Government Asks: Is Google Evil?By danseitz
So, yesterday, in case you hadn’t heard, Google got dragged before the Senate to discuss its business model and the fact that it, de facto, controls the Internet. Some good points were made, some bad points were made, overall not much happened.
But it raises the point: is Google evil?
You can get a feel for the Senate’s read (yes) by looking over the transcripts, but our read, especially from the evidence presented, is a bit more complex. We’re not sure Google is deliberately evil, and we definitely disagree that Google is “cooking the books”, so to speak.
And honestly the complaints of Yelp and TripAdvisor, two companies with their own problems involving information sharing and scrubbing, aren’t even worth considering. Yelp in particular is under legal fire for practices about a thousand times less savory than abusing fair use laws, amounting to extorting advertising sales in order for businesses to keep their good reviews. It’s nothing more than whining, and the Senate shouldn’t have let them in the room.
Nor do we think Google is deliberately pushing their services over others. The author has used Google services like Google Maps, Google Plus, Google Scholar, and so on extensively: I’ve never been asked to use another Google service over another I prefer. A de facto test throwing in a few locations and random terms in search offered Google results only on the third or fourth result; some didn’t even yield anything from Google.
The issue is really a matter of size. Google points out, rightly, that it’s not a monopoly. If you don’t want to use any service Google offers, you’ve got at least two or three, and usually more, alternatives. Even Google’s core businesses, like search, has major competition like Bing.
But Google is a giant standing in a field of fragile glass flowers: no matter how carefully and thoughtfully it places its feet, it’s likely to crush something. Every time Google revises its search algorithm, someone gets burned, for example.
In short, Google isn’t evil: it’s just too big to not hurt somebody when it makes a move.