Bait and Switch

Buhbye We all know about Google’s famous Do No Evil mantra, apparently coined by Gmail developer Paul Buchheit back in the day. But I’ve never put much stock in the sentiment, preferring Don’t Get Caught as a more operational version of the idea. Things we say to get over in the throes of passion have a way of dissipating in the bracing light of the next day.

In recent years Do No Evil has been nudged aside by various efforts to do right by the community, couched in the warm fuzziness of Open. OpenSocial is so far the only official branding that’s emerged from the company, and it from the start was designed to be moved to an independent entity. Google has spent some serious dollars bringing folks from the open standards community onboard as evangelists, and its launch of Google Buzz suggested a harvesting of what together has been called the Open Stack into the underlying fabric of the micromessaging product.

Historically, Google’s infatuation with Open as a brand name has had its challenges in resolving the conflict between standards and speed to market. A minor false note was struck early when Gmail sprouted video chat on top of its Gtalk/Chat product, using some code that looked suspiciously like a Flash container (just right click the video frame to see what I mean.) More recently, the language around Flash at this year’s Google I/O announcements redefined Flash as open by its role in giving users a choice. It might have made an interesting exercise to ask the Ovangelists what they thought of the newspeak, but the Apple/Google falling out seemed to trump the usual hippie language of yore.

Nothing, however, prepared us for the Google Verizon putsch of recent days, where Google made it clear that the FCC had better crawl back into its cave before Eric and the boys get really mad. For those of us who used to refer to the commission as the F-CC in the good old days when Nixon used it to cow CBS away from its antiwar coverage, it’s astonishing to feel sorry for the agency. But a monster carrier and a run-away search monopoly will do that for you.