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Permanent link to archive for Wednesday, December 15, 2004. Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Tony Blair, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, has an RSS feed.  Permanent link to this item in the archive.

Two new mini-essays on trust, written at the airport. Permanent link to this item in the archive.

Back in Seattle too late for the West Wing. Downloading via BT now. Permanent link to this item in the archive.

Chris Pirillo has moved to Seattle, and says the skies are clear. Hey let's go for some Vietnamese noodles Chris and talk about RSS.  Permanent link to this item in the archive.

Checking in from Boston's Logan Airport, waiting to return to Seattle. Saw two movies today, Ray and Huckabees. Liked Ray, loved the Bees. I understand that the latter got mixed reviews, makes sense. I really enjoyed it. Now the wifi in Logan takes forever to set up and it's costing me $8 for one hour of access (I could use it for 24 but then I'd have to stay in Boston, at the airport, which is kind of silly).  Permanent link to this item in the archive.

Thanks to antibiotics and sleep, my voice is making a strong recovery. Permanent link to this item in the archive.

Wired reports that Hollywood is going after BitTorrent tracker sites. Permanent link to this item in the archive.

More about trust Permanent link to this item in the archive.

I've gotten lots of email on the trusting Google story below, and I'll write more about it in the coming days, I'm sure. Trust and software companies is a big deal, if the companies understood before trust became their major issue they probably would have done things differently. Microsoft, the dominant tech company in Seattle, where I now live (at least for the next few days), deals with this. They would be much further along, imho, had they not been so incredibly aggressive with their competitors, catching small developers and their users in the crossfire. When it came time to promote Passport as a universal identity system for the Internet, there was no trust left, and it flopped. Too bad, because at that time we desperately needed a universal identity system. They needed one too.

Now, Microsoft being Microsoft they didn't give up, and Passport has tens of millions of identities anyway (to use MSN you need one), but every day we all pay for the lack of a standard. For example, a few minutes ago when I bought an hour of Wifi here at Logan I got yet another new identity. That's so ridiculous, such a waste of time, and so dangerous.

Google still largely has the trust needed to make things like bringing academic libraries on the Internet work, and that's a good thing. They might even have enough trust to make a universal identity system work where Microsoft couldn't. But they can't if they aren't serious about trust. All it takes is one major mistake to make it melt down. And once it's gone it doesn't come back.

A picture named tylenol.jpgMore mature industries understand this much better than the tech industry. Remember how Johnson & Johnson withdrew Tylenol from the market when their product was being sabotaged. In the end their recall probably didn't save any lives, but there's little doubt that because of the scare, the product would have died. By quickly taking it off the shelves, visibly showing concern for their users, at a huge cost to the company, they earned our trust, and the brand came back big. You never see tech companies with that kind of vision, that kind of understanding of their relationship to the user, or to be plain, that kind of caring for people.

Malware and trust Permanent link to this item in the archive.

Another thing that undermines trust in Microsoft is the increasing problem of spyware. It seems they don't feel responsible for their users, and in a legal sense, they probably aren't. But letting it fester is kind of like Major League Baseball letting the steroids issue fester. It poisons the environment in which they sell their product. (If you're not a baseball fan, you might want to watch this one. Of all the crises MLB has had to deal with, this is going to be the most devastating.)

Spyware matters to Microsoft much more than they seem to understand because it matters to all their users, every one who uses the Internet. You get the sense that Microsoft wishes we didn't use the Internet, that at some point we'll come to our senses and ask them to design a new safe network. Of course that's my fantasy, I don't really have any idea what they're thinking. That's part of the problem too.

Trusting Google Permanent link to this item in the archive.

Comments on Scott Rosenberg's piece about Google and the university libraries. (Note: I agree with Scott's conclusions.)

I've finally had a chance to catch up on the coverage, and most analyses omit an important fact. News coverage starts out with one story, but by the third or fourth paragraph zeroes in on the much smaller reality. The libraries are only providing material that is not subject to copyright. Makes sense, because if it has a copyright it isn't theirs to provide. This means that a huge chunk of material is not going online, our recent history, the 20th and 21st centuries.

Another angle, is this really a private deal just for Google? A lot of the coverage implies that it is. I just can't believe that the universities granted Google exclusivity on their collections, even if they are paying for digitizing it. (According to Google it's not exclusive.)

Third, everyone says that Google is trustworthy at least for now. I've heard it said on The Gillmor Gang episode about storing our data on the net. Google is storing our data, and they guess it's all right because they aren't evil. Rosenberg says we trust them with our history, with our eyes open, because the non-evil people running Google today won't be running it tomorrow. This is the big issue raised by every extension of Google's role into our lives, and it's one that has never been adequately addressed, imho.

Okay, first a disclaimer, Google very generously supported my last conference, and they've said privately that they will undo the evil stuff they did in the past, but they haven't done it yet, and they didn't buy my silence, nor should they want to. But Google took some cheap shots at a technology that wasn't doing them any harm, for no apparent reason other than arrogance. This is exactly the kind of stuff you want to watch out for, from high tech giants we want to trust.

Now people will say they don't understand the issues, and of course they knew you wouldn't understand them, and who's to say you will understand the issues in the future. I've had exactly this kind conversation with Scott, never reached resolution. But if trust is an issue, and someone who has your trust says there's an issue, I think you ought to factor that in.

Net-net, Google has become such an important company that their public statement of ethics needs to be more than three cute words, and they need to have a systematic way of handling and responding to challenges. If they won't do this, I don't see how we can keep extending our trust of them.

Another way of looking at it: What if Microsoft were doing what Google is doing? Of course we wouldn't let them do it without a very serious and probably very shrill examination. Well, I'm telling you, Google today is as dangerous as Microsoft, and I wouldn't bet on their trustworthyness, not without a lot more light having been shed on this. The technology industry is built on a foundation of arrogance and disdain for users. Google is too. You may not have seen it yet, but I have.


Last update: Wednesday, December 15, 2004 at 10:59 PM Eastern.

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