So it turns out Google is evil after all. Like a toddler who's just caught Santa beating up his little helper round the back of the grotto, the geek community reacted as one when Google entered the Chinese market with its censored google.cn service last Wednesday. Anger and disbelief quickly gave way to a sense of abandonment and fear, and as Daddy sat us down for a grown-up talk about publicly-owned companies, market economies and shareholder rights, we felt our tiny little world dissolve into a new, scarier reality. Now we've all had our little cry, what next?
It's time to start asking a few grown-up questions. Such as why were we naive enough to trust a company with such a pithy motto in the first place? "Don't be evil," in retrospect, sounds more like the profile of a twelve-year-old's alter ego in a massive multi-player online game than the corporate ethos of the fastest-growing company in the world. What did it actually mean? And what does it mean now?
To the geek mind, the secret to Google's success lies in its combination of really cool technology and the kind of feel-good politics that won't burst the San Francisco bubble. Not only does the patented PageRank system solve the problems of information overload on the net, but engineers who work for Google can seemingly keep the system going whilst playing table tennis and drinking Kool-Aid all day.