Google and the "capacity for audacity"

"Google's modus operandi is to step into a vacuum that used to be the function of the state. Think about Google Books as a cheap replacement for libraries, which should be connecting people to all that learning. Or consider the clumsy pseudo-diplomatic role Google played earlier this year in its showdown with China. We should have stopped believing the 'don't be evil' hype some years ago. Google has long asked to be treated as something special. But it's special in only one way: its capacity for audacity."—Siva Vaidhyanathan opining on the Google-Verizon net neutrality news of the day, over at MSNBC.com.

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  1. I’ve always thought it was supremely naive of anyone to assume a for-profit corporation could ‘not be evil’. The nearly dogmatic faith in google makes no sense to me; the only thing they do very well and very often is make technological innovations for the sake of making money. There’s nothing inherently ‘good’ in that.

    1. When I compare Google’s business practices and philosophy with, for example, Apple’s or Microsoft’s, the “don’t be evil” thing makes more sense. For the most part, I like the way they do things, as a business, that found a way to become enormously successful by giving away great stuff for free.

      1. But google makes money from the “free” stuff, so it’s not like they’re being selfless or cheritable, they are just exploiting peoples desire to get free things, in exchange for your personal information and internet habits (which you aren’t told about, so that’s evil to me)

        1. Of course they make money. That’s what I meant by “enormously successful” and “as a business.” I don’t know why so many people seem to think they were claiming to be a charity.

        2. “evil” would be if that was a secret from you.

          you heard “don’t be evil” and falsely assumed it meant “be good”, and now you’re let down by your own assumption. Good luck with that, the mistake is yours.

  2. At this rate, in a few more months Google will have a worse reputation than Microsoft or Comcast.

  3. I’d take everything published by a Microsoft owned outlet about Google with a pinch of salt, people are misguidedly angry about Google, while other big internet companies stood idly by when the net neutrality discussion began and made Google the only company to left handle left to fight big teleco, why not get angry about the telecos or other do nothing tech companies or the useless FCC?

    1. I agree, it’s crazy that all the anger about this situation is being directed at a corporation that’s acting like a corporation instead of at the governing bodies that should be setting the rules for this sort of thing in the first place. At the end of the day even a “non-evil” corporation is going to act in what it believes to be its own best interest.

      1. I think for many Google was their last hope against total cynicism. You expect big business to try and fuck you as hard as they can, you expect the government regulatory agencies to do whatever they can to help fuck you. Maybe Google really is change you can believe in…?

    2. Siva is hardly a Microsoft mouthpiece. He’s a freleance op-ed contributor for MSNBC. He is not beholden to Redmond.

  4. I like the part in their proposal where they say this proposed arrangement will be “controlled by the users” or something like that. Unfortunately for Google, there is no way to spin this past us – people are paying a lot more attention than they used to.

  5. Anybody see Katy Perry host the award show where she won Best Song, also conveniently having a new album release next week? How much anti-MSFT stuff have you seen on MSNBC lately?

  6. I think for many Google was their last hope against total cynicism. You expect big business to try and fuck you as hard as they can, you expect the government regulatory agencies to do whatever they can to help fuck you…?

    Maybe so. But let’s not blow things out of proportion here. Capitalism has yet to destroy civilisation, and Microsoft and Google, for all the anger they arouse, make great products that large number of people are happy to use.

    But I do agree with this: Don’t be loyal to thing (a product, a company, an organization). Be loyal to people or ideas if you want. But if you emotionally entangle yourself with a company you do business with, you’re probably asking for disappointment, because things/companies don’t feel emotion back.

  7. If the state has proven that they don’t give a shit, or have already fucked things up royally, then SOMEONE should step in… why not Google? Making money while solving a societal crisis is a good motivator.
    I have way more goodwill towards Google than I do most other megacorps.

  8. google isn’t really a conventional capitalist corporation. they are more like a communist bureau but instead of a small-thinking but practical philosophy, very much thinking big, like one of the mega-corporations described in the sprawl trilogy, except not an evil dynasty, they are creating their own internal economy, buying out or creating their own supply system (google energy), if you ask me, google represents a new form of human organisation, one that is combining many of the best things about capitalism and communism into one.

    google setting up servers inside the networks of isp’s is not even a new idea and it definitely doesn’t violate net neutrality principles. the isp i use, iinet, they have a huge set of servers related to other businesses, they run a steam content mirror, the australian public tv station ABC has their online video platform running from inside their network and is quota-free access for their users, iinet also runs an ftp containing most of the widely used linux distros (and a couple of bsd’s i think too) likewise on iinet you can get all your iso’s and updates from them quota free. iinet is the best isp in australia both in terms of value for money, quality of internet service and customer service.

