Is Google the new Microsoft?

"Don't be evil," it turns out, is more than a mantra. It's a warning. And it's a warning that, so far, Google is heeding.
Written by Dana Blankenhorn, Inactive

Over at BNET, Erik Sherman says Google is making the same mistakes that transformed Microsoft during the 1990s from hero to villain, in the eyes of users and the government.

  • Google asks people to trust them without saying why.
  • Google's search engine market share is reaching Microsoftian proportions.
  • Google acts first and asks questions later, as with its troubled book scanning deal.
  • Google gives lip service to charges of monopoly, but makes no move to change, leading to increased government scrutiny.

Some of this is unavoidable.

If no one wants to Bing, Ask or Yahoo, you can't make them. As I wrote here last month, Google is the low-cost provider of web services, by a big margin. That's why YouTube can make money while Hulu goes searching for paid subscribers.

Google has also shown it "gets it," in important ways. Its new privacy dashboard, for instance, is cool -- who cares if most users don't yet care. Google has shown a willingness to open source its "secret sauce," letting other people play with what makes it powerful.

Yes, it does this in its own interest, not just because it created the corporate mantra "don't be evil." Even if users don't care about privacy, governments do. Giving people access to its tools makes the Web friendlier to what Google is doing, which is good for Google.

And the hassle over Google Books, which Sherman offers as the final evidence of Google perfidy, may just be like health care. It's an issue where everyone is a stakeholder and no one wants to compromise -- there may be no way to make everyone happy.

As I said, size makes enemies. As a company becomes dominant it grows a target on its back, and when arrows bounce off this can lead to arrogance, not just in the face of the market but governments as well.

This may yet happen. It's something Google needs to watch out for very carefully. Its success secrets can be copied, and the technology wheel will continue to spin, perhaps (as with tech companies since the dawn of ENIAC) beyond its control.

"Don't be evil," it turns out, is more than a mantra. It's a warning. And it's a warning that, so far, Google is  heeding.

Hopefully it will continue heeding it.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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