have lived at maps.google.com/war and so on and so on.

I know that what I was dreaming about doesn't add any stock-market value or anything (and in the worst case scenario it gets you straight into jail), but that's at least what I call "changing the world, trying to make it a better place", like guys such as Diderot or d'Alembert did three centuries ago.

Don't stop dreaming.

I upvoted this post not because it really brings anything new to the list of grievances against Google, but because I feel its important that the existing grievances not be forgotten.

Also, this is one of the few places on the web where I am sure people from Google frequent. Perhaps I'm being overly optimistic and naive, but if highlighting posts like these help to shift Google back even just a little towards "Don't be evil" then it was worth my upvote.

Agreed. I was expecting to see him mention the no-employee-poaching collusion between Google, Apple, Intuit, etc. That is something that has drastically changed my opinion of Google recently. The other stuff he mentioned, not so much.

I found something more interesting in his post: that Google has maybe been regarded still as a startup, even though they are far, far from it. "Don't be evil" seems like a motto that would guide a startup; it's hard for me to imagine any company of Google's size and position seriously trying to follow such a screed.

The end of his post is perfectly salient: let's reserve our enthusiasm and defesnes and cheerleading for actual startups, which no longer include Google.

I think there is a lot of "hate" for Google these days, but I believe every bodies reasoning is different. This is OK, they have alienated so many of their users, but many in a different way. My current "hate" for google stems from them taking the social away from Google reader,I don't give two Sh!t$ about the policies being merged, I actually think that's a good thing. Someone else "hates" the new social merged into search. Honestly, I enjoy diversity in the services I use online. I want my music to be independent from my email to be independent from my "social network" (not to be confused with my "personal network", of which, email is a part of) I don't like what google has become, and if I wasn't firmly planted and reliant on gmail, I'd be google product free. RSS, search, and cloud storage are all now solved for me elsewhere, and social always has been. I'm sticking with gmail, because I'm not anti-google, and it's a fantastic product, but I've left google products because somethign better came along (dropbox killed any need for google docs, google killed their RSS as far as I'm concerned, and G+ never really did it for me (or any of my actual friends, although I've got thousands of followers, they're all from the HN circle...) Did I mention that I revel in diversity to keep my mind engaged and learning new things. I don't want my entire experience to be from google or facebooks window, I want wide open spaces of internet and applications. If you know what I mean.

This is going to turn into a larger rant on the the course of "social media" and their networks. When I'm with certain groups of friends, I act and talk in a certain way, and by no means should some of that ever be public. I want to talk and communicate with some of the social group of mine online, but in no way shape or form should any of that be public as well. Many people can't make that distinction (hence the UK people being deported because of tweets) and I think the big companies are trying to ruin that divide between public and private.

Well I think a lot of where Google crosses the line is becoming clearer now. For example, personalized ads in gmail. Try to opt-out of personalized ads in gmail, seriously go and try it.

You can click the button, but they won't actually opt you out. At least not how you'd expect. You'll still get personalized ads, but they just use a different heuristic for how to personalize (based on the current email).

How hard is it to not personalize my ads at all? It would be easy. But Google has opted to add value to advertisers over their users.

This alone is one reason why I'm thinking of leaving gmail. Haven't made the switch yet, but I'm seriously considering it.

This has been a core facet of gmail for years. You get free email + storage - they post contextual ads on the right.

The problem people are discussing here, has nothing to do with some heuristic that runs against your email. It's the advent of the google profile, where all your online searches, mails, posts, rss feeds, and mobile phone now tie together in one place, and google is changing the terms.

>> Haven't made the switch yet, but I'm seriously considering it.

Yeah... sure

The problem people are discussing here, has nothing to do with some heuristic that runs against your email. It's the advent of the google profile, where all your online searches, mails, posts, rss feeds, and mobile phone now tie together in one place, and google is changing the terms.

I'm talking about something else. I'm talking specifically about the "option" of opting out of personalized (and there is a well hidden option that Google has for this), but it only changes the algorithm. You still get personalized ads.

