Google: Evil? I don’t think so.
If I turn on my laptop, open my browser and get ready to surf the web, my default homepage is that of the internet giant. Within seconds I am given relevant answers to my queries, that are actually helpful. Whether I am searching for “Chinese buffets in Dublin”, “How to cook the perfect steak”, or even figuring out that song that I heard on the radio which I couldn’t identify by music, only by lyrics, Google throws me the answer and my quest is over. But, this is something we already know too well. It’s the service that hold 66% of the market share. Consider the size of the internet, and you’ll realise how vast that power is. Another reason why critics are so conscious of the company with data, our information and their general business practices. Stan Lee got it right when he said “With great power there must come great responsbility”. It’s clear, regardless of your opinion, Google is the big-boy for search, and he’s always going to be relevant.
But let’s look at the other products. I love Gmail, and I use it as my primary email service. It’s simple, fast and free; yet powerful. You can use it as normal, or you can host your entire website’s email with it. Many Irish Universities and businesses are doing it, and the students have responded very well. Heck, even NUI Maynooth launched a petition to use it for their academic needs. There’s Picasa, their photo storage and sharing service, where you can store an infinite number of snaps in the cloud for free, or for a small yearly fee that contributes to your entire Google experience (It’s roughly €3 for 20GB of data). It links with your computer and it just works. On the other side there are the countless other tools like Analytics, which enables power users and webmasters to monitor and track their usage, right down to Google Code, enabling developers across the globe share, collaborate and improve hundreds of thousands of free applications for computers, the internet and mobile devices. And, on the latter note, Google’s mobile platform: Android. A service I hold very dear.
Android is a superb operating platform. Yes, it’s not the top-dog like iOS on the iPhone, but at least it’s open. I want to able to use the phone that I bought in the way that I want. iPhones don’t allow you do that, unless you jailbreak them, and there is not a hope that you’ll find programs on the Apple Store that’ll help you tweak your phone: the Android Market, on the other hand, has an abundance of them. They are allowing you do the things you want without being restricted. Is this evil? No. Far from it. Surely Apple are the evil ones here. And let’s not get started on their track record.
As much as I have shown my respect for Google, their innovation, and how they have made my life far easier, it’s not without issues. I was a vocal critic of Google and their handling of the censorship in China for years. The whole idea of censorship, on any level- on or offline- is a notion I am passionately against. And, I still do hold frustration towards how the country are handling it. With that in mind, Google have changed their policy on the nation’s access to their internet services, but this happened far too late. It’s sad that companies will engage in censorship and restriction, despite them knowing it is fundamentally wrong, in order to make a profit: yet so many multinationals actively engage in this. Let’s remember that other search engines are still enforcing the censorship of search results, despite the moves of the big Goog.
I can easily say that I have tried 80% of Google’s services in the past, and I still use an overwhelming number of them on a daily or weekly basis. They have been groundbreaking (see Google Health or Google Crisis Response) and have constantly pushed the boundaries (in a good way) in terms of the internet. Without their innovation the World Wide Web would be a far different place. Should the average user be worried about these changes? As a advocate of privacy, yes- but to a point. It may be far better to handle the information we divulge in a more sensible way (so many people don’t), rather than shout and yell when a company may be doing things differently. Google is not perfect, but it is highly relevant and important, but in my opinion, it’s most certainly far from evil.