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Why Google's Good Intentions Scare Me

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Old 12-14-2009, 09:03 AM
bholus10 bholus10 is offline
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Default Why Google's Good Intentions Scare Me

I do not buy into most of the existing Google conspiracy theories. I do not believe that Google gives preference to websites who advertise with their Adwords program, or conversely that they keep certain sites out of the top of their rankings to encourage them to advertise. I do not believe that Google is in any way trying to control their market in anything less than a normally competitive manner. And I certainly do not believe that Google is actually a super secret military tool. I really believe that Google has good intentions.

But those intentions still scare me.

Ultimately what I think about Google is pure speculation based on readily available facts, but Google speculation seems to be the pastime of many peopel these days. It is no wonder – after all Google may just be the most intriguing company to grace our economy in decades. I believe Google has good intentions, but as good as those intentions may be, the result of their success simply scares me.

Page & Brin Must Be Platonists

If Plato were still alive, he would probably work for Google. Google is chasing after the 'ideal', even if it is ultimately unattainable. Unlike most major corporations that grace the headlines of financial journals, Google is not primarily motivated by money. Google's motivation is the intellectual, overcoming the challenges of organizing information.

“Google's mission is to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful. ”

-Google's Corporate Overview

And that is it. This multi-billion dollar company, arguably one of the world's most powerful companies, has the simple goal to organize the world's information. They are the world's biggest card catalog system.

Of course this is not to say that Google has no motivations for money – they certainly do. The Google money machine is what fuels Google's idealistic aspirations. Google is able to pursue more challenges, bring in more resources, and ultimately accomplish more because of money. Yet money never impedes with the act of gathering, organizing, and making information available.

In contrast, we can look at Microsoft. Although Microsoft's mission is to “help people and businesses throughout the world reach their full potential”, this help does not come without a cost. Microsoft's primary products are created to be sold. This is the traditional, practical, sound-minded business model.

Compared to this traditional business model, the Google business model is very idealistic. This may be due to the fact that Google was not founded for the sake of making money, but rather in response to the challenge that Sergey Brin and Larry Page saw in building an effective search engine.

Making Sense of Google's New Releases

“SCHMIDT: We try very hard to look like we're out of control. But in fact the company is very measured. And that's part of our secret.

PAGE: We don't generally talk about our strategy ... because it's strategic. I would rather have people think we're confused than let our competitors know what we're going to do. That's an easy trade-off.”

Time Magazine – Interview with Larry Page, Sergey Brin, and Eric Schmidt

Well let me be the first to congratulate 'the boys' at Google – your goal of trying to appear out of control has been accomplished. In the past several years Google has released several products which has caused analysts to scratch their collective heads.

Many of these releases have met with either 'ho-hum' approval or even confusion (what exactly is Google Base supposed to be used for?) The releases also seem to be fairly unrelated – from products that allow people to schedule their personal events (Google Calendar) to a stats program for your website (Google Analytics).

The prevailing thought is that Google is releasing these products as a way to increase their brand awareness, create another channel for their AdWords program, or even to simply 'throw something out there' to see if it meets with general approval (much like Google maps did).

Yet if we look at these products in light of their mission – to collect and organize the world's information – every product meets with Google's mission.

Ultimately, Google is collecting information – and lots of it. There is only so much indexing that Google can do. Now Google is looking for information from users. In fact, they're begging for it.

Most of Google's new products store users information in some way. If you use Google's chat program, you can store all of your chats in a searchable history. Google finance stores information

about your favorite stocks and which stocks you are tracking. Gmail comes with 3GB of storage space so you never have to delete another email again (maybe they do not want you to). Google base was launched under the mysterious explanation that it was the place to submit and store content –

any content. The Google feed reader stores a searchable feed history, and now Google calendar is being integrated with Gmail and other services to give you the opportunity to store more of your information with Google.

Google is not releasing products to raise their brand awareness – they are releasing new products to gather more information and to learn how all this information works together. This information can be tied back to a registered user, and this information can be extracted using the various tools Google releases (such as Google's integration of Google Calendar and Gmail)

Just How Much Do I Want Them To Know?

If we are truly living in the age of information, then Google could become the world's most powerful entity. Although I have not seen any official study performed, I do not think anyone would be surprised if there is more information stored with Google than any other single company or group in human history. Even with all this information, they are still looking for more.

The question we need to ask is just how much information should one company be in control of? Would we balk if Google Wallet became a personal finance center where you could keep

track of your balances, pay bills online, and receive personalized financial reports (of course all searchable and integrated with Google Finance). Would this be the point where we grow uncomfortable with Google knowing just a little too much about us?

Every new Google product serves as a tool for Google to collect more information. Although the goal of collecting, organizing and making the world's information accessible by all may be an innocent enough goal, it should cause us to pause for a moment - do we really want Google to fulfill their mission?

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