When I signed up for GMail when it first opened, this was not the case.

>> Haven't made the switch yet, but I'm seriously considering it.

Yeah... sure

Is this hard to believe? I just created a hotmail account. I need to try it on all my devices first. And then of course get my forwarding accounts switched to it. If all goes well I'll switch. The main concern is lack of imap so I'll use Exchange ActiveSync -- but since I don't generally use that today, I need to make sure it works fine.

But there was a time when GMail was untouchable. Now its a service I can't wait to get off of.

Hence the need for honeypots, pg. :)

When I first started working at Google, I truly loved them as a user-facing company. And for the first few years, I thought I would work there forever and I could imagine no other place for me. But by the time I left, I was bitter and no longer in love. For various reasons, I felt like I had been betrayed by what I thought Google was at the beginning.

It is my fault for having such idealistic expectations for what ultimately boils down to a money-driven company but I also think that there is a world in which I could have left Google loving it, or at least not so entirely disenchanted.

I look back on my grade school and college with fond memories; I wish I could look back on Google the same way.

Oh well, onwards and upwards.

Hey Pamela! I fear you had a particularly rough time at Google. Bad project luck, also coming in later. I do look back at my time on Google as fondly as, say, graduate school. Particularly the early years, 2001–2004, it was a truly amazing place to be.

That's why I wrote this post up, I just feel sad about where Google is now. Fortunately there's organizations like Y Combinator and places like Hacker News with a lot of startup passion and excitement.

You know, I miss both of you at Google. I'm clearly fine with where Google is (or I'd leave) but I wish that you both felt differently. (edit: I changed we to I, I mean, this is more a personal thing..)

@nelsonMinar @pamelafox @cidbona and any other googlers.

Do you think it could actually ever go back to the way it was? Or is it too late? The beauty of Google in 2001-3 was that it gave you hope for what a company could be in the future. We all knew about the Jobs/Gates/Ellison shenanigans and some of us hoped for a better future. Better work environments for employees, innovating vs stealing, 100% focusing on the user, and not throwing integrity out the window for a couple of dollars per share.

Can they get back there? or is it gone?

I don't think it's any coincidence that I remember 1998-2004 as the era when "Little" Google consistently wowed me, as a user, with every product, every feature, even every verbal statement that you made.

The specific feeling of trust that I had during that time, due to an impeccable track record - trust that they would always do what I intuitively perceived to be the right thing, is long gone. Whether it's the all-holy SERP, or the grand strategy, my highest hope is that further decline will be as slow as possible. I do not believe that it is possible for any company, under any circumstances, to grow that large without losing its way. It's simply the nature of human organizations.

I also look back at your time on Google fondly, specifically for this 2004 email:

  Nelson Minar has invited you to open a free Google Gmail account.
Thanks for that, man :-)

> idealistic expectations for what ultimately boils down to a money-driven company

Are there non-profit-driven companies counting more than 10 people?

Just because a company is for-profit doesn't mean it has to be "money-driven" in the sense that the term is being used here. In fact, for a company like Google for which many of its users have relatively low switching costs it only makes economic sense to do whatever it takes to keep the users happy and enthusiastic, even at the expense of some short-term profit.

OK, I did not understand that the term was used here as driven by short-term profit at the expense of ethics.

Well that's just my interpretation too :-)

Google is too powerful, too arrogant, too entrenched to be worth our love. Let them defend themselves

Wise words. I think the same applies to companies like Apple as well- I'll never understand why people dedicate so much personal energy to defending a company that needs no help. They're big enough to look after themselves.

This is bullshit. To bring these few examples to discredit Google here.

Think of their record: OpenSource, Android, SOPA, Fight against Software Patens and so on. Google is still on our side and we need them against all the Microsoft and MPAAs.

To be on so many battlefields and doing so few problematic things is impressive. Did they ever really compromise their core values? Google tries not to compromise them, but they are not naive, look what happened to Sun.

I don't trust Google as a company as i trust the values of the Founders. I am convinced they are legacy focused and as long as they are in charge they try their best.

