Don’t Be Evil. That is Google’s corporate slogan. It’s a great slogan for a great corporation. At least it was. Recently, I’ve begun to wonder if Google is forgetting their mantra. And finally, in the last couple of days, I got hit with a one-two punch that made me decide it was time to start using another search engine.
I remember life before Google. Actually, before Google there was AltaVista. And I remember first hearing about AltaVista, and how amazing it was that it could find web pages based on keywords. Back in the old days, you couldn’t find a web page unless you knew the URL, and we had to walk uphill through 12-foot snowdrifts to get to school. Then AltaVista appeared on the scene, and life changed forever.
It wasn’t much later that Google came along and stole AltaVista’s thunder, taking their concept and improving on it tremendously. Finally, I succumbed to the hype and changed my default search engine from AltaVista to Google.
As Google’s services continued to increase, I began to get a little uneasy. I was beginning to realize that the more services they offered, the more control they were going to have. They were beginning to become everybody’s gateway to information, which meant they were in a position to control what information flowed through that gateway. Even if they promised not to be evil, that was still disturbing.
When they rolled out their email service, I gagged. I couldn’t believe the number of people that were willing to trust Google with their email, when Google admitted up front that they would keep your messages as long as they wanted to, even if you wanted them deleted. And you had no idea what kind of information they were going to glean from your mail, or to whom they might sell it. But I decided that their search engine was still so neat that I would use it even if I wasn’t stupid enough to use their email service.
Then they collaborated with the Chinese government in the censorshop business, and started doing a bunch of other bad stuff. And I still sacrificed my principles and used their services.
But now I’ve had enough. First they bought DoubleClick, which is probably the most obnoxious advertising company in existence. Thanks to some nifty Firefox tools, I’ve managed to keep them from polluting my computer, but they’re still so repulsive that I can’t forgive Google for getting in bed with them.
And then they did something even worse. They cut a deal with Clear Channel, aka Republican Radio, the largest radio network in the country and a loyal mouthpiece for the Bush administration. That was the end. I’m done with Google.
So how am I going to find stuff now? There are a bunch of other search engines, and I considered Yahoo and Ask. But then I thought maybe I should return to my first love (you never totally forget), or at least give it a chance. One of the things that impressed me about Google was how fast it could pick up entries in my blog and make them available after I wrote them. So I put AltaVista to the test. I pulled up their search page, plugged in a few words that appeared in my most recent blog entry, and there I was at the top of their hit list. So, at least for now, AltaVista is my new best friend. But I’m going to hedge my bets. Instead of talking about “googling” something, I’m going to be generic and just call it “searching” in case I become fickle and switch loyalties. Besides, “altavista” as a verb just doesn’t cut it.