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?