Corporations and Hypocrisy: Inconvenient truths about Google

Google evangelist Tim Bray, whose Twitter jihad against Apple’s “curated computing” dissected here earlier, says:

Kontra genuinely loathes Google right down to the ground.

This, incredibly, is the same man who started his Google “evangelism” gig with the words “I hate it” referring to Apple and its App Store policies. In his new Corporations and Emotions post, he says I hate him essentially because I hate his employer, Google.

I know it’s a currently popular meme, but what’s with all this “hating” business? I neither hate Bray nor his employer. What I wrote speaks for itself, so I see no need to explain anything further, but just in case he’s not familiar with the history of this blog, though, I have covered and praised Google on many occasions in this space, on Twitter and elsewhere: Google shows Microsoft how to connect the dots, to cite one example.

Mine isn’t anthropomorphized corporate enmity. It’s simply exposing deliberate, pervasive and sustained hypocrisy. An example of a search and ad monopolist trying to misdirect public attention away from its own proprietary and opaque cashcows by an obsessive use of the “open” mantra. If Bray dismisses that as “hating” Google, so be it.

Bray is quick to reassure us about Google:

I can testify with some force that at Google there is a notable lack of conspiratorial intent to Do Bad Things With All That Data, but then you might choose to discount that testimony because of the logo on my paycheck.

For a high visibility person who gets paid specifically to promote his company to claim he doesn’t agree with major policies of his employer would be an unacceptable ruse. So let’s briefly consider, not Bray’s necessarily biased opinion of his employer, but public statements by notable Googlers. Because in the Googleplex alternate reality:

Google CEO Eric Schmidt, on CNBC never said: “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.”

Google’s European competition counsel Julia Holtz never said: “If someone forced us to [disclose how our search advertising business works], it would destroy our product.”

Google SVP, Product Management Jonathan, Rosenberg, never said: “In many cases, most notably our search and ads products, opening up the code would not contribute to these goals and would actually hurt users. The search and advertising markets are already highly competitive with very low switching costs, so users and advertisers already have plenty of choice and are not locked in. Not to mention the fact that opening up these systems would allow people to ‘game’ our algorithms to manipulate search and ads quality rankings, reducing our quality for everyone.”

Google CEO Erich Schmidt, at the Abu Dhabi Media Summit, never said: “Would you prefer someone else?…Is there a government that you would prefer to be in charge of this?” when asked why we should trust Google with all the data it collects on us.

Google CEO Erich Schmidt never blamed users for the Google Buzz privacy fiasco : “I would say that we did not understand how to communicate Google Buzz and its privacy…There was a lot of confusion when it came out on Tuesday, and people thought that somehow we were publishing their email addresses and private information, which was not true. I think it was our fault that we did not communicate that fact very well, but the important thing is that no really bad stuff happens in the sense that nobody’s personal information was disclosed.”

Google never denied and, when caught red handed, never admitted to snooping WiFi data either.

And so on.

Apparently, I “hate” Google since I criticized it, but obviously Google is not in the business of “hating” others like Apple because:

Google VP of Engineering, Vic Gundotra never raised the prospect of Apple as Big Brother: “If Google didn’t act, it faced a draconian future where one man, one phone, one carrier were our choice…That’s a future we don’t want.”

Google VP of Engineering and head of Android, Andy Rubin never compared Apple to a totalitarian regime:
“When they can’t have something, people do care. Look at the way politics work. I just don’t want to live in North Korea.”

And, of course, Tim Bray never started his career at Google by “hating” Apple, as his first public pronouncement.

Clearly, there’s no pattern of hypocrisy here. The problem is me, not Google. I’m “hiding behind [an] (albeit stylish) alias” and I’m an “anomaly,” as Bray puts it. Declaring opponents as being emotional, irrational fanboys, crippled by hate is a classic tactic of marginalization. Yes, it’s all my fault, I really should just let the Tim Brays, Andy Rubins and Vic Gundotras of this world convince everyone what’s good for Google is good for America.

P.S. I don’t work for Apple and never did, but a bit of gratuitous advice to Tim Bray by way of paraphrasing Steve Jobs: “For Google to win, it doesn’t need to demonize Apple.”

