Of course, we've yet to give you any real reason to not use their product. The reason people got fed up with Microsoft is that it sucked. Well, nobody's fed up with Google yet because Google has refused to suck. As long as they continue putting out a superior product, we'll keep using them. And as long as we keep trusting them, they have no reason to do anything shady with all that dirt they've got on us. Everyone wins.
That's all correct, so far. But it's easy to be the good guy when you're making so much money that the U.S. government feels the need to step in and essentially say, "No fair!" However, last spring with the launch of Buzz, Google showed us how they might react in the face of a little healthy competition, and it was a panicky pants shitting mess.
Like the rest of us, the folks at Google had been reading that sites like Facebook are starting to usurp Google's place as the "hub" for most people's online lives. Buzz was their attempt to drink Facebook's milkshake. Competition is the life-blood of capitalism, and capitalism is what gives us access to cocaine, the mighty KFC Double Down and advanced heart-valve replacement techniques. If Google had wanted to release their own standalone service or social networking website and try to do Facebook one better, that would have been fine.
Instead, Buzz automatically published the contact information for everyone you communicate with on your profile page. "Harriet Jacobs," a blogger with an abusive ex-husband and a history of death threats from Internet crazies, found her entire private life made public to a legion of potential stalkers. The decision to link a service designed for public broadcasting of information to people's private email accounts isn't just a minor brain fart. It's a sign of a major issue with their corporate philosophy. Google was so eager to enter the social media game that no one at Google ever wondered if maybe, just maybe, there were some things people didn't want to share with everyone they'd ever emailed.
Best case scenario, they panicked in the face of competition. Worst case scenario, they knew exactly what they were doing, and just didn't care because they didn't have to care. What are you going to do about it?
"We could do that, but who would photoshop your face onto to every gay porn screen cap on Image Search?"
When Google stood up to China, it was because they'd had enough of that oppressive regime and their censorship policies. Google was a comparatively small company standing up to a nation of billlions. It was a clear cut David and Goliath battle of Good versus Evil.
Google had cooperated with China's censorship policies for years. The thing that motivated the change in Google's policy had nothing to do with Chinese censorship. It was a ballsy move, but one they made to protect their greatest resource: The oceans of information they've been collecting for a decade, and the software they use to get it and make sense of it.
Google is not staffed by wizards.
This makes a lot more sense when you realize what Google realizes: That they are currently as powerful as most nations on the planet. According to Google Watcher Scott Cleland, "In monitoring Google as closely as I do, it has become increasingly clear that Google does not believe it has to obey the rules, standards, regulations and laws, that others routinely obey and respect. Google increasingly operates like a self-declared, virtual sovereign nation, largely unaccountable to the rules and mores of the rest of the world."
While Google doesn't use all that information for evil, it's a nice insurance policy to know that they could if they wanted to. Essentially, Google is in the "get the world by the balls" phase of their business plan, and they're just waiting to see if anyone's going to make them squeeze.
See, Google isn't just keeping data on you and your friends. Over 60 percent of U.S. state governments have "Gone Google" and now use one or more Google enterprise apps. Thousands of gigabytes of government data, all held in Google's servers. As security expert Sherri Davidoff puts it, "Google now controls our government's access to its own data."
Google versus China is just the undercard. The really interesting battle will happen if the Justice Department decides to follow through on its plans to make Google this decade's Microsoft. That's when we get the main event: Google vs. U.S. Government. It should be a pretty good fight as long as the Government can get used to being the underdog for once.
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