Google 'instant intranet'? Google Apps TOS say not so instant

For companies considering implementing Google Apps, the "devil is in the details," especially when the details are subject to "do no evil" Google.
Written by Donna Bogatin, Contributor
For companies considering implementing Google Apps for Your Domain, the “devil is in the details,” especially when the details are provided by “do no evil” Google. In “Google's not so fine print: Google Apps TOS put Google first,” I consider the prospective negative implications of Google Apps’ restrictive TOS on companies evaluating implementation.

In "Google's instant intranet" fellow ZDNet blogger Marc Orchant postulates on the attraction of a Google Apps customized Start Page for small firms:

I suspect a number of smaller organization who haven't invested in any kind of an intranet solution could put this to pretty good use. Imagine your company's logo and a set of modules pointing to company resources or third-party hosted web apps occupying a defined portion of the page.

Google, however, says not so fast, literally. Below is the Google Apps TOS for "Start Page Content" with pertinent restrictions highlighted:

Start Page Content. Customer may use the administrative console of the Start Page Service to add modules of Customer provided content to the Start Page ("Customer Content"). Customer may develop "gadgets" for inclusion in the Start Page Service using the API and development information and by executing the Google Gadgets API Terms of service.  Furthermore, Google may provide access to other content for Customer or End Users to enhance the Start Page (such as current news and weather information) from publicly available sources or which Google licenses from third parties ("Additional Content"). Customer Content shall be hosted by Customer and contained in the modules identified as Customer's content on the Start Page. Customer Content may promote Customer products or services, but in no event will such modules promote products or services from any other third party without Google's prior written consent. Customer Content shall conform to Google's reasonable technical requirements, including but not limited to size, dimensions and language, and Google's content policies.  Areas on the Start Page not reserved for Customer Content may be modified by Google from time to time at its sole discretion.  Notwithstanding the foregoing, the parties further acknowledge that End Users will have the ability to make personal customizations to certain aspects Start Page through an End User Account, and such customization may include moving or removing modules, whether containing Customer Content or Additional Content, and/or including new content from third party content providers (e.g., via RSS feeds or similar).  The parties further agree that revenue generated, if any, from each party's content on the Start Page (excluding AFS Online Services pursuant to Section 3.2) shall be retained by such party and shall not be subject to any revenue sharing or payment commitments hereunder. 

Appropriate Customer Content.  Customer agrees that all Customer Content is the sole responsibility of Customer.  Google reserves the right, but shall have no obligation, to pre-screen, refuse or move any Customer Content available via the Start Page Service. Without limiting the foregoing, Google and its designees shall have the right to remove any Customer Content or other content that violates this Agreement or is otherwise objectionable...

Google's cheery customer-facing FAQ, however, is all goodness:


The personalized start page is a syndicated version of the Google personalized homepage, allowing you to set up dynamic homepages for your users that bring together your content, Google services, and the best of the web.

The personalized start page uses the same technology as the Google's personalized homepage, but lets you create a customized version of the page that is tailored to your users. Combine your own content with additional external content and modules of your choice, and tailor the look and feel of the page with different logos, colors, and fonts. End users of the page still have the ability to incorporate any content from the web, or any Google Gadget, enabling them a degree of customization over the content of the page.

Companies of any size considering implementation of Google Apps, or using any Google service, for that matter, are well advised to go beyond Google's public relations, marketing and "help" documents. In the Google world, the devil is truly in the details and the details can only be had in the cold, hard Terms of Service.

I conclude "Google's not so fine print: Google Apps TOS put Google first" by noting:

When it comes to an organization's applications hosting, Google's "free" comes at a heavy cost.

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