What happened to Sun? (Or rather, what are you implying about the causes of its decline?)

It was the beginning of the end for them when they started bundling pay-per install crapware (Yahoo toolbar) with the JRE installer (the first impression and only Sun product for the vast majority of their users).

They got bought by Oracle, who then sued users of Java and shut down all of Sun's (numerous!) open source projects. Remember Hudson and OpenOffice.org? Neither do I. They're Jenkins and LibreOffice now.

I could never understand how Scott figured that a jihad against Microsoft was a viable business strategy.

They're big enough to look after themselves for sure, but one way they do so is by convincing people to dedicate a lot of personal energy to defending them. That's one of the benefits of a marketing/PR strategy based on building a small army of feverishly devoted fans.

So in a way, actually, those people defending the company really are helping - they're doing active PR work for free, and the main company (like Apple or Google or whoever) is distanced enough that they don't have any responsibility if any of their footsoldiers says or does anything crazy. You get the benefits of an aggressive campaign without most of the downsides.

So in a way, actually, those people defending the company really are helping

Oh, I don't dispute that. But I'm still unsure of why they would feel the need to help- Apple and Google would do fine without them. Just a confusing use of time for me, I suppose.

Perhaps you don't remember that Apple went through a near-death experience in the mid-1990s? They came within months of bankruptcy. Apple needed all the customer loyalty it could get to survive the 1990s, and all the old-time Mac users remember those days a little too well.

Meanwhile, Google is indeed doing fine, but it also hasn't been sorely tested.

Was there ever a time when they weren't arrogant?

I had a round of interviews go on for 9-12 months in 2004-2005 until I finally told the recruiter he could go fsck himself.

Mozilla Foundation has not moved on its position of bringing good. I think any IPO company is ultimately compelled to choose profits over values.

In a public corporation, this is always true. The first responsibility is to the shareholders. This point seems to be frequently overlooked.

Agree, but they should always keep in mind what made them successful in the first place: the fact that they had backing from users. The day you start listening more to your shareholders than you spend time with your users, there's something really wrong going on.


How do you see that? I'd say Apple's values come from Steve Jobs' vision of how Apple can best make a profit, so any lack of conflict is trivial.

Google's problem is that their public communications only communicate a tiny fraction of the information they have available.

For example, people are worried about privacy, so they say "you can choose what to share with these cool buttons" rather than discuss their internal procedures for employee access to user data. The other day, someone on HN wrote, "I trust Google, but what about a laptop with malware?" Google could respond and say, "we believe it's physically impossible for an infected laptop to access the production network", but they don't. This makes people fear the worst. They think that Google is withholding information because it would make them look bad, rather than withholding information because they think their message has already been clearly communicated. (The more evil you think Google is being, the more likely they're doing the opposite of what you think they are.) Employees don't speak up very often because we aren't really supposed to say more than what's been publicly announced. (And, they're focused on programming and not PR.)

Everyone hates big companies, but Google is near the bottom of my list of companies to hate. The only thing that worries me is the customer service reputation, but customer service is expensive and nobody else provides it either.

Search Plus Your World and Google+ are, like every Google product, works in progress. They will get better over time, and if people don't like them or don't use them, they'll go away. To provide the best product, you have to experiment. Right now, many Googlers think that social signals are going to make everyone's life much better, and so they're writing code, deploying it, and seeing if it works like they think it will. The result is better search results and better software. That's progress, not evil.

> The more evil you think Google is being, the more likely they're doing the opposite of what you think they are.

I've seen variations on this line by people who presumably have insider knowledge of how Google operates. (If they don't, they shouldn't be saying things they clearly have no clue about.)

Anyway, as someone who doesn't have that insider access, and only knows a few people who work at Google, I wanted to let you know how comments like that read to me:

I find them extremely arrogant.