    1. charities make money too. no organisation can exist without making money. same even with an individual, even in a barter system there is still an evaluation of equivalency of value between one commodity and another.

      and kozmund is correct. the whole point of google ‘not being evil’ is because ‘evilness’ destroys a business eventually. evil is a circumstantial word, usually used as an insult by one group against another, but also to describe a net loss to the whole. in sun tzu’s art of war the idea that sometimes it is neccessary to invade a neighbour and depose their government, this is similar to a disease situation – if you don’t quarantine carriers of disease, they hurt everyone, not just those performing the quarantine. or like a rotting limb, it has to be amputated or you wind up with further rot and possibly septicemia… so sometimes an aggressive and malicious act may seem, to the ‘victims’ as ‘evil’ but what proves whether it’s evil or not is if the society as a whole benefits. for example, jailing murderers. etc.

      so ‘don’t be evil’ doesn’t mean ‘don’t try to take over the world’ it means ‘don’t try to take over the world without improving it’.

      1. the whole point of google ‘not being evil’ is because ‘evilness’ destroys a business eventually.

        Does it? I guess in some circumstances it just takes evil an awfully long time to receive its comeuppance.

        Or maybe “evil” isn’t an apt descriptor for a corporation. Consider some of the more reviled corporate names of the last fifty years: Halliburton, KBR, ExxonMobil, DuPont, AT&T, Wal-Mart, Microsoft, General Electric… none of these companies have ended up going the way of Enron or Lehman Brothers. Was it because they just weren’t “evil” enough?

  9. But google makes money from the “free” stuff, so it’s not like they’re being selfless or cheritable, they are just exploiting peoples desire to get free things, in exchange for your personal information and internet habits (which you aren’t told about, so that’s evil to me)

    Google’s market share certainly gives their information-gathering machine an unrivalled scale, but your argument is the same as a thousand other people out there google-bashing because they think it’s an awesome trend.

    1) Personal information? Unless you enter your personal information on a Google service, then how are they going to get your personal information? If you enter your data anywhere else, expect it to be mined in a similar or identical fashion to the way google operates.

    2) Internet habits? Again – they only track you and share information as much as any other itnernet player. In any case, if this is a concern for you then a) use a proxy OR b) scroogle.org

    3) You are told about it, and anyone with common sense and basic tech knowledge should be able to guess anyway. Did you even read the terms and conditions? Have you been living under a rock?

    Finally, does the EFF jump up and down about google as much as the blogoshpere? No. The EFF is one of the few authorities that can be trusted and they don’t crap on about this issue like so many out there.

  10. If you compare it to companies like Enron or Lehman Brothers, or even some still-extant companies like KBR, I still see Google as, on the whole, not evil, in that it’s creating wealth for the rest of the world, and not destroying or consuming it. We’re better off with it than we would have been without it, on the whole.

    Though, by those standards, even the telcos aren’t evil, because they provide services people want, even though they’re customer-hostile, and in some areas, they’re monopolies. And it feels like Google has contaminated itself by colluding with one. Isn’t Verizon the one that lobbied to make community-wide wireless networks illegal in Pennsylvania? Likewise, compared to the telcos, even the twin nemeses Apple and Microsoft aren’t evil, since they’re not really monopolies anymore, and customers of any size can escape from their tendrils if it’s really important to them.

    Indeed, you could say Google can easily “not be evil” specifically because other successful companies have so much evil background noise. The incident with Google Buzz leaking everyone’s online behavior was but a portent of what’s possible, and people should be on their toes because of it. But the day has not yet come when Google has cost people their livelihoods or life’s savings, or received lucrative government contracts for which they don’t need to actually account for anything, or can otherwise be blamed for the sorry state of affairs the world is in. They have really a long way to go before they can really be considered that kind of evil.

  11. Google has agreed to a neutral internet, with verizon controlling its 3G services. It’s just mobile internet, what’s the big deal? It is fundamentally different than a 3G network.

    In the wired internet, your ISP connects you to some larger network that they do not control. On the mobile internet, you sign a 2 year contract, buy a proprietary phone, and use verizon’s satellites to connect. Verizon can do whatever they want with their satellites, as long as it doesn’t involve Goldeneye.

    Wireless internet does not mean wifi in this case, this isn’t the end of the internet. It is just the end of surfing the net on your verizon phone while driving, or maybe just the end of buying verizon.

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