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Summary:

As the web is changing to become more mobile and social, consumer behavior is also changing, and that makes things difficult for companies like Google, who have to somehow find their way in a new world while still not “being evil.”

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“With ‘Don’t be evil,’ Google set itself up for accusations of hypocrisy anytime they got near the line. Now they are on the defensive, with their business undermined especially by Apple. When people are defensive they can do things that are emotional, not reasonable, and bad behavior starts.”

Roger McNamee, a longtime Silicon Valley investor whose investments include Facebook in  The New York Times.

When companies get defensive, they do unnatural things, they lose their way. This deviation from tactics comes when companies find themselves facing market saturation at a time when consumer behaviors change. It is something I have learned from observing Silicon Valley giants closely for many years. Google is but the latest example.

As the amount of information grew exponentially, Google benefitted from the move away from the directory web that was represented by Yahoo. Now the web has moved on to being more social (Facebook) and more mobile (Apple, others) and as a result our behaviors are changing. That has caused Google to go after new markets – mobile with Android and social with Google+. These moves are making companies take actions that are, well — unnatural.

The New York Times in an article ponders Google’s dilemma: the company whose corporate mantra is “don’t be evil” and one who faces a competitive landscape filled with aggressive, well-funded and equally big competitors. At the same time, the company is facing more regulatory scrutiny.

Related: Don’t be evil is not a slogan or a browser extension.

  1. That NY Times article was a waste of time. Just a bunch of speculative stuff and opinions. It didn’t give a single specific instance of Google doing something evil other than the issue from several years ago when Google was found to be collecting private WiFi info when recording street view data. And the article classified that as “latest”. Also, it was a generic article about the modern Internet industry in general and not about Google in particular. It merely used Google’s “Don’t be evil” line as a bait for readers. It’s no surprise that this Gigaom article used Google’s name in the same way. After all it serves the dual purpose of pulling in readers to the current useless article and of pointless Google bashing.

    1. Your knee-jerk defense of Google is causing you to miss the point. The NY Times article and this one are discussing the fact that Google is responding to threats or perceived threats or even to the danger that they might be perceived as “evil” rather following their own vision and leading the way. The “Don’t Be Evil” motto is symbolic of this. It’s no guiding star, no compass in times of trouble. Rather it’s a magnetic south pole that repels but offers no direction.

      If Google has lost their way its because their compass tells them which way not to go but gives them no guidance as to the path they should be forging.

      1. Nope, not defending Google. Only asking for specific instances of when they were supposedly evil. The original article paints a false dichotomy that it’s a choice between not being evil or being very successful in the tech industry.

        As for Google’s compass, you forget another statement of Google that’s more popular and powerful than “Don’t be evil”. It’s the one about organizing all the information in the world. In that respect, more than 90% of everything Google does is tied to a single mission one way or the other.

        I don’t have any need to defend Google. But I do want to see a good, relevant, factual critique of Google. Unfortunately, 90% of Google’s criticisms are complete b.s. A lot of it is bait to make readers read a worthless article. I don’t have time for that.

        So, now that I have debunked your “no compass” criticism, do you wanna try again?

  2. “When people are defensive they can do things that are emotional, not reasonable, and bad behavior starts.”

    What always cranks me up if people imply that if we all would be rational all the time everything would be fine.
    Here’s a thought:
    Scientific progress is based on the irrational thoughts of a person or group. Or welcome to the world is not flat.
    As a VC well he’s a VC, but as a musician he should know better.

    I think think the problem is not rational or not, it’s inflexibility.

    1. Ronald, excellent point! History has shown many examples of “rational destruction” and irrational beauty.

      The articles here on Gigaom and at the NYT are aimed at misdirection (investors in FB, after all). Google has made legitimate progress in mobile & social, and the tone and topic from the authors make them appear, well, emotional.

  3. Search is enhanced DNS. As long as we need DNS Google will make a ton of money. Social is not a threat to Google, since users will not share stuff that matters owing to privacy concerns. But mobile could be a threat, although that has not yet come to pass.

  4. I think OM is one of the biggest Apple’s culitos kisser. The sad part of it; OM or Gigaom need not do that to be “invited” to Apple events.
    @A S nails the argument for me. Peace out.

  5. Stealing apples design from secret board meetings is pretty fing sleazy … Consolidating all your search to sell ads is sleazy when u insist it’s to make your life easier … Or equating apple & Facebook to north Korea or Syria just because they are crushing google? More sleaze – to insist they are open source when they are just a different closed … They want other source codes but what have they contributed? Stealing underlying java code? Google is one trick pony – they are great ad sales guys NOTHING MORE. They think they are proving drinking to kids in Africa. They are great ad sales guys – they have FAILED at every other business – they can defeat ms & yahoo search -beyond that, they are full of hot air and actually pretty stupid – have thy closed 100 business units n 10 years?

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