I don't mean to imply you are lying, or untrustworthy, or are somehow a bad (or even just arrogant) person. But as an independent, thinking mind, I find it mindboggingly-arrogant to tell someone – anyone – to think the exact opposite of what their mind is telling them, without any proof, on the basis of some supposed "authority". Not only bad advice, but dangerous.

Can you imagine how many crimes against humanity have been perpetrated with that kind of logic? "Sure, it may seem like persecuting group X is bad, but comrade, trust us, we have your best interest at heart. When it looks like we're at our worst, well, that's when we're at our best." Uh huh.

Again, I'm not calling you out specifically, but I would suggest that Google employees stop with this line of argument. I can't think of any better way to get people motivated against Google than what you're doing.


> Search Plus Your World and Google+ are, like every Google product, works in progress.

I don't understand why so many people don't get this, and especially here on HN of all places (maybe I'm missing something, I dunno). Isn't that how startup products work? Release early, release often? Maybe Google isn't specifically saying this, but it seriously seems like that's the road they take for the majority of their products.

Google Search isn't a startup product. You can't just tack on big sections of stuff smack in the middle of the top results and claim that it's just a WiP.

Apparently you can.

s/claim/validly claim/

Is there a check-list for Google products & alternatives? I was just thinking of going through this exercise last night. Don't feel comfortable with them anymore.

It would indeed be useful, and since I had a shell open I ventured over with the mouse and typed

  $ whois googlealternatives.com
The result made me chuckle. :)

        DNS Admin
        Google Inc.
        1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
         Mountain View CA 94043

I am currently going through this exercise, and here's what I done:

1) Chrome -> Firefox (Firefox 9 is surprisingly snappy, seems to me like a perfectly sensible alternative)

2) Search -> https://duckduckgo.com/lite - doesn't even show your query string in the URL. BUT: Works only in general search terms, not for specific (long) queries. There, Google is still unavoidable, it seems. But for 90% of my searches, DDG is perfecly OK.

3) Zoner instead of Picasa and zonerama.com instead of Photos in G+. [zonerama gives 2GB for free]

4) GMail: I found Hotmail to be adequate, but recently I switched to paying for my own webhosting, so I don't use free email anymore.

5) Google Calendar/Tasks -> Toodledo.com

6) Google Analytics,Adsense -> don't know...haven't found alternative yet.

In mu current understanding, it is not a problem to use some of the Google services, if one found them to be the best. What one should avoid, in my opinion, is to register account with Google and attach one's real-life identity to it. I did it in the past, and now consider it a big mistake of mine. I must say that I am still amazed so many people are ok with that.

4) GMail:

For a highly symbolic $5/year (with options to buy more space and features if and when you need them) fastmail.fm has an excellent mail service.

Yes type any google service into this, http://alternativeto.net/

Also http://duckduckgo.com/

http://www.wolframalpha.com/ ( not just math!, for example type in your local weather)


They have a way better privacy /user policy!

I'm wondering how many down votes I would get for suggesting Bing as an alternative to search.

I wouldn't say that jumping ship to Bing would be a bad thing, but I would want the alternatives to be of a wider variety then just "Google or Microsoft."

I have been trying duckduckgo since last week for search, so far over 95% of my queries are resulting in good results, its my default now in pentadactyl. I will be installing Zimbra ZCS opensource edition on one of my servers for mail, calendaring. Haven't found any alternative for youtube yet.

I've been using duckduckgo for about a week now, and I'm very happy with it. I managed an in-house instance of Zimbra at my last job, and I remain a vocal, enthusiastic supporter of that product. If your organization's requirements list aligns with Zimbra's feature list, I wholeheartedly recommend it.

For personal email, I've been happy with fastmail.fm so far, although their spam filtering doesn't seem to be as good as gmail's.

I've been using them off and on since learning of their existence on this forum a couple of weeks ago. They are surprisingly good!

But I did have the damnedest time remembering their domain name! "Google" was an inspired name choice, including the trademark-friendly intentional misspelling. "Duckduckgo" not so much! I had to re-find the name several times.

However, DDG has a nice shortcut, which turned out to fit within my limited wet-ware RAM: http://ddg.gg.

