Is Google Squandering Its Biggest Asset?

from the alarm-bells-should-be-going-off... dept

One of Google's biggest assets is trust. The company's founder has admitted that adopting the "Do No Evil" mantra purposely set a very high bar against which to judge every company action -- often making it impossible to take the easy way out, even when the "right" solution was more a lot complex. However, over the past few years, the company has repeatedly distanced itself from that mantra, and we've all been seeing it in certain actions the company has taken. Earlier this week, we noted that it would be a mistake for anyone to trust Google to look out for the best interests of users, but you need to admit that Google often made that explicit promise, with both its mantra and actions, that it would, in fact, look out for the best interests of users over its own short-term goals. The company's execs clearly stated that its own long term advantages would be best served by watching out for its users best interests, even if it sometimes went against short term advantage.

Yet, with actions such as Google caving on its book scanning project and other decisions such as paying newspapers to scan their headlines, Google seems to have compromised its core principles a few too many times -- and it appears that users are starting to notice. A recent survey of the top 20 most trusted companies in the US shows that Google has fallen off the list entirely from its spot at 10 on last year's list. Of course, these sorts of lists will always fluctuate, but it still should be setting off alarm bells in Mountain View.

Much of Google's success is based on that implicit trust. People stick with Google because of that trust. They use products like Gmail, desktop search, and Google Docs because of that trust. If people are starting to lose that trust, it creates tremendous opportunities for someone else to step in to put a serious dent into Google's online dominance. The guy who did the study claims that Google's fall is probably just due to "big company syndrome," where people just start trusting big companies less, but that doesn't make much sense. Plenty of the other companies on the list are quite big as well, and have no trouble staying on the list.

Even if it's just as blip, Google should be extremely concerned with such an early warning sign that one of its biggest assets is quickly losing value.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
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    ggw_bach, Dec 16th, 2008 @ 12:51pm

    Google --> Microsoft 2.0

    it's been noted before, but Google has all the corporate makings of a Microsoft 2.0. Scattering their presence to all corners, throwing out half-baked projects willy nilly (Lively, Googe wikiseatch).

    trust has definitely fallen off the map. Google has become a necessary utility, but not something that entrepreneurs are actively admiring.

     

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    Wiggins, Dec 16th, 2008 @ 1:12pm

    Really?

    "Much of Google's success is based on that implicit trust. People stick with Google because of that trust. They use products like Gmail, desktop search, and Google Docs because of that trust. "

    This is not the reason I use google, I use google products because they work. I couldn't care less about their corporate policy.

    From what data do you make the assertion that google is a leader in because its users trust it? Or is this just one of those classic masnick assertions, "Well I think its true so it must be, right?"

     

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      Mike (profile), Dec 16th, 2008 @ 1:20pm

      Re: Really?

      This is not the reason I use google, I use google products because they work. I couldn't care less about their corporate policy.

      First of all, I said much of their success, not ALL of the reasons why EVERYONE uses it.

      And it's not their overall corporate policy that anyone cares about, it's the fact that they feel comfortable trusting Google with storing their email and their documents and their search history and their calendar... etc. That's a lot of private info.

      There are plenty of companies that have come and gone and failed in those markets -- and a reason often cited is that they're uncomfortable trusting all that info to a company they know little about.

       

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      Rose M. Welch, Dec 16th, 2008 @ 10:22pm

      Re: Really?

      Other products work, also. But I don't trust other companies not to screw me.

      I've stopped using Google products because, not only will they screw, they'll try to be all self-righteous about it and act like they're the ONE company that doesn't screw people.

      I'd rather be honestly screwed than raped in the dark...

      Just saying.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 16th, 2008 @ 1:17pm

    Google is simply better

    the reason I use Google is because their products work and they are far better at fulling my needs very well. The Google apps lack the overwhelming bloat that some other $oftware coMpanies suffer.

     

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    Wiggins, Dec 16th, 2008 @ 1:26pm

    A reason often cited

    A reason often cited is also they just like the way the applications works, so by the same logic I can conclude that much of google's success comes from that factor.

    Can much of their success come from multiple aspects? Is it really 'much' then?

     

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    RoadKill, Dec 16th, 2008 @ 1:32pm

    Trust a different way

    Trust to me in google isn't so much security wise and what they do with my information. Lets face it, I can see everything I did the last 100 years of my internet searching.

    But what they provide. I trust that when Google makes something, IE. G1 or Chrome. They will make it right and when they find the bugs, they will fix the bugs.

    The product they make I will buy even if it is beta because It'll work.

     

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    Haywood, Dec 16th, 2008 @ 1:42pm

    Just a shame, that's all

    It was too good to be true, a company with our best interests at heart. I really believed in them, still do, to an extent, I've always believed; take care of the customer, they will take care of you. I'd never seen it taken to Google's extreme, but it has been working very well, some users would have taken a bullet for them.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 16th, 2008 @ 1:47pm

    copyrights are not the issue

    Very few people know about google paying newspapers/publishers. I am pretty sure most of the people in this country don't have an issue with current copyright regime (is that right? debatable). The reason google has lost trust is due to its privacy policies (caching queries, mining e-mails etc). In general large companies are least trusted and google is going to perform badly as it grows further.

    I am concerned about your approach. Techdirt is concentrating more on copyright issues (good or bad? I dont know. I will stop visiting this site when I am bored). Your sole aim seems to be to drumming up "copyrights and patents are evil and responsible for all the world's problems".

     

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    fjpoblam, Dec 16th, 2008 @ 2:06pm

    Greatness comes in waves

    IBM rose, then became a bunch of oversure "stuffed shirts" losing their creative edge and losing a large business share to a bunch of creative rapscallions called Microsoft.