37 thoughts on “Corporations and Hypocrisy: Inconvenient truths about Google

  1. Kontra was correct to point out the melodrama from Google over the summer. The ADHD google is quite likely not finished yet either. Android’s main purpose was to destroy some of Apple’s business.too many ex Microsoft people at Google these days.
    A lot of emotion stirred up by Google over open vs closed. Left us with a lot of, my company is not as closed/evil as your company. When open was open Apple and Google were great partners. I don’t think Apple has changed. So what happened?
    News flash for anyone who thinks Google is open. There are as open as Apple or Microsoft. The open parts of any company have to serve the closed parts. And if you want to make money your company will be misty closed, else your doors close and the lights get turned off. The last time I checked, Google, Apple,and Microsoft were all making plenty of money. Closed = evil is really a load of crap. Microsoft was convicted of Anti-trust because they abused their Monopoly, not because they were closed.

  2. Hi,

    We’ve met on Twitter as well. I’ve always enjoyed your writing style. You are one rare breed of writers who write for the sheer passion, not for the sake of money (based on your hosting choice).

    I would like to invite you as a contributing writer at my blog – now hosted at my new domain. MyThumbprint.com is being developed into what I’d like to call “Social Branding” platform. The blog offers tips and tricks for personal branding (though it has other contents such as food and travel, to gain traction and traffic to the site).

    We can discuss profit-sharing later. Or you may want to host your blog under a subdomain, which I can allocate to you.

    counternotions.mythumbprint.com perhaps?

  3. Kontra: looking forward to when you have time and inclination to write again. A well thought piece, as your writing tends to be, takes time and can seem like a full time job. Yet, I’m sure you have one of those and Counternotions is a hobby.

  4. I always wonder about people or companies whose aspirations are not to do good but rather not to do evil. Makes me wonder if there is some reason for their focus on the negative, like maybe they feel predisposed to becoming evil. More respect to the company that is trying to change the world.

    If information is power, and power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely, then Google is headed down the evil path.

    Solution: change your search engine and don’t become addicted to the free crack they are peddling.

    http://duckduckgo.com/about.html

  5. Evangelist have a certain job and it’s not always one to be obviously truthful.

    To be straight forward: I’m on the pro Google side here and there is a reason for that.

    One doesn’t need to believe that Google isn’t doing any evil or is totally open on every aspect of their work, but there is an incremental difference between Apple and Google: Google needs an open Web to be successful.

    Apple on the other hand needs a closed, controlled system. In a way, the web is a very disruptive system for Apple, because the idea behind the web is that everybody, from every device can access everything on it. That counter productive for Apple, which is mostly a hardware company. They aren’t earning their money with software or services, but with hardware sales. That’s an incremental point for the discussion.

    So, if Apple is earning money with hardware, they need to insure the fact that their hardware is needed by services like iTunes or the App Store. The open accessibility of the open web is a big problem for them, because it doesn’t require their hardware to be accessed.

    So, nobody needs to believe that the other side isn’t lying or is manipulating the truth. Nobody does need to believe that Google is totally open, because they are not. Google isn’t even really good at giving back to the open source community, just take a closer look at the Android linux kernel situation. But the fact remains: Google’s success is with an open web, while Apple needs a closed, proprietary environment.

    • I like your honesty here but I don’t think your analysis stands up. You paint Apples efforts as anti-thetical to the web or at least to an open web yet Apple is actively engaged with pushing for an open web on all fronts. You also admit that Google isn’t “totally open” but that’s pretty much the only point Kontra is making. It’s a standard “Emporer’s New Clothes” kind of argument pointing out the hypocrisy of that position vis a vis there statements about the other players.

    • I think Apple is extremely interested in an open web. They want someplace always available that they cannot be shut out of. The whole WebKit play is to keep the web open for Apple. The whole point of allowing their competitors to use WebKit (and it is now the pre-eminent mobile browser) is that they do not want a repeat of the IE experience.

      Apple is quite confident that they can compete on a level playing field. They have every interest in insuring that no avenues are closed to them. An open web guarantees that they will always have access.

      What seems to throw people off is that Apple doesn’t view the open web as their only avenue. Just because they also travel down other paths does not negate their support for the open web. And, they actively and aggressively support the open web without claiming to be ‘open’. This is unlike a number of companies who claim to be ‘open’ but are actually only open in a few areas that fit their business model.

    • I also don’t think Apple’s “closed system” is antithetical to an “open web”. Afterall, it’s not a sub-set of the wider internet we are talking about here. Apple is not AOL or some other gatekeeper like a Comcast.

      What we are talking about are ways of accessing the Open Web — rather the INTERNET (vs. the WWW). Innovations on this front will come and go. What Apple is providing with it’s apps and app store is the opportunity for developers to create a customized, personalized way for their customers to access the Open Web. At the same time, iOS is perfectly at home with normal web apps, AND iOS provides the best mobile browsing experience through Open mobile browsers (which Apple is openly providing to others).