This echoes my sentiments quite well. I had a discussion with a colleague today about Google and I realized that I used to be very passionate and trusting of them but as of the past month they are teetering on the edge of that trust I still have for them. Where once I had respect and admiration, a growing mistrust exists. They are powerful and entrenched but I think it's a dangerous misstep to really offend their core users (I would think I am one being a user of their search, paying customer, publisher and many other services). I am not locked in entirely and would be more willing to try alternatives if I stop believing in a company.

Whether we love or hate google, we sure love to either love or hate google. Companies like, say, 3M would kill to be "hated" and "evil" like google is. Our hate is really more like us picking on that girl we like.

3M has no influence over my life. 3M could disappear tomorrow and I couldn't give a toss. 3M doesn't know enough about me and mine to harm me, and I don't depend on 3M in a way that would hurt me if I could no longer use their products. At worst, it would be slightly annoying.

Google has the power to seriously fuck with my life. I neither love nor hate Google, but I do care about what they do more than most companies, and certainly more than any company in our industry, and for good reasons.

Google is not "that girl we like". Google is "that guy that stands behind us with a big stick", and we don't know if he's going to use it to defend us or beat the shit out of us.

I think I understand your point, but 3M is probably not a great company to compare to. My understanding of their business is that most of their revenue does not come from retail products.

Wikipedia:"With over 80,000 employees, they produce more than 55,000 products, including: adhesives, abrasives, laminates, passive fire protection, dental products, electronic materials, medical products, car care products (such as sun films, polish, wax, car shampoo, treatment for the exterior, interior and the under chassis rust protection), electronic circuits and optical films"

So unless you influence the purchase of these products, 3M will be perfectly happy for you not to care about them. In fact, they may prefer it that way. Manufacturers in the US seem to be quite shy.

Perhaps a better example would be Sony. They would love it if you couldn't live without your Sony pictures, BluRay, Playstation 3, Sony cellphone, VAIO laptop, Sony Camera, Sony Camcorder, Sony video editing software, etc.

I think in the past the 'Don't be evil' thing as an informal company ethos was ok, and people respected that as a target. Then they started using this as a stick to beat their competitors with and it had the result of putting their own conduct under greater scrutiny. Now with the SPYW stuff, they look pretty hypocritical and appear to have abandoned their principals in order to play catch up. They might not be evil yet but the trajectory they're on isn't promising.

some very good thoughts indeed. it's interesting to see your point of view, especially the part about how they're just worrying about market position, etc.

i'm curious to know from current employees, if the change of ceo has made things better, worse? how are things internally these days with larry running the show?

Hi, I wrote the linked blog post. I don't have many friends left at Google but from what I've heard there's a lot of internal debate about the direction of the company now. There's been years of grumbling about how big the company has gotten, but more lately there's a lot of dissent around the outsized role of Google+. If you believe this story, the debate is quite heated: http://pandodaily.com/2012/01/24/larry-page-to-googlers-if-y...

I wouldn't trust everything you see on PandoDaily if I were you.

You're never going to find any large organization that satisfies all of your wishes, even a non-profit has internal political struggles.

But on a relative scale of evilness, which big companies would you want to work for? For example, Apple (Doesn't trust employees, has them work on fake products, super-compartmentalized secrecy on campus, has agents spying on people to stop leaks, abusive douche-bag boss (Jobs) of shitting on people when the demo doesn't meet expectations, squeezing all partners for every last nickle, super-controlled closed proprietary ecosystem, on and on)? Apple sounds like a place to work on amazing products, but shitty otherwise.

Google made a mistake by coining "Don't be evil", because they are held to a much much higher standard now than any other company because of it. The smallest change or transgression is hyper-analyzed by a cadre of people just waiting, sometimes wishing, to find a mis-step, anything they can run to the blogosphere with and claim "See! Evil!"

Basic cynicism in people seems to relish those who preach superior ethics to fail. A guy who talks about "Don't cheat on your wife" will be scrutinized much more than someone who doesn't. And if he is seen in public having a business dinner with an attractive lady, of course the stories will be "See! Mr White Knight is unfaithful!"

