Feb 222014

Google’s motto is Do no evil. But they are disingenuous — they do some evil.

Say for e.g. your child has a project on Eiffel tower — and these days all school projects require an internet connection and color printer so that children can cut and paste pictures, articles from the web and print a ten page ‘original’ brochure, and contribute to deforestation — and so they google Eiffel Tower in the browser. Now, all of you will agree that this is an unambiguous request. Now, towers are highly patriotic symbols and many citizens have tower-envy. There is a fine tower in San Francisco called Coit Tower which many people outside the bay area may not be aware of — and that is a sad thing and the local citizens want to rectify this. So they approach Google, pay them some money, and say “Whenever a user anywhere in the world types any phrase with Tower, show Coit Tower first”. As Google is known to do some evil, they accept the money and show Coit Tower first. Probably to comply with some regulations like “Truth in advertising”, they put an yellow “Ad” symbol next to the link indirectly warning the user “not what you are looking for, but hey, how do you expect us to make a counter offer for WhatsApp if we don’t do these sorts of things?“. The user who googled Eiffel Tower is certainly not feeling lucky — more like I’m Feeling Cheated!.

There are several Taxi companies in Bangalore and I typically prefer “Meru” as I have used them a few times and am happy with their service. So, I google for “meru cabs” so that I can click on the first link, go to their website and make a booking. But if I do that I will be visiting the site of “Mega Cabs”. I am certainly not feeling lucky. So I need to scan past the ‘top’ 3 search results with the yellow “Ad” icon next to them, namely “Mega Cabs”, “TaxiForSure” and “Easy Cabs” to get to merucabs.com. If I had googled for “Cab” then I understand if Google showed the cab companies the way it did: though even here, just like with the “Page ranking system” where you trust the first link more, you want the first couple of links to show the popular cab services instead of say a “fly-by-night” cab operator who just wants to pay his way to the top of the search result. As Google is not likely to vet the cab operator or check their safety record before accepting the money, users who think they are lucky and click on the first link may be taken for a ride — literally.

For a change, Microsoft is doing less evil and when I bing for “meru cabs” I get Meru cabs. But when I bing “cab” the links I get are for “cab.org.in”, “dictionary for cab”, “images of cab” which is puzzling. Googling “cab” gives you links for Taxi cabs. So, bing is neither evil nor smart. So, take your pick.

Driving directions from Google Maps: Say, you are new to Town and have rented a car sans driver and want directions to the Airport. You expect that Google has chosen good prominent landmarks on the route so that you can easily see them as you drive by. But Google has other ideas. A small furniture shop in the basement pays money to Google and voila it shows up on the route: “Go past Gurkeeran Enterprises” and then past shady “Suri bar“. Now, you will be craning your neck to spot “Gurkeeran Enterprises” and you can’t because it is in the basement and you will end up rear-ending a vehicle. It would be better for Google to ask us to watch a 3 second video ad and provide driving directions with prominent, well-known-to-the-locals, preferably above-ground landmarks.

Let there be more safety and less evil in this world.

As Google exhorts Google glass users not to be a Glasshole, Google should not act like an Adhole!

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