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Google origins and philosophy

Web Search Engine Company with a growing philanthropic arm, Google.org, dedicated to fund cleantech start-ups and innovate in fields such as energy saving technologies (Google PowerMeter), better batteries for plug-in hybrid cars, and cheap enough alternatives to coal.

Google was born in 1998 with a proposition so simple it was vast and chimerical: to help to find anything that we need in any given moment, whether on the Internet (the main product of the company is its search engine, the most visited in the world), on the hard drive of our computer (Google Desktop), in our e-mail (Google Mail) or any address in the world (Google Maps and Google Earth).

The company defines it plainly: “Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

The business, created by two brilliant researchers from Stanford University, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, has managed to attract the most brilliant and enterprising computing professionals; always, clearly, after showing through mathematical games or programming tricks that they were prepared to enter Googleplex, the business headquarters in Mountain View, California.

Despite being directed by the efficient, serious and mature Eric Schmidt, who came from boring business software, and to include more than 5,000 employees at the beginning of 2006, Google prides itself on maintaining a business culture of a small business of entrepreneurs, complete with brilliant workers who have arrived thanks to the meritocracy.

The major search engine in the world, in front of MSN and Yahoo!, it owes its success to a search technology as respected by the users as by the data processing specialists and to an informal motto that tries to focus the business philosophy in any environment:  “Don’t be evil“.  That is to say, to behave yourself in an ethical way in any action, whether going public, offering search results or defending its principles of good government in any country in which it operates.

This philosophy serves as a driving force so that Google has its services in 100 languages, among them the Quechua, and helps to motivate projects like the laptop computer for poor countries driven by the NGO One Laptop Per Child (OLPC).

In the same vein, Google assures on its corporate page that its search results are an example that democracy of the web works; they use only objective aspects to value the order in which search results appear.

According to Google, “you can make money without doing evil”; the majority of the company’s income comes from the sale of text advertisements that appear only with search results that are related, and -they emphasize- “advertising on Google is always clearly identified as a ‘Sponsored Link.'”

Additionally, Google doesn’t  manipulate rankings for affiliated companies or similar practices. Rather than emerging damaged, the image of the company is reinforced by their image on the Internet, with overly simple designs, unobtrusive and with a nerdy aftertaste.

The public image of Google would be as strong as its stock market value if not for the controversy stirred up by some of the company’s actions, reinforced by the global nature of their search engine.

In China, Google wanted to avoid problems with the Communist Party, after obtaining in 2005 a “license of business” to operate with the domain of the country, “.cn”.  The company has accepted auto-censure (to suppress references to matters that do not please Beijing, like Tibet or Taiwan; or to avoid “sensitive” themes such as human rights or representative democracy referring to China).

Since the nineties Google has offered a Chinese version, although now they do it from an office within the country, obeying the orders of the “communist” republic.  Representatives of the search engine have responded periodically to this controversy disputing that the intention of the business is to respect the norms of the country in which it operates, like the fact that Google filters Nazi pages in Germany, France or US.

For organizations like Reporters Without Borders, the lack of freedom of speech or the attack against it is sufficient cause to not operate in a country or to denounce the situation. Something that, according to the RWB, Google has not done.

To try to put an end to the controversy, Eric Schmidt announced to Wired in an article in 2003 that “evil” (the ethically negative, morally unacceptable) is for Google what Sergey (Brin, co-founder of the company) says is “evil”.  That is to say: what is morally unacceptable for Google can change with the interests of the company.

Despite these actions, that are directly connected with the company slogan “Don’t be evil”, the popularity of their services, mostly free in exchange for the user seeing publicity, hasn’t diminished.

As opposed to Microsoft, Google continues being “nice” in the eyes of the average Internet user, despite having reached an extraordinary size and its dubious technical ethics of self-censorship with its services in China. Proof of this is the incorporation of the word “google” as a verb in the last Merrian-Webster English dictionary, as a synonym for on-line search.

  • More information about Google, in Wikipedia.