      If developers of websites want to provide an App IN ADDITION to an open standards website that can be accessed by any browser, then what is it to you or to Google? What Apple is NOT DOING is encouraging website developers to code for a single proprietary browser or plug-ins, a la IE of the past with .net and FrontPage extensions etc. Flash and Adobe Air are just more of this! This is the INTERNET — it extends or goes beyond the WWW.

      No, Apple is allowing developers to create something special — customized interactions wit the Open Web.

      This of course has Google’s panties in a twist. Google had thought it was enjoying the position whereby EVERY interaction with the web was in its domain! Google was like the silent gatekeeper for EVERYONE. It thought the web was its own backyard. The WHOLE WWW is like one big AOL and Google is that AOL.

      You can see how people are uncomfortable with Google. Now, Apple is sidestepping this a little bit, in order to provide people with a the UI, user-experience and customization they enjoy for the things they like to access; and Apple is making sure that there is something left that IS Open and that is not under the immediate nose of the big brother of the Web, Google. If developers see other good mobile devices and mobile OS’, then they can definitely provide special apps for them to access their data as easily (well not so easily, because Apple excels at this) as they are now providing them for iOS and iDevices.

      This is simply competition. It is NOT twisting and subverting something that is purported to be Open and universal, as was done by MS with java and proprietary website code (still a problem with banking, etc. online); nor is it dumbing down the web with inappropriate proprietary technology as Adobe has been doing; neither is it using bending the whole web to its own image, as Google is doing. Really, Apple is about the only “Open”-minded company out there!

    • You mention that Apple is closed as in their tie in with iTunes. Try entering in “iTunes alternatives” into hour favorite search engine.

      Yes, the app store is locked down, but for good reason. Current mobile phones have limited resources, battery life and are less secure. Hence Apple’s lock in. An unfortunate consequence of Apple’s control is they can not be associates with certain content eg porn so they censor content in the app store.

      If someone wants something outside the the app store there is the web and web apps which Apple does not control.

  6. Great article. Very interesting. Google appears more and more like skynet every day. When it comes to companies with huge amounts of your own information, you really have to wonder exactly what they are doing with it… And I guarantee that if the government wants that information, and they wave enough money in google’s face, they will have it.

  7. Google’s wild-wild-West type of doing business will harm America’s competitiveness. American corporations are getting lazier and lazier. They tend to jump on the easiest bandwagon hoping to make a living. They stop innovating and contract out the design and production of their electronic boxes to Asian manufacturers. This benefits Asian competitors tremendously as they learn and move up the value chain.

    Look at what Microsoft had done to American corporations such as HP, Dell, Compaq and a host of other promising companies that have gone out of business and that had jumped on the Window’s bandwagon. These corporations became mediocre and were reluctant to invest and take risks. On the other hand, Apple, which has to compete with all the PC giants, have no choice but to innovate. As a result Apple leads while others follow or become copy-cats.

    I am afraid Google would be a catalyst for the dumbing down of America’s competitiveness as more and more American firms that jump on the Google’s bandwagon will compete themselves out of business against Asian firms. More and more American jobs will be lost and a time may come when Americans would only be good at flipping burger or loafing on the streets.

    Google is the child of Satan because like Satan who also uses the Scripture to deceive, Google too is wearing the “Do no evil” clothing to camouflage itself from its evilness.

    Google is hoodwinking Americans that they can get free lunches without putting in the effort. It is trying to confuse freedom with destructive and immoral behavior. It is saying that it is alright to grab anything and does not respect privacy if it falls within the public domain.

    With Google nothing is accidental. They knew it and continued their nefarious activity until they were caught. The latest WiFi-snooping scandal has been going on for 3 years. Google is always operating on the borderline of criminality and is testing the limit of tolerance. The world of Google is the wild wild West where only 200-ton gorillas always win. And the rest are being steamrolled into oblivion.

  8. Schmidt: “Would you prefer someone else?…Is there a government that you would prefer to be in charge of this?” — Hello!?! When are people going to wake up? Google IS an arm of the government, and a very long one at that. When will people do the research? For crying out loud; they even park their not-so-small jets on Air Force tarmacs. And rivalry with Apple? Forgetaboutit… Wake up.

  9. Well done! And I agree with the previous posters on Google using the same old Microsoft strategy of making boatloads of money in one area so they can give other things away for free when the want to stamp out their competiton. To the aveverage end user Google portarays themselves like Santa Claus, but in return we give away our most personal info and eliminate a truly competititve ecosystem.

