In Google we trust?

Google's dominance on the Web may give us pause, but shouldn't its emphasis on openness also give us comfort? As it has gained influence, it has given up control.

The more Google grows, the more it becomes a cause for concern for many people--and not simply its competitors. But should it?

On the one hand, Google has become a privacy bogeyman, dropping off the list of the top 20 companies trusted with customer privacy. Ironically, this has come at the same time that Google has upped its commitment