Thursday, June 08, 2006
Google me this, Google me that--UPDATED Goggle me chicken
Look, if you are going to acquire a conscience, I’m going to invest elsewhere--Sometimes business leaders get hung on their scruples. Take for example, Google. Google, the world’s largest search engine, agreed to rules from the government of China that essentially censored the Internet, removing things the government did not want its citizens to see. Google, founded like most everything else in the world in the Stanford dorms, had long bragged that it had rules to do no harm in the world, and when it got out that they had agreed to censorship, they had a small hypocrisy problem. At first, the company defended the move. But this week, in an appearance in Washington that got surprisingly little publicity, one of the young founders of Google, Sergey Brin, admitted they may have made a mistake. Brin said Google agreed to censorship demands only after the Chinese blocked its service in the country. Want to do business in China? Obey the rules, “a set of rules we weren't comfortable with.”
"We felt that perhaps we could compromise our principles but provide ultimately more information for the Chinese and be a more effective service and perhaps make more of a difference," Brin said. “Perhaps now the principled approach makes more sense..." It's perfectly reasonable to do something different, to say, 'Look, we're going to stand by the principle against censorship and we won't actually operate there.' That's an alternate path," Brin said. "It's not where we chose to go right now, but I can sort of see how people came to different conclusions about doing the right thing."
The danger is real. Reporters Without Borders in Paris said Tuesday Google’s site in China was blocked in most Chinese provinces by the government and the whole operation was down May 31. The Chinese may be paying attention.
Meanwhile, more attention must be paid. Google was one of the few American corportions to tell the Justice Department to shove it in their illegal attempt to eavesdrop on citizens without warrants, so maybe they actually mean what they say.
UPDATE: After several writers, including moi, concluded that Brin was having a fit of conscience, he went out of his way to assure us this wasn't necessarily so. They are not making any changes. Chinese customers currently have two choices to Google. If they use the world-wide site www.google.com, they can get uncensored content but at very slow speeds. The Chinese ISP companies go out of their way to screw it up and make it unusable so the Chinese will migrate to www.google.cn, which is very fast and censored. Almost everyone in China uses the regular, uncensored site presently.
All the world hates finks, or at least someone else’s finks--If Google was leaning toward the high road, Yahoo was paying a penalty for taking the low road. The union representing journalists in the United Kingdom and Ireland called on its members to boycott Yahoo for its actions in China. The company apparently gave the Chinese government information that led to the jailing of pro-democracy writers. In a letter to Yahoo’s European headquarters, the National Union of Journalists denounced the company and said it would stop using all Yahoo services. "The NUJ regards Yahoo!'s actions as a completely unacceptable endorsement of the Chinese authorities," wrote Jemima Kiss, chairman of the NUJ new media council in the letter to Yahoo. Yes, Jemima Kiss. I think I'm in love. That's an actual picture of her.
Someday you’re gonna wake up and we’ve stolen the bed-sheets, the bed, the house, your car and your daughter--Meanwhile, there is more Google news and they sure as hell better be paying attention in Redmond, Washington. Microsoft, fat, stupid, disorganized and lazy as it is, got another wake-up call this week from Google. Google announced it was posting a beta of a spreadsheet program on the web. Excel it isn’t. It is nowhere as complex or as good a program as Microsoft’s spreadsheet but that’s not the point. It is on the web. It permits multiple users to access and use it--and it’s free. And things can be added and improvements made. It is part of Google’s move to put most of the programs most users need free on the web, challenging one of Microsoft’s main revenue sources. They posted a calendar program last month. Their gmail is stupendously successful, and rumors have it they are working on a word processing program. All of which makes Microsoft Office look like an endangered species. Add to that the problems Microsoft is having getting Vista, it’s new operating system, out the door, and you things may get fun out there.
[Picture of Sergey Brin and Larry Page of Google via AP, Jemima Kiss from NUJ, and fat and stupid by way of Donar Animations.]