  10. Sorry to ramble but you closed on my favorite quotes; one that started to turn my opinion of Jobs from A-hole to a person worth some degree of respect. “For Apple to win…” has become a mantra I try to follow in dealing with competition. I walk away from companies that follow the inverse logic.

    I still hope Google has rogues within that “don’t get it” but when it is Schultz speaking I suspect they are playing with team sport attitudes. (The same attitude that taints US politics.) It seems there are factions in Google that have so much latitude that they can present their “go team, go” as the company stance.

    The success at Apple has not been through of vilification of the competition (like Gundotra et.al. did before the Apple hating “Open” devs) but by seeing market niches not currently well served and entering into those markets with the best product they can under current constraints.

    It seems the Google Android team is speaking to a Linux developer community that dislikes Apple for not living up to the dev’s utopian “Open” construct and sees the unrest from stirring the ferment as productive. To me, stirring unrest is a corollary of evil.

  11. Tim’s just doing his job and when people like Kontra begin to sway public opinion, Tim will be thrown to the trash and a new person will take his place. Unfortunately, when you use words like ‘hate’ and ‘loathes’ to move public opinion, it works really well in the short term but always ends badly for the person who used it. At least from what I’ve seen. Tim needs to renounce the use of the word ‘hate’ or he’ll be in the dumpster sooner rather than later. It’s the tact that Kontra seems to take with this article and it makes him appear more mature than Tim, which may be an illusion :)

    I hate all of you phony idiots!

  12. Google is killing the entire digital ecosystem with the notion that all content wants to be free and that the best way to monetize content is with clicks and ad impressions. They have us all fooled with the word “free”.

  13. And your championing of Apple “curation” isn’t hypocrisy? Google have rightly been championing the open Android platform. Classy or not they may be of it, they can be proud of it.

    And your counternotion ignores Android, and attacks their search and advertising? Search, a platform without any lockdown, and very strong reasons as to why its closed source?

    Sure asymmetric warfare and hate and all, but let’s compare Apples to Androids, not oranges.

    • He’s simply stating that Google has a monopoly, they are that draconian company that controls search and ads with their monopoly, so they shouldn’t be pointing fingers.

    • Android is somewhat open, but then again every key Apple product has Safari which provides open access to the Web. The only difference is that Apple doesn’t claim to be open, while Google makes it sound like they are the champions of open when they surely know that their key products are not. That’s hypocrisy – which Kontra so clearly points out, and which you clearly have failed to understand.

  14. You succinctly hit the nail on the head again Kontra. Yours is one of the most honest voices on the net today. Bray has sold any credibility he ever had by his ludicrous and inflamatory comments. It’s a trueism that shills like Bray, his Google buddies and most of the corporate media can’t handle someone that speaks the truth. And the truth is that the G boys sound more like Microsoft every day – even to the point of hiring them. Keep up your great writing and call it like you see it.

  15. Google is fast becoming the new Microsoft.

    Google has a monopoly with very little competition, just like Microsoft.
    Google is seeking to destroy competition via free give-aways, just like Microsoft.
    Google is trying to install it’s operating system in every computer not labeled Apple, just like Microsoft.
    Outside of its core business (search), Google hardly makes a profit, just like Microsoft.
    Google is trying to copy Apple, just like Microsoft.
    Google is paranoid, just like Microsoft.
    Google is hypocritical, just like Microsoft.

    • Hang on a sec, who just surpassed Microsoft in market value? Not google. Apple! Who’s just been slapped with an antitrust lawsuit? Apple! Who’s playing catchup with an increasingly larger number of smartphone features while Android blazes new trails? Apple! Who’s been steadily ramping up their legal department and making like the mother of all patent trolls? Apple!

      I’m sorry, but Apple is the new Microsoft if anyone is.

      Google is indeed fighting Apple. Where Apple would give us closed standards they control (e.g. h264), google is trying to give us more open standards. Where Apple seeks to control their platform and deny entry to anyone they don’t like (e.g. Adobe), Google is welcoming all and letting consumers decide.

      Yes, I know Google does some evil stuff. Apple does more evil stuff. I’m not saying we shouldn’t be concerned about privacy issues with Google. We should. I’m saying mac fanboys don’t have just cause to feel triumphant. In fact, they have far more to worry about than google fanboys.

    • There is no antitrust lawsuit against Apple. Period. Check your facts.

      Apple is sued by more patent trolls than any other company. Apple cannot be a patent troll, by definition, because it ships products. Apple has the right to sue when someone violates its patents.

      H.264 is a world open source standard. It is not controlled by Apple at all. Again check your facts. Google may want a patent free video standard but there is not one.

