Be thankful for Mozilla: The least evil tech company of them all?

Summary:With so many criticising Facebook, Google, Apple and Microsoft over the years, no longer favouring the old favourties like arms dealers, has Mozilla turned out to be the 'nicest' company in the world?

This is my 666th post. But don't read too much into that.

Public perception is a commodity of which companies throw millions of dollars at a year, if not more. A company will have various sub-departments which handles their own perception in a different way, usually singing to the same finely tuned song of the directorship.

But over the years, instead of the more obvious targets being harassed as the "corporate bad guy" such as ammunition companies, licensed arms dealers and fossil fuel suppliers - those which have a wider cultural dent on society, the technology companies are getting the flak.

Why? Partly because of the social nature behind technology and the blurred lines between the open communications of the company, and the enthusiastic nature of followers which in turn take technology as their means of spreading their own views. But mostly, because everyone is involved.

Let's take four separate companies, all highly influential in modern culture and technological development - all of which thrive off rivalling one another, or allying with one to beat another. Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Apple. Seeing as they are Generation Y focused companies (on a good level), who really holds the evil hands of doom?

Apple

Apple CEO Steve Jobs poked fun at Gizmodo at his keynote speech at WWDC where he announced the new iPhone 4G, by asking viewers to "stop him if they've already seen this...". With lawsuits flying out to bloggers and journalists, arguably protected under constitutional law from freedom from harassment and suchlike, Apple still went in for the jugular to bring about restorative justice.

And the separate issue of Antennagate certainly caused some serious problems for the company; not only in public perception but equally in stock price.

Facebook

Privacy, privacy, privacy. Need I say more, really? Even Tim Berners-Lee, the creator of the world wide web, is concerned over a 'fragmented web' with the might and power of Facebook forcing users into a 'data dead end'.

Data is hugely powerful to major companies like those included in this post. But only Google and Facebook rely on the collection of data as a primary principle, as without it they would not have a service. Transparency with data practices and

Google

"Don't be evil", the informal slogan of the company seemed to fall foul in recent months, especially since the Street View scandal, where cars 'accidentally' collected unencrypted data from wireless networks. That caused a massive stinker and even brought up the potential for fines and criminal investigations. The recent net neutrality co-ordination also caused a stir, favouring an opposition to a neutral, fair web.

Google should have heeded their own advice, or at least not created such a slogan in the first place, knowing that in business it's almost inevitable.

Microsoft

On the most part, I would argue that Microsoft gets most of the bullets from the firing squad. With an aggressive licencing system and genuine software validation, it has caused misery to so many people trying to pirate Windows and other software. But, they do a great deal for charities, non-government agencies and the wider third sector, including research to help those in most need.

But, on the evil scale, frankly there are too many possible things to dive into, so by all means just take my word for it.

Mozilla wins?

As a non-profit organisation which builds free and open-source products for hundreds of millions of people around the world, not only for the desktop but in the mobile space too, Mozilla is pretty kosher.

I do believe that the very vast majority of the negative press around Mozilla's work focuses on one (large, granted) aspect of their work and that product is Firefox. Users complain about security flaws and bugs, occasionally slowness compared to Chrome or IE9 perhaps, but on the whole the practices for dealing with these issues are vastly better than that of closed-source products.

From Bugzilla to community driven forums, and the very nature of open-source software so ordinary users can tweak the code to make it safer and more secure means an open community of feedback.

What do you think? (oh, and happy Thanksgiving. I still don't get it, but apparently it's bigger than Christmas over there. Fair 'enuf).

Topics: Google, Apple, Hardware, Microsoft, Mobility, Social Enterprise, Wi-Fi

About

Zack Whittaker writes for ZDNet, CNET, and CBS News. He is based in New York City.

zdnet_core.socialButton.googleLabel Contact Disclosure

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Related Stories

The best of ZDNet, delivered

You have been successfully signed up. To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center.
Subscription failed.