April 08, 2004

Google Gmail TOS vs. The Bloggerdom A-List

I've been trying to figure out why, basically, John Gilmore's screed on the Gmail terms-of-service, is getting such extensive notice from the bloggerdom A-list. So far I've seen it echoed by Dan Gillmor and Dave Winer, and from Boing Boing. Part of it is of course that the A-list echoes the A-list. But I don't think that's the complete answer. Now, John Gilmore does not care what I think, but his analysis is, well, weird. It's not so much that it's wrong, exactly, but that it reads if he's trying to hype-up a tone of THIS IS AN OUTRAGE, against terms-of-service clauses that have been around for many years. It may in fact be an outrage, but he - and the A-list - just discovered it all? It's as if, my god, are you sitting down, are you ready to hear this: Software-makers say they license their products, not sell them! And they claim shrink-wrap is a binding contract. Tell the world, let the protests begin.

Let's see what we could do in a similar vein with the plain old (not Gmail) Google Terms Of Service

We may modify or terminate our services from time to time, for any reason, and without notice,

[Parody] How arrogant! They say they can do what they want, when they want, however they want! Isn't this EVIL?

including the right to terminate with or without notice, without liability to you, any other user or any third party.

[Parody] And they can cut you off even if they don't like your face, too!

We reserve the right to modify these Terms of Service from time to time without notice. Please review these Terms of Service from time to time so that you will be apprised of any changes.

[Parody] Hey, get a load of this, they then expect YOU to keep up with their arbitrary and capricious changes!

And so on.

Now, why? This is the kicker.

I think what's happening is that Google's image is changing among (some) A-lister's. It's a way of dealing with the fact that Google may not be God after all.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in google | on April 08, 2004 08:32 PM (Infothought permalink) | Followups
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Some of the A-listers have been picking a fight with Google for some time. Why? Who knows, but I wouldn't rule out simple pettiness after they realized the guys who owned Google don;t think of themselves as a public service and want to cash in, too. This coming from several folks who have already made their bundles.

Posted by: billg at April 11, 2004 02:44 PM

Seth, I too find this rather odd. While the Gmail terms of use are ugly, there is little that appears non-typical.

I find myself flopping sides on the Google issue. In the past, Where the net.consensus was to trust their good intentions, I've been wary. This probably is the result of being burned by Yahoo when I trusted them with personal information which they later repurposed for spamming.

I'm still wary, but I'm not sure they deserve the hammering they are taking.

Posted by: chip at April 13, 2004 12:39 PM

I just think its sexy!

Posted by: Gmail Logo (G-Spot parody) at April 13, 2004 07:19 PM

At risk of being a bit petty, I think sometimes the "A-list'ers" want to mimick brick-'n'-mortar journalists.

And what are those journalists doing? They're engaging in Howard-Dean-Style "Tear down what we've built up... and quickly!"

"Google is koooool!" is so last year. And the A-listers have to write about SOMETHING, right, besides the tried-and-true?

Besides, as a blogger myself, I'll admit that it's often both more fun AND easier to be indignant and rail at some Great Evil(tm) then to say, "Hey, everything seems to be okay..." The former sells papers / attracts blog hits, the latter? Zzzzzzzzz ;)

And by the way, I've been beta testing Gmail myself, as I outline here in a recent blog entry:
... I think it's pretty darn neat.

Personally, I just don't get the hand-wringing about privacy. Gmail parses, displays, and stores your e-mail. Guess what? So does every ISP out there! Hello, McFly!?

Posted by: Adam at April 15, 2004 12:48 AM

Six degrees of separation: (1) Gmail is run by (2) Google which owns (3) Blogger which recently adopted (4) Atom as a replacement for (5) RSS which is designed by (6) Dave Winer who is an A-list Weblog-site-type-person.

And what Adam said. People have been in denial about the possibility of unencrypted e-mail being read by every server it passes through. Gmail just makes it slightly more obvious.

Posted by: mpt at April 18, 2004 05:17 PM