I've heard that they require that employees sign a new NDA every time there is a company all-hands.

The place reeks of lack of trust and just sounds _depressing_ to work at.

Google, or Apple?

Has them work on fake products?

I can't quite understand this "privacy problem". What's wrong with just accepting Google's TOS, use it for what it's worth (doing "public" stuff), and making room for "private" operations elsewhere? Aren't higher levels of "privacy" just a browser profile/user profile/machine profile away any more?

I don't understand why people thought that somehow a publicly traded corporation was going to behave forever in the same way as a garage startup. Once Google reached a certain size, a certain revenue level, and became beholden to institutional shareholders plus (in this case) found itself in a position of largely uncontested market control, I think it was inevitable that it would turn into the all too familiar caricature of a corporation.

While I'm not really surprised, I think I did expect somewhat more idealistic guidance from the top, especially considering that the founders still own solidly controlling stakes of the company. They can't run it as a charity or anything, but there are many different possible trajectories a company can take within the parameters possible for a public company, and a strong founder/owner/executive team can choose some over others.

It's hard to tell what really happens from the outside, but Google's founders don't seem to have maintained as strong a hands-on role in company direction/culture/decisions as, say, Microsoft in its Gates-led years.

Don't Sergey and Brin have 10x voting rights? I was under the impression that common shareholders couldn't do a darn thing to them.

The problem is its not just who has the most votes, but in the US, companies have a legal obligation to do what is in the best interest of the shareholders (even minority shareholders) over all other claimants.

California just created a new corporation type that allows 'public benefit' to take precedence over shareholder interest:


no they do not. not only is this not established in law (in fact, congress has made it harder for civil suits to be filed), they are almost never brought unless there has been a large drop in stock price (not for tepid or slower-than-desired growth), the ones that are brought are usually dismissed, and the ones that are not dismissed are almost universally settled.

take a look at, for instance, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Business_judgment_rule

Perhaps, but it's still such a widely held belief among businesspeople and shareholders that it's probably not a battle that would be wise to pick (very often).

Yes, assuming things haven't changed since 2007:

In particular, as of December 31, 2007, our two founders and our CEO, Larry, Sergey and Eric, owned approximately 88% of our outstanding Class B common stock, representing approximately 67% of the voting power of our outstanding capital stock.


Read the IPO letter to investors. They have two classes of voting shares, like Berkshire Hathaway, which enables them to make longer term bets than the market's attention span can handle.

True, it's a similar deal.

A bit less drastic, as a 'second-class' Google stock is just 1/10th of the vote, whereas a 'second-class' berk is 1/20th (25th?, dunno) of the vote, but more importantly doesn't cost 100k/share. I don't know what berk b's price is at, but there's a much smaller set of people who can actually buy berk a shares. 100k is a lot for the average joe to invest in a single share :(

I think Tim O'Reilly has the right of it: https://plus.google.com/107033731246200681024/posts/fWJtC2mb...

I'd like to print out the following quote from this article in a huge font and read it before I'm tempted to write anything pro/anti Google/Apple/Microsoft in the future:

"I'd rather devote my emotional energy to the upstarts and startups. They deserve our passion."

And if a big company like Google can't avoid being evil, then what world-changing enterprise can?

A company owned by actual persons, i.e. a privately owned company, can better avoid turning evil. There are lots of world-changing privately owned companies, especially in Europe.

Profit seeking by committee (a.k.a. board and stockholders), turns companies into un-ethical, maximum-profit seeking machines. Even more so, since noone feels like he has "real" responsibility for the whole company's actions).

True, public companies are driven more by quarterly results, but they can also be more accountable and transparent. Private companies can be as equally evil as public ones.

FWIW, I believe private companies tend to be better run and usually operate with a longer or more rounded perspective. In this sense, I would favour being a stakeholder of some sort in a private company over a public one.

Relevant? Incoherent.

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