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What is Google doing?

Tuesday, October 2, 2007 by Dave Winer.

A picture named scales.gifI use Google for a lot of things. I trust them not to screw with my data. I trust them to keep their hands off things they shouldn't touch and their eyes out of places they don't belong.  Permalink to this paragraph

For example, I have confidential conversations using Gmail with execs at companies that compete with Google. At one time, when I ran UserLand and they owned Blogger, I actually competed with them myself. The fact that I continue to use Gmail shows that I have a lot of trust in the ethics of the people who work at Google. Permalink to this paragraph

I also use Google Analytics to monitor the traffic on my site. I allow them to run ads on a few sites that I run as a community service, to compensate me for hosting costs. From time to time, I run ads myself. I keep financial data in Google's spreadsheet.  Permalink to this paragraph

If things were different I might use Feedburner. Especially on weekday mornings it's amazing how much traffic one file, my RSS 2.0 feed, gets. So it occurs to me that I could streamline things simply by offloading that file to Google. Now that they own Feedburner, this is something I might do, if they take a pledge not to break aggregators that depend on the format of my feed not changing. If someday my feed were to change format and break just one person reading it, I would consider that a serious support issue. It's not something I want to take a chance with. Some people trust me in this way. Not so many people as Google, but to me, they're very important. Could I delegate that trust to Google? No, not at this time. Permalink to this paragraph

A picture named sweetDreams.gifThere's another side to it. Even though I don't choose to use Feedburner, because I subscribe to the feeds of people who do, I am effected when they change the format of their feeds. When Google does this they inevitably break products that compete with theirs, the most obvious being Google Reader, but there are also server-side products that compete with Google's that depend on being able to read RSS feeds. If all of a sudden a large number of those feeds become invisible to them, people would find their services less useful, and therefore less competitive. This is exactly the kind of behavoir that made Microsoft such a bad corporate citizen in the 90s as they tried to suffocate the web to protect Windows and Office.  Permalink to this paragraph

Now, amazingly, it seems as if Google may be doing this. I've seen it myself, files that mysteriously change format and break apps and users, and I've heard about it from a couple of developers. No one has said anything publicly, that I know of.  Permalink to this paragraph

So, as a responsible corporation, it seems that Google should say something. What's their policy about breaking users of Feedburner, and people who read their feeds? Is this something they will do quietly, a sort of "silent data loss," or do they feel the need to be public about such policies? And what other products will they mess with this way. Will someday I look in my spreadsheet files and find that Google has changed the numbers? Or will emails from execs at Yahoo contain racial slurs or outright lies? See how much damage Google can do because we trust them? Permalink to this paragraph

I honestly don't know what they're doing, and I don't want to guess. I'd like them to come forward and explain.  Permalink to this paragraph

Seth E: "Someone asked me yesterday to sign a petition to have remove JewWatch, a anti-semitic weblist of powerful Jews, removed from Google’s search-engine." Permalink to this paragraph

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Last update: 10/2/07; 11:43:15 PM Pacific. "It's even worse than it appears."

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