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Jun 18

Keeping Google honest; The power of not being defensive

Google, Tech Add comments

Shake Hands

I may, or may not, agree with the opinions of Steve Yegge

Being an employee of a large company is interesting. If you work for companies like Apple, Microsoft, Yahoo!, and many others, you will have some of the same experiences. You represent the company. You hang out at a wedding and someone finds out “oh, you work for Google.” You wonder what is coming next. Should I have remembered me t-shirt that says “Just because I work for Google doesn’t mean I will fix your computer”? Will you get the “can you fix this one issue with my Gmail” thought? Or, the “man your search ruuuuules”, or the “Are you big brother?”

I have learned not to be at all defensive if I get asked questions about privacy and data. In fact, just last week, one of the nice chaps who created Masterplan The Movie showed up to an event in Munich. He kindly said hello and we started to talk about some of the issues. I think that he may have expected me to get defensive.

The problem is that I can’t “prove” that Google believes in its “Don’t be evil” mantra. I personally believe in it, and have seen it in action on a daily basis, but you may not have. How could you just take my word? What I can do is ask you to look at our actions, both in the past, and in the future. Google’s entire business model requires trust. You could switch from google.com to another search engine very easily indeed. There is no lockin there. So, we need to provide you the best search results available, and we need you to trust us that this is the case.

Trust came up the other day when someone blogged about the Ajax Libraries API launch. As you know, the launch was all about how we are hosting popular open source JavaScript libraries, and the skeptics quickly wondered why Google would do that. “What is their business motive.” One chap pondered on the fact that if we were delivering jquery.js to him, we could put any old JavaScript in there to do anything we wanted. Maybe we would add some kind of tracking to help us target ads.

Again, rather than arguing “hey we are good guys”, it was easier to talk about reasons why that may not make sense.

For example, a lot of sites use Google Analytics, and embed urchin.js in their pages. A lot of sites. We could do anything we want there too, but why would we. If we got caught out can you imagine the blogosphere. Arrington would be shouting bloody murder about Google. We would lose trust, and that would hurt.

Some may grow frustrated with the skeptics, but I applaud it. There are a lot of people from within that are pushing boundaries. Internal Googlers are not shy about calling fowl if they see it happen. With people watching every move of Google, especially with the high bar that we set with the motto, we are more likely to truly do the right thing. If we step over the line, people are there to shout back and us, and that keeps us honest.

So, thanks for the skeptics. I won’t try to persuade you how good we are at Google, just keep on watching.

3 Responses to “Keeping Google honest; The power of not being defensive”

  1. john andrews Says:

    Hey Dion thanks for your honesty and concern, and thanks for the validation (for those of us who believe Google is worthy of our critical attention).

    It is very comforting to be able to feel optimistic when criticizing Google, as opposed to that sense of dread often experienced when facing an absolutely monstrous, unstoppable beast of a monopoly; on ecapable of doing whatever it wants anyway.

    You join Matt Cutts as an appreciated voice from the ‘plex. And by the way, Matt’s been referring to Ajaxian as an example of successful do-what-you-love content publishing these days.

  2. S. Schokker Says:

    Hello Dion,

    Can I ask you a quick question about Google?

    Is Google honest about pageranking for not paid websites who are not using Google’s Adwords and don’t use Google products?

    Because here in the Netherlands I think Google and pageranking of websites goes by many different parameters and so on. Even when trying SEO some days you are on top of your chosen SEO words in Google, other days you are gone and not even found? I’ve been testing this lately and I realy don’t get it why Google and his bots do something like that to page results on search words?

    And is Google doing business by it’s own rules? And proposals?
    And as for the G1 phone can we expect the same, or even more controled information data, about people…? Realtime big brother…

    Maybe you could give me some answers… when you want and have???

    With kind regards,

    S. Schokker
    Amsterdam.
    the Netherlands
    http://www.schokker.biz/consultancy ( in Dutch )

  3. Kate M Says:

    I think that there are a number of people in China who would disagree that Google always follows its mantra.

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