Google Worship or Google Basher?

It's natural to want to poke fun at the big guy. In the tech world, Google has been particularly prone to this during its explosion as one of the largest business phenomena in history. Given Google's mind-boggling access to sensitive information, $100 billion valuation, not to mention our dependence on its services, it's not surprising that libertarians, privacy advocates and wannabe startup entrepreneurs all want to knock them down a notch. 


One of the most popular pejorative anti-Google themes is "Google as world dominator." A tongue and cheek (but convincing) April Fool's joke from Silicon Valley tech publication, TechCrunch, is a great example of the flavor of conspiracy theory invoked in the aisles of tech conferences and the ether of the blogosphere. The article reports that Google acquired a company with rights to unique isotope separation technology, enabling them to enrich their own uranium. Admittedly, like any good April Fools pranks, my suspension of disbelief emerged just long enough to feel like a sucker.



Almost as popular as Google-bashing is Google worship. This goes beyond describing Google positively in terms of the functionality of their platforms, and literally gets into highly emotional and moralistic language. Google might be the guiltiest party here (and why shouldn't they be?), in elevating their brand to a level of moral idolatry. Consider last year's inaugural Super Bowl ad, Parisian Love. The message here is simple: Google helps you fall in love and start a family. Conversely and predictably, the naysayers had a heyday, creating spoofs that sardonically describe some of the unsavory "life goals" that Google search enables.  

No matter what side of the fence you sit on, most people have a strong opinion about Google's value. If you find yourself as one of the Google bashers, you may be swayed by some recent news about Google's social/political leadership.

A problem that has been on many people's minds for more than a few months is the present situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Without getting into horrifically gory detail, you need only know that this conflict has produced a death toll that is second only to World War II, to have a basic sense of the magnitude of the situation.

Who better to aid in tackling such a huge problem, than the company that brands itself as larger than (or at least as big as) life? On February 11th, the New York Times reported that Google donated a computer centre to a major initiative called "City of Joy" in the heart of the DRC conflict zone.  

It may sound like an overstatement to say that Google is helping to save the DRC by simply donating a computer center. Bear in the mind though that the City of Joy is a highly strategic initiative, headed by Eve Ensler (the founder of the Vagina Monologue phenomenon), whose expressed intent is to take back the Congo by re-empowering the shattered women of that country.

Whether significant political, social and military change will occur, has yet to be seen with the City of Joy initiative. If Google's act of generosity only turns out to be symbolic though, they certainly get points for supporting an important project while living up to their brand name of thinking big while starting small, and progress through innovation. Personally, as a long time fence sitter on the 'Google as Devil or Angel spectrum', this recent announcement pushes me over the optimistic side of the fence. What about you?

5 comments about "Google Worship or Google Basher?".
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  1. Andre Szykier from maps capital management, April 8, 2011 at 4:29 p.m.

    We shall see more of this corporate governance or conscious capitalism from the big global companies.
    While one can be optimistic in terms of their influence on world economy and politics, we need to keep in mind that they are beginning to act as quasi governments in their presence across countries.

    Google donating a cloud center to the Congo; Gates donating MSFT goodies through his foundation for malaria and education all are great stories but at the bottom line, it is to keep the brand and market share strong against competition.

    We should wait and see if Chinese companies, private and partly government owned pursue programs for the public good - in medicine, education, communication...
    For my part, I don't think altruism is part of the business model, even for the large players. Still...hope is eternal.

  2. Karen Skelly, April 10, 2011 at 6:14 p.m.

    At least Google is an American run company and hires American people. I find their service invaluable - although I don't consider myself a worshiper or basher. They are there and I use them.

  3. John Rasco from RefreshWeb, April 11, 2011 at 12:27 p.m.

    As a journalist, you should have thought to at least research Google's current's a little different than it was in 2006. It's currently north of $185 billion, not $100 billion.

  4. Brad Stewart from Molecule Inc., April 11, 2011 at 7:52 p.m.

    You're right, John. I meant to say $100b+. Sorry about that. I hope this oversight didn't prevent you from reading the (more important and substantial) remainder of the article. Oh, and thanks for the unfriendly jab at my journalistic integrity. I'm not quite sure how to take that one. I guess people don't make mistakes in your world.

    Karen: I think this is a sentiment that's echoed by many. Google has inched its way into our lives, simply by virtue of the company's mind-blowingly high utility.

    André: Admittedly, I'm blinded by my own optimism and have met some truly great people in corporate leadership roles. I think Google did this one for the right reasons, and despite what Ayn Rand might think, I don't see why altruism is somehow logically incompatible with business. Like you, I hope not, anyways! :)

  5. Andre Szykier from maps capital management, April 13, 2011 at 1:10 p.m.

    We at MAPS Capital have taken 'conscious capitalism', coined by John Mckay of Whole Foods, and re-crafted it into a more benign form 'conscious enterprise'.

    The difference being that capitalism is for profit on behalf of investors and owners whereas enterprise includes non-profits, institutions, even individuals.

    The key bridge is the word 'conscious' and implies a giving back or giving forward if one enjoys success from a venture or livelihood.

    If corporations that are global follow this goal, we will be better off as humans.

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