Technology: February 2006 Archives

I just received an email from BT telling me that I can win free songs from iTunes by logging in every day to a subsite at BT.com with a name and email address. OK, it has to be a BT email address to qualify, except for Fridays when it looks to be a free-for-all and you get to play for an iPod as well as songs. The first batch of vouchers gets released at 9am tomorrow (Thursday 9th February). And it's: "first come, first served...Log in early to see if you can get your hands on them!" Oh dear.

Limiting the qualifiers to BT addresses most of the time will limit the damage but I can't be the only person who saw the email and thought, "Hmm, I wonder how long it would take to set up a cron job to do that every day until the 10th March?"

If you find a very, very slow server at 9:00:10 GMT tomorrow, don't be surprised. And Friday? I don't think it's going to be pretty.

First, an apology. This is a post about Google. I'm sorry I couldn't help it. The guff about Google doing the same thing tonight as it does every night ("Wozzat Brain?" "Why Pinky, take over the world of course.") is getting to me. I have visions of blog posts rising up like a great tide and crushing every meme in their path. And this is another one. So, I'm sorry.

Like the Brain, Google has been trapped by its own catchphrase. Wannabe corporate management take note. Don't come up with a company slogan that is impossible to live up to but easy to pick holes in. It would explain why almost all corporate mission statements are in equal measure bland and impenetrable. In coming up with "Don't be evil", Google sought to set itself apart from all the other corporations that populate the IT (and most other) sectors. As a private company, the policy might have been possible. The trouble is Larry and Sergey made a promise they can't keep. As a public company, it's the shareholders that own the company, not the management. And, I'm afraid to say, shareholders tend to like evil - not too much, but just enough to keep that share price rising.

So, what we have now is the ugly spectacle of people saying: "Look, Google is just like all the others. They're going to take over the world just like Microsoft, and IBM, and err...the other companies like that. And they're not doing it nicely either."

Giving BMW.de the heave-ho from the listings for an outrageous piece of cloaking was just one of Google's apparent crimes. People are now worried about Google's "accountability" - that it is judge, jury and executioner for its own search listings. Bloggers, in particular, fear the power of Google and so fret about it in public. Curiously, Google is not the primary carrier of traffic to blogs, even though blogs come off bizarrely well in search rankings. Maybe Google will get even more aggressive about protecting the integrity of its search results and I think that concern is uppermost in bloggers' minds when they write about abuses of power at Google.