Internet fame is amusing. Responses to my post ( https://plus.google.com/114128403856330399812/posts/9dKsD7Mi7JU
) yesterday (on G+ and elsewhere) included such gems (paraphrased, here) as:
* Several people claiming my post was filled with "marketing speak" while others said that it was a good thing I'm an engineer and not in marketing. (So which is it?)
* Multiple people inviting me to stop "believing the lie I'd been fed" about Chrome's mission -- when I was involved in the discussions five years ago about whether and why to build Chrome. (Perhaps I'm feeding myself lies.)
* Many people asserting that Google builds Chrome to collect more data on its users, when we've noted multiple times that this isn't the case; I especially liked one guy supporting his argument by linking to a page about "Chromium vs. Chrome" that explicitly noted that the only additional "tracking" in Chrome is an off-by-default option to send us anonymized data (like "number of times you clicked a toolbar button") and crash reports. (Maybe he thought if he just provided a link, everyone would assume it supported him and no one would actually read it.)
The overall thrust of those who thought me disingenuous (or just misled) seemed to be that my position is hopelessly naive and idealistic. I want to respond to that in general -- not specifically in regard to the question of Google/Mozilla financial arrangements, which I'm not privy to and frankly was never trying to comment on in the first place, but in general, about the worldview of Googlers, in the same way that my post yesterday was intended to be interpreted in general, about the worldview of the Chrome team, and not as a hard-nosed claim about a particular business deal.
What seems impossible for non-Googlers to fully comprehend is that Google as a company is, in a way, "hopelessly naive and idealistic". We Googlers are idealists who want to change the world and naively believe we can actually make it happen. To cynics this seems a facade, and to others full of arrogance or hubris, but the sort of idealism that can dare to make "don't be evil" a corporate motto is precisely why I accepted Google's job offer years ago. It wasn't the pay, the perks, or even the particular work I'd be doing; it's that I wanted to work for a company who, while inevitably making some mistakes, was really committed to doing The Right Thing. It was that, after interviewing on site, I concluded that most people at Google actually believed those ideals, actually tried to uphold that motto, actually wanted to change the world.
This kind of naive idealism runs straight up the management chain to the founders, who wrote the audacious mission statement "to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful". Seriously? All the information in the world, to everyone? Come on, now; that's hopelessly naive and idealistic!
Let me be clear: I'm not denying that Google makes money, or claiming that isn't a factor in decisions. But the "realists" (as multiple people proudly declared themselves to be yesterday) are so busy patting themselves on the back for "seeing through" Google's actions to expose what they think is the short-term, exploitative focus driving everything that they completely miss the possibility that people in for-profit corporations can actually care about humanity, the world, ethics, doing the right thing, or hell, even long-term strategic planning. You don't have to be an idealist to see why, for a company that benefits when people use the web, making the web better is a good long-term move; or why a company that wants its users' trust and loyalty would benefit from not secretly spying on everything they do.
Fellow Googler and HTML5 spec editor +Ian Hickson
wrote in a comment yesterday: "I get the same kinds of blank looks or active denials when I try to explain that my goal as spec writer is to make the Web better irrespective of Google's short-term interests. It's sad that as a society we have reached a stage where it is so unlikely that a company would be willing to invest in humanity (or even to invest in its own long-term benefit) that people become actively hostile and accuse one of lying and deceit when one does so
." (emphasis mine)
I'm sure I'm not convincing the skeptics out there -- they're so wedded to their point of view that, just like the guy linking the Chromium vs. Chrome article I mentioned above, they'll treat arguments that flatly contradict them as supportive. My post here will just be more evidence that Google management has completely pulled the wool over my eyes, more proof that those Google folks are expert manipulators and prevaricators. Our corporate charitable gift matching policy is clearly just another perk, not an expression of interest in humanity. Our support for clean energy is aimed solely at profit, it has nothing to do with concern for the environment. The people at Google who work on accessibility don't care about the disabled and the handicapped, they just want to tick up a few more users and make a few more bucks.
So it's only to the rest of you that I can suggest that, if you're wondering why Google is doing some thing, you try imagining it from the perspective of a few tens of thousands of hopelessly naive idealists; try imagining that, when we make some audacious claim, we're crazy enough to believe it; even try imagining that, when we screw up, Hanlon's Razor might apply and it might be due to honestly making a mistake rather than some sort of malicious attempt to get away with something.
Yeah, the Kool-Aid is strong here, but maybe that's because as a company we hire people who already believe.