Google Buzz was not a great moment in the history of Google. It seemed to bring to the surface a lot of lingering bad feelings that people have been having about Google for some time. The botched Buzz release only made it worse, confirming people's worst fears that Google didn't give a fig about your privacy. More than one writer suggested it was time to stop using Google tools. Then the news hit yesterday that Google was getting sued by the European Union for anti-competitive practices. Last week, the US Justice Department approved the Microsoft-Yahoo! deal stating the deal could help check Google's power in the search market.
Once a company reaches a certain reputation with the public (and with government regulatory bodies), it's hard to change that perception, a lesson Microsoft learned the hard way. It's never easy being the top dog. It's human nature to want to see you taken down a notch. It's common in sports and business. People get tired of the same team/company winning, but there could be something deeper at play here, something more fundamental, and Google would be wise to pay close attention.
Google Is Everywhere
I know I'm not the only one who is uncomfortable with amount of data Google has been able to collect about us. The thing about Google is they offer good tools online for free, but there is really no such thing as a free lunch. Google's price is your data.
Now, I know Google CEO Eric Schmidt will tell us, that Google is not capable of doing evil, as he said last fall in an interview, which I reported on in this blog in the post The Incredible Arrogance of Being Eric Schmidt. Here's what Schmidt had to say at the time:
"If we went into an “evil room” and had an “evil light” shined on us, and we then behaved in an “evil” way we would be destroyed… there is a fundamental trust between Google and its users.”
I got a real kick out of that one, as I'm sure a lot of Google users did. We may use Google tools, Eric, but we aren't naive. We get that you are using this data for your own purposes.
Google Tools May be Good, but is that Enough?
The fact is though that we are all responsible for Google's success. We use their search engine because it's really good at finding the sites we want. We use GMail because it's a really good email tool that does a terrific job of controlling Spam. Google Earth is simply awesome. Not every tool is the best of class, but they have a lot of good (free) tools and that's tough to ignore.
At the same time, Google is a major corporation with shareholders to answer to. It's also a company that is attempting to do what Microsoft did before it, control our computing lives. Perhaps we as users have gotten to a point where we feel compelled to rebel. I don't blame anyone who gives up on Google, and Google should keep this in mind.
Convenience can only take you so far, and as long as there are credible alternatives out there, Google needs to remember that its users should come first. Otherwise, they could find themselves in the position of Microsoft, fighting an uphill battle against negative perception in the marketplace and within regulatory bodies, and that is definitely not a comfortable place to conduct business.