What do the last three Presidents of the United States have in common with Google?
Whatever you think of Bill Clinton, George W. Bush or Barack Obama, most admit some of their critics have been, well, a bit strident. A little out there.
It hasn't helped. The stridency played into the hands of all three men, who used it to whip up their own supporters. See, the supporters would say, our critics are deranged, so we can't be that bad.
It's almost as if there is a law in politics that we raise people up, then knock them down, maybe raise them up to knock them down.
The same may also be true in the computing business. In the 1980s IBM was seen as the face of implacable evil. It was replaced in the 1990s by Microsoft. Now it's Google.
What I want to know is, where is the evidence? Where is the evidence that Google is evil, or has done evil? I try to read all the critics and mostly what I see are intimations of what they might do.
They might use their digitizing of books to control the book market.
They might use their collection of personal data against you.
They might tie their Android phones and Chromium PCs to Google services and lock others out.
They might create a search monopoly.
They might kill the newspaper business.
They might take over the DNS market, and while they would be better than competitors it's still evil.
As I have noted many times this year, Google has a big cost advantage in providing Internet services of all kinds, so as demand rises for any service it gains. But I have yet to hear anyone offer a coherent argument as to why that is a bad thing.
Someone is always going to have a cost advantage. That advantage should inspire others to compete. That's what makes capitalism great. Think of it as evolution in action.
It's true that with great power comes great responsibility. We are right to be suspicious. But you don't call in the cops before there is some evidence of a crime, until power has been abused. IBM's problems in this regard date to the 1950s. Microsoft has still not overcome its reputation from the Netscape days even though people disagree on whether the smoke meant fire.
The great thing about Google's unofficial mantra, "don't be evil," is that it's a warning. It is designed to keep Google clean in the face of great scrutiny.
Yet many, many people -- here and elsewhere -- insist that the biggest contributor to, and user of, open source software is evil, or has evil up its sleeve, evil intents, or evil ambitions.
Where is the evidence? What evil has Google actually done? Not threatened to do, not implied through otherwise-legitimate actions. What harm has it caused?
In terms of our Presidents or our past computing masters of the universe, critics have had answers at the tip of their tongues.
What has Google done to deserve its evil reputation? Or is it all sour grapes?