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Wondering about Google...

Posted by editor on October 7, 2009 at 10:08 AM PDT

Some years ago, on a technology publishers mailing list, I questioned whether Google's "Don't be evil" slogan had any real meaning. I was immediately rebuked once it was discovered that I hadn't even tried out some of the Google services that were under discussion. But, among the reasons I hadn't tried all the services was that I was wary of the massive agglomeration of information of all types that was accruing within Google's databases and servers. This V'GER-like gathering of all the information in the world that can possibly be gathered into one place, to me, seemed to at minimum lay the groundwork for the possibility of misuse in the future. Not that that's happened (to my knowledge). But still, to me, there's always seemed to be a bit of the "bully" in Google's swagger and its approach to extending its tentacles into new markets. And why do you have to explicitly say "Don't be evil?" Isn't that a given?

In more recent years, quite a few other people have come to find some of the behemoth's actions disconcerting. For example, there was the lawsuit over Google's decision to just start scanning in books and presenting their content online. Some thought that was a bit of overreach, possibly a violation of copyright laws.

More recently, people are wondering about Google with regard to the network neutrality debate. Network neutrality as Google would like it to be enforced turns out to be quite beneficial for the Google business model -- while that same "neutrality" ensures that the transport extremely heavy (in byte size) internet content will be paid for in part by people whose use of the web is quite lightweight.

Next, there's Google Android. Is it Java? What about the Java Community Process? As Simon Morris noted, Android "caused a minor stir" when it was initially launched. It seems to me that the stir has only increased over time.

Terrence Barr points out that "Google's Android philosophy may not be exactly what the developer community and open source advocates was hoping it to be" in his recent post Google Andriod: "Cease and Desist". Terrence points to some news that is apparently surprising many people, namely the cease-and-desist order Google has aimed at Cyanogen. "This is a weird one," says Dan Nosowitz in the Gizmodo post he wrote upon seeing the news. The comments people are leaving are quite interesting too.

Maybe the Cyanogen issue is a bit more serious than Microsoft's attack and subsequent gifting of Mike Rowe over his incredibly threatening web site, or the McDonald's fury over one little Malaysian restaurant named "McCurry" (even if the owners were a bit disingenuous in saying the name really stands for "Malaysian Chicken Curry" -- shouldn't it be "MCCurry" in that case?).

Still, for a company that seems to like to barge right into territories that already have established players and rules, and do things the new way, the Google way, making up its own rules as it goes along -- one wonders why they would take such offense when someone wants to use their stuff as a basis for creating something new and unique that Google didn't think of?

Finally, Malcolm Davis just posted a Response to Bruce Eckel's Google Chrome Changes the Game, in which he points out that the road ahead for Chrome is "fraught with perils."

Seems like a lot of people are wondering about Google these days...

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If you have ever wondered how to generate a getter and setter automatically using the NetBeans IDE, well view this minicast.

Malcolm Davis has posted a Response to Bruce Eckel


The "wondering" isn't about Google's technology...

In saying that I and others are "Wondering about Google," I don't see the question as being Google's technology. Google produces great technology. What I "wonder" about is the business attitude. When management flaunts a slogan like "Don't be evil" -- well, clearly, the statement being made is that at least one company that competes with Google is evil. To me that's a bit much. Like, Google execs haven't been highly focused on the market value of GOOG since even before it went public?

If they're saying there's something "evil" about a company endeavoring to be the dominant player in their business realm, then I consider that hypocrisy, since clearly Google wants to be dominant in its various business realms (just like Microsoft, Oracle, IBM, Yahoo!, AT&T, ...). It's the implication that "we're different in terms of business ethics" that has always bothered me. What I see is: same objective to dominate, just a different strategy (one that has worked quite well in today's technology milieu, clearly).

Google produces great technology. However, I find the Holman Jenkins argument (that the real objective behind Google's advocacy of network neutrality is that the regulations will work to Google's financial advantage) convincing:

for all the grass-roots pose, net neut has always been a weapon in the hands of status-quo companies trying to protect themselves against technological change. First AOL, now Google: A lot of things may be new under the sun, but regulatory incentives aren't one of them.

In terms of their way of doing business, Google doesn't stand out for me as being any less crass than companies like Microsoft that are the frequent recipients of bashing by developers.

But, yes, Google has produced great technology to date!

Android and Java

Well, Android is not exactly Java as specified by the JCP, but so is JDK 7, since there is no JSR. Google did a terrific job with GWT, allowing my Java code to execute as lightweight JavaScript in a browser instead of a - still heavyweight - JVM, and with Android, my Java code can execute in whatever form on a huge mass of future mobile phones. Good news for Java developers.

Is it cool to dis the competition?

Ye who live in glass houses, shouldn't throw stones. Let ye without sin cast the first stone.


pmattheis: Just to be clear, the editor (me) works for O'Reilly, not Sun. Yes, is a Sun-sponsored site, but the vast majority of contributors to are not Sun employees. So, Google is not "my" competition; nor is it's competition. I've just noticed a lot of recent talk that backs up my early view that, as a business, Google isn't as ethically special as they seem to like to portray themselves as being.