    MS gradually rose, became a bunch of oversure and unresponsive "stuffed shirts", losing a large business share to, among others, a creative bunch of rapscallions in the cloud called Google.

    Now Google has risen...and on, and on. If one watches Google Groups, one may see many instances in which Google has not only failed user trust but failed disappointingly in response to user needs. Oh how the mighty have fallen.

    The moral? Don't put all your eggs in one cloud, lest you be purely dependent upon the whims and moral turpitude of the stirrer of that cloud.

     

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      John, Dec 17th, 2008 @ 6:06am

      Re: Greatness comes in waves

      IBM is still huge. They just got out of consumer side of things into the higher margin server side.

      Probably better this way, for them otherwise we'd have a monopoly on our hands.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 16th, 2008 @ 2:10pm

    eBay

    How the hell did eBay make this list let alone raise?

     

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    Jesse, Dec 16th, 2008 @ 2:31pm

    The only reason I don't mind google's bots scanning my email and returning specific ads is because generally I trust them to guard my privacy. If it weren't for that, I'd probably move elsewhere.

     

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    neil, Dec 16th, 2008 @ 3:09pm

    paypal not trusted?

    comments on the refrenced site mentioned that paypal is not to be trusted. I am just wondering what others have to say about it, and what alternatives is there for it? should we trust our credit with them, if not then how do we stop them from dominating online or make them improve their ways?

     

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    Jeff, Dec 16th, 2008 @ 3:26pm

    Trust matters, especially for an information aggregator like Google that keeps everyone's personal information in their cloud. I agree with the premise of the post too - they are starting to backslide on the trust issue. The iGoogle fiasco a couple of months ago is a prime example. While I'm not sure they've gone as far as "evil" (as in "don't be"), they are starting to lose their trust credibility with me at least.

     

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    John, Dec 16th, 2008 @ 3:49pm

    Overreaction

    People don't trust companies that continue to do well. Its called cynicism.

    Remember when Obama began his run for Presidency, and all the news stations adored him. And then half-way through they flipped and started criticizing him because they got made fun of on SNL.

    Do companies have to be saints for us to think they are good.

    And Microsoft has done a lot more good than bad in this world.

     

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    Ahhh, Dec 16th, 2008 @ 4:45pm

    i trust google with any think i give them. If i did not trust them i would not give it to them... Wait, yes, yes i would still use google for everything

     

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    Tanath, Dec 16th, 2008 @ 5:19pm

    Motto

    Google's motto is not "do no evil" no matter how many times it gets repeated as such. That would be absurd. It's "don't be evil." I expected better from Techdirt.

    The decline is unfortunate, but was to be expected when Google went public.

     

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      Simple Mind, Dec 16th, 2008 @ 8:14pm

      Re: Motto

      Once at the Google headquarters in Mt View I saw a guy wearing a t-shirt that said, "Do Know Evil". :) Well, I thought it was very funny. Recognizing evil is often the hardest part.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 16th, 2008 @ 7:49pm

    2. eBay
    NO NO NO

    3. IBM
    NO

    6. Hewlett-Packard
    NO

    8. Apple
    NO NO NO FUCK NO

     

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    cram, Dec 16th, 2008 @ 9:47pm

    "Yet, with actions such as Google caving on its book scanning project and other decisions such as paying newspapers to scan their headlines, Google seems to have compromised its core principles a few too many times -- and it appears that users are starting to notice."

    I think more people decided Google moved away from that "no evil" bullshit motto when it decided to do business in China - remember the moral indignation, the huge uproar in the media decrying Google's move. Was there so much hand-wringing in the Youtube, scanning and AP affairs? I don't think too many people think Google's decision to actually pay copyright holders was somehow against "Don't be Evil"!

    "Much of Google's success is based on that implicit trust. People stick with Google because of that trust. They use products like Gmail, desktop search, and Google Docs because of that trust."

    Yet again, no evidence. But then again, it's difficult to garner enough evidence because the number of people who use Google's services is too vast. I'd wager much of Google's success comes from the ease of use and its solidity as a profitmaking company.

    Actually, I'd like to know what percentage of those 6,500 people surveyed make use of Google products. The fact that they find other companies more trustworthy than Google needn't mean they don't use Google products.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 17th, 2008 @ 1:05pm

    Natural Progression of Google Mantra

    Google: Do No Evil
    Google: Evil is Okay, For the Right Price
    Google: Evil is Good
    Google: Welcome to Hell

     

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    Fraaaank, Dec 19th, 2008 @ 8:51pm

    Look at the actions, not the words

    Google aren't becoming as bad or worse than MS. They've always been worse, they just haven't had the leverage and profile of Microsoft. The "do no evil" statement is simply to suck in the naive mob.

    Install Google Chrome and it will also install a background process without permission, that sends data to Google without permission, updates silently without permission and enforces a globally unique id. Of course it searches Google by defaut without asking, which is funny because when IE7 came out Google was whining about the possibility of it using Microsoft by default. Hypocrisy much?

    Not to defend Microsoft, but at least their products usually ask before sending out data or performing updates, and they typically tell you exactly what data is being sent.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 27th, 2008 @ 10:54am

    See no evil, trust no google...

     

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    Nobody, Dec 28th, 2008 @ 7:43pm

    They're still good.... for now.

    I usually agree with you, Mike, but I still think that Google is close to the top of the trust list. Every day on here you have stories of companies that are patent trolling and sending out mass lawsuits, but the only thing we have against Google is that they're not actively going out of their way to help us? I'll give them four or five more years until they're at the point where the other companies are now. And by then there will be a new Google to have our trust.

     

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