A little sincerity is a dangerous thing, and a great deal of it is absolutely fatal. -Oscar Wilde

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Is Google really good?

I've been thinking about the Pittsburgh Goes Google (the last-minute campaign that our Illustrious Boy Mayor has jumped on (mere days before the deadline). And... I have really mixed feelings about it.

I still have a sour taste in my mouth from the Google/ CMU collaboration. In short, the situation was prime for resentment when university staff became aware of certain arrangements that were extraordinarily beneficial to Google employees on the backs of staff. It was only slightly joking when we said that one dare not say anything critical about Google. Google is good. What's good for the Google is good for us. And so on. Don't get me wrong-- I do use Google and Google services quite heavily. But Google also makes me extraordinarily uncomfortable. Contributing to the erosion of critical thinking about information sources and search processes is an unintended side effect, I know. But bowing down to China and questionable copyright infringement were calculated decisions. And I'm not comfortable with Google going beyond web services to software, and beyond software to service provider. It was uncomfortable with Microsoft did that (admittedly, they used a different path, but it amounted to the same thing), and it's uncomfortable now. It's too much control, even potential control, for one entity.

And let's think about the issues inherent with private corporations, accountable to only their stockholders. Didn't Pittsburgh learn its lesson once about relying too heavily on too few companies in too few industries? Would partnering with Google to build infrastructure be repeating the same mistakes? I don't know. Google appears to be unstoppable, but so did AOL Time Warner (remember them?) and the MS-NBC juggernaut. I don't think it's wise to put all of our regional eggs-- or even most of our eggs-- in the Google basket.

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