      Even MP3 is not a patent free standard for music. Yet it is an open standard. And every one pays the patent holder, Thompson, for it, including Google.

      Same with video.

    • If Apple is the new Microsoft, I can live with that. I can avoid Apple. I can’t avoid Microsoft.

      Apple may be doing many of the same bad things that MS has done for past couple decades, but in Apple’s case, people really have to go out of their way to be affected by Apple’s lock-in. I would still consider using a Mac if they weren’t so expensive compared to everyone else. It’s a good product and a good platform. I have no interest nor need for an iPhone/iPad/iWhatever when I can pick up a netbook and run XP (for games) or Linux (for everything else) and do anything I want with the device (which is also still relatively true with a Macbook Pro, plus the power cord jack doesn’t break like it’s done with most laptops I’ve had).

      Google is somewhere in between. I use its search engine because I believe it’s the best one out there. I also use some of its other utilities such as Google Calendar and Google Docs for collaboration at work (anything to avoid using Office is a win in my book). I could avoid Google, but it would be inconvenient. However, for what I get out it, I think it’s worthwhile. Google’s gathering and use of data is worrying, but much less so that anything the government is doing because they can’t (yet) destroy people’s livelihoods and lives the way the government can.

      The good news is Microsoft’s hegemony is being challenged. They became incredibly stagnant the more their monopoly was cemented. Firefox almost single-handedly turned IE from a dysfunctional, standards-hostile security sieve to a, well, less dysfunctional, less standards-hostile, less insecure browser, but it’s progress that would have never happened without competition.

      Vista showed that MS has nothing but contempt for their users by forcing them to use an upgrade they neither wanted nor needed. Having bought a low-end laptop for my wife that came with Vista, I can attest to their monopoly power. I upgraded the memory from half a gig to a gig and a half before I even booted it up and it was literally unusable with Vista, but worked great with Ubuntu and XP. And by literally, I mean literally… after clicking on an icon to launch Firefox, it would take 30 seconds… not for the app to come up, for the hourglass to appear. It was another minute or 2 before the app would launch. My floppy-based Amiga 500 wasn’t that slow. But with XP, the machine was snappy and nice to use. Only a monopoly could do that to their customers.

      I’m hoping that Apple and Google can continue to challenge Microsoft because Microsoft _can_ do good, but only when it’s forced to. Its natural inclination is to sit on its users’ heads until they pay more money. MS just gave MS a great big kick in the nadgers by acquiring Palm and bailing on Windows Mobile and 7. Microsoft will probably retaliate, which is bad, because the real victims are always users, but in the meantime, perhaps they will work to provide a more attractive platform for phones and tablets.

      Competition will keep the state of the art advancing, give consumers real choices and real value, and keep us from being stuck with bad products.

    • Google now has a monopoly on both search and ads. IAd from Apple will only hit 3 % or so of the cellular phone market while Google has everything else. There is little alternative. Microsoft Bing sucks. Yahoo is a goner. What is left? This is why European regulators keep a close eye on Google, particularly since it collects so much personal data on people.

      Apple has no monopoly. There are numerous alternatives to Apple in any market. There are large voracious competitors to Apple everywhere – such as Google and Microsoft and Sony, etc.

      No one needs to buy Apple. At all.

      But there is hardly any alternative to Google. And their search protocols are proprietary. Anywhere Google makes money, it is proprietary. Google is not for everything open. What it says is hypocritical.

    • Talk about alternate reality. Google fanboys should really use Google to check their facts before they post. It would be totally less embarrassing to their cause.

    • Commenters do not have to check facts, they just spit conjecture/ conspiracy / and SOC (stream of consciousness) to let rumor do the damage.

  16. I didn’t know about no one knowing who you were in person. Never quite cared as it is the counternotions that I come to read (and enjoy). But since you mention alias, how’s this for a conspiracy theory: You are Tim Bray. Naaah! that would be evil.

    Come on Kontra, why suddenly the thin skin? Ignore the mouthpiece and quit giving him unwarranted traffic.

  17. > And, of course, Tim Bray never started his career at Google by “hating” Apple, as his first public pronouncement.

    A reference for this would be good, because the blog post you linked to doesn’t actually say this. What Bray says, presumably from the POV of a developer, is that he hates the restrictions on iPhone OS development. He goes on to say he remains a satisfied consumer of Apple’s electronics products.

  18. Is it just me, or have these Google “believers” actually started to sound/look increasingly like those Microsoft “supporters”?

  19. Spot on. The Google I/O conference keynote was truly cringe inducing. Let the products do the talking. Google came off looking really cheap.

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