What does Google mean by "Don't Be Evil" anyway?
It’s fairly clear that Google wants to be the repository of choice for all human genome information, seeing as it envisions itself the indexer and keeper of ALL the world’s information. This strikes mea as a responsibility that would warrant just a wee bit of additional due diligence beyond wooing in wonder at GOOG’s historical stock price charts. Don’t get me wrong, I bought in at $85/share myself; however, when it comes to preparing for the next stage of human evolution, maybe we would want to be just a little bit more careful than usual.
I thought it might make sense to revisit the storied Google Pledge to Not Be Evil.
Well, specifically, it appears to me that “don’t be evil” merely means no paid placement in the raw search engine results.
That’s about it. Such placement would indeed be less than democratic, at the very least, and Google promises to not do it. So if you read the prospectus excerpted below, “don’t be evil” apparently means more precisely, “we won’t do this one evil thing.” Beyond that, pretty much all bets are off, no?
But there is still great hope. So long as you trust Curly, Moe, and Larry to “do good things for the world” then you’re probably in pretty good shape and have nothing to worry about. I’m not suggesting who you should trust or how much to trust them, I’m just saying; well, a thoroughly informed investor always reads the prospectus:
<p style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">DON’T BE EVIL </p> <p style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:-6px;"> </p> <p style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;text-indent:4%;">Don’t be evil. We believe strongly that in the long term, we will be better served—as shareholders and in all other ways—by a company that does good things for the world even if we forgo some short term gains. This is an important aspect of our culture and is broadly shared within the company. </p> <p style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:-6px;"> </p> <p style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;text-indent:4%;">Google users trust our systems to help them with important decisions: medical, financial and many others. Our search results are the best we know how to produce. They are unbiased and objective, and we do not accept payment for them or for inclusion or more frequent updating. We also display advertising, which we work hard to make relevant, and we label it clearly. This is similar to a well-run newspaper, where the advertisements are clear and the articles are not influenced by the advertisers’ payments. We believe it is important for everyone to have access to the best information and research, not only to the information people pay for you to see. </p> <p style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;"> </p> <p style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">MAKING THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE </p> <p style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:-6px;"> </p> <p style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;text-indent:4%;">We aspire to make Google an institution that makes the world a better place. In pursuing this goal, we will always be mindful of our responsibilities to our shareholders, employees, customers and business partners. With our products, Google connects people and information all around the world for free. We are adding other powerful services such as Gmail, which provides an efficient one gigabyte Gmail account for free. We know that some people have raised privacy concerns, primarily over Gmail’s targeted ads, which could lead to negative perceptions about Google. However, we believe Gmail protects a user’s privacy. By releasing services, such as Gmail, for free, we hope to help bridge the digital divide. AdWords connects users and advertisers efficiently, helping both. AdSense helps fund a huge variety of online web sites and enables authors who could not otherwise publish. Last year we created Google Grants—a growing program in which hundreds of non-profits addressing issues, including the environment, poverty and human rights, receive free advertising. And now, we are in the process of establishing the Google Foundation. We intend to contribute significant resources to the foundation, including employee time and approximately 1% of Google’s equity and profits in some form. We hope someday this institution may eclipse Google itself in terms of overall world impact by ambitiously applying innovation and significant resources to the largest of the world’s problems. </p> <p style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;"> </p> <p style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;">SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION </p> <p style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:-6px;"> </p> <p style="margin-top:0;margin-bottom:0;text-indent:4%;">Google is not a conventional company. Eric, Sergey and I intend to operate Google differently, applying the values it has developed as a private company to its future as a public company. Our mission and business description are available in the rest of this prospectus; we encourage you to carefully read this information. We will optimize for the long term rather than trying to produce smooth earnings for each quarter. We will support selected high-risk, high-reward projects and manage our portfolio of projects. We will run the company collaboratively with Eric, our CEO, as a team of three. We are conscious of our duty as fiduciaries for our shareholders, and we will fulfill those responsibilities. We will continue to strive to attract creative, committed new employees, and we will welcome support from new shareholders. We will live up to our “don’t be evil” principle by keeping user trust and not accepting payment for search results. We have a dual class structure that is biased towards stability and independence and that requires investors to bet on the team, especially Sergey and me (Larry Page).</p>
In other words, there is also a class of stock that guarantees that Curly, Moe, and Larry hold all the cards and Common Share Holders are effectively locked out of the loop. It’s up to you to decide to what extent that complies to the “don’t be evil” creed, I’m just saying that, as common shareholder, you don’t really own any significant voting rights. Again, it’s not my place to tell you whether or not you should or shouldn’t be okay with that, but that is what we’re buying into with every share of GOOG.
Finally, discernment of the extent to which all this is in alignment with “a sexy, high-tech vision of a radically democratic future,” is left as an exercise for the reader.