Google's Sergey Brin and Good vs. Evil

I am not sure which category should I place this blog entry - it is about Google, an Internet search engine company where all serious webmasters love/hate. It might just be a geek stuff because the article is actually not about the web and how to optimise for it. At the end, it is also a reflection on what I have seen and experienced...

I read the article on Wired yesterday about Google and its moral issues, titled Good vs. Evil. The reporter interviewed Sergey Brin, Google's conscience and head policy maker, and talked about what has concerned Google over the last year. Google has certainly grown to the number 1 search engine on the Internet, and its main sites (google.com) bring at least 50-60% of the traffic to the websites I am maintaining. Everywhere people refer Google has their good friend because they can usually find answers for whatever questions they asked. It has became the home page of many people I know - even our pastor at church knows how to use Google to get the stuff he needs. However, according to the article, you do get more problems when you grow big, and while Google has been gaining more and more features (Froogle just went live last week), those who initially loved Google, i.e. the techies, start to feel that their beloved search engine is getting more foreign to them.

Google has always been giving the impression that it is the company where all techies want to work for. Nice campus, relaxed environment, nice people - at least a few years ago when they were small. However it does not seem to be the case according to the article - it ha gone big. Lots of pressure from lots of directions. Lots of people to please. Funding yourself becomes important. The article was wondering that whether Google will become another Yahoo. From the number of product they have pushed out, the partnership that they have established, and having IPO on their agenda - I don't see why not. When a company goes public, the centre of gravity changes - for better or for worse - who knows. However, I know that I will find an alternative to Google on my daily usage of Internet search engines.

At the same time, I do feel similar things happening much closer to home. The reason why some of us ganging up together to start a new company was because the old company that we all worked for was becoming less suitable. It has been acquired by a listed company, and its main focus has changed. Someone else are now directing the company, and they have shareholders to please. As techies, we just want to write the best software, using the best methodology, and doing something we want to do. In a company where techies don't even have the control of software architecture, it will only produce software that meets short-term profit but nothing else. But maybe that's what the shareholders want anyway, at least initially. Now it has been nearly two years in this new company, and we are really doing some cool stuff which we cannot do previously with that old architecture. We want to add the features we want - even before the clients ask us to do. However, as the company is growing bigger and more successful, I'll expect more responsibility to be falling on our heads. I hope it will not become what has happened to the other company that I worked for, but staying fresh in its conscience and policy.

May Agur in Proverbs 30:7-9 helps me -

Two things I ask of you, O LORD ; do not refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, 'Who is the LORD ?' Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.
Sometimes I can become greedy, but help me Lord to not to think that way. But please also provide enough for me... Update: I have just noticed that Google has set up its Australia site: www.google.com.au. Previously, Australia did not have its own Google site, even though New Zeland has one. I guess the voice has reached the management so that they have finally set up the Aussie Google for us. It lets you search only the Australian content - however I think we used to be able to do it with site:.au appended in the query. What then is the different?

Having my rant about Google (not really against them anyway), I hope my site can still stay in PR5 :)

Update #2: I think the new Google Australia is actually smarter than just searching through websites with .au domains. When I actually listed the FOCUS website in its search result page, even though FOCUS's domain is a .org than a .org.au! I am not sure how a webpage/website can be qualified as "Australian" - do they check the IP address mapping? Or maybe they can figure out the locality from the page content?!

There is an interesting thread on the Web Master World about this Australian Google, which has a link to another interesting report on Search Engine Watch. It explains the reason why google.com.au was delayed in its launch - someone has snapped its name. Don't you hate cyber squatters...