October 17, 2005

Siva Vaidhyanathan on Google: "They don't work for us"

I think this is worth echoing, from an "On The Media" segment on Google Print: (my emphasis below)

BOB GARFIELD: If not Google now, then who? And when? Who should be in charge of deciding which books get scanned?

SIVA VAIDHYANATHAN: Well, I actually think that this is the job of libraries. I think libraries should be doing this first and foremost. The Library of Congress should have identified this as a major public need and goal and pursued this sort of project years ago. Instead, they've outsourced it to a private corporation, and this corporation, as good as they like to make us think they are, is still operating by keeping us blind. Their technology is proprietary. Their algorithms for search are completely secret. We don't actually know what's going to generate a certain list of search results. They don't work for us.

Again - "They don't work for us". Whatever their cool geek-dream origin (and I share the fantasy!), Google is a now a very large corporation, accountable only the shareholders. It may seem overly critical to emphasize it, but that's reality.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in google | on October 17, 2005 09:55 AM (Infothought permalink)
Seth Finkelstein's Infothought blog (Wikipedia, Google, censorware, and an inside view of net-politics) - Syndicate site (subscribe, RSS)

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BTW, do you read Cringely's weekly columns?
The last several weeks he's been writing about attempts to figure out Google's algorithms for adwords.

If you haven't seen it, it's worth reading how the system is being gamed.

Adwords experiment Part 1, Part 2 (near the end) and Part 3

Posted by: Lis Riba at October 17, 2005 10:17 AM

If they really answered to only their shareholders they wouldn't make Google Talk on an open network... more profitable to make people use yet another proprietary network.

Posted by: Anonymous at October 17, 2005 07:54 PM

Anonymous: being profit-driven doesn't mean being stupid. Google gets plenty of credit with the geek croud (which sooner or later do move their friends and families to the latest and hippest tech) by establishing an open network (notice that S2S isn't there yet, though I do believe it will in time). In other words, Google has a valuable reputation with geeks that would end up costing them money if they act overtly evilly by our values. That doesn't mean that the day acting evilly pays off enough they will refrain from doing so. Also consider that if Google started a closed network it would have to fight a tough battle against the network effect and the existing players, a battle to get some users to start with that would make the network useful at all. Geeks are doing this job for Google now.

Posted by: David at October 18, 2005 11:07 AM

Lis: No, I don't read Cringely - thanks! I keep saying, I've got to do more Google.

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at October 24, 2005 09:49 AM