Nathan Weinberg outlines some recent actions by Google which arguably flow against their “Don’t be evil” mantra:
- They ran “tips” above search results, basically ads for Google services on any remotely related search, ones that no one could compete with and that appeared on searches that were completely irrelevant, like “tips” for Blogger on searches for “blogoscoped”. There were very unpopular, and eventually Google had to remove them, although them may return in a less agressive form.
- Google cancelled the Picasa referral ads program, rolling them into Google Pack referrals. The old Picasa ads now read “Organize your digital photo album with the free Google Pack”, essentially turning Google Pack into bundled junk ware by advertising a program and delivering it in an installer with many other programs that were unadvertised and not wanted by the user.
- Google added a line in its product search OneBox that gives special placement to stores that use Google Checkout, giving them added visibility because they participate in a different Google program. This is unfair because all stores participating in Froogle deliver their inventory and pricing to Google for free, letting Google build a service over their submissions, and now Google is taking back some of what it used to give those stores.
- Google has removed links to competing mapping services on maps-related searches, leaving just a OneBox for Google Maps. While Google has no obligation to link to its competitors, those links were certainly useful to its users, and the removal is a conscious decision by Google to block out other companies, at the expense of utility.
- AdSense updated a lot of their policies, mostly for good (no ads with student term papers), but one change is quickly angering publishers: AdSense ads cannot be run on a website that uses other ads that look similar, even if those ads are run on completely seperate pages, or run at seperate times. This means publishers who used to rotate Google and Yahoo ads in the same location, now have to change the look of one of them so that they do not look the same to frequent visitors. This change makes little sense, since most publishers make their ads match the colors of their site, and if they have to change the look of half their ads, which will make them less money, or force them to stop using Yahoo ads (probably what Google hopes).
Sounds much more like a company willing to do whatever necessary to maximize shareholder value, rather than one dedicated to making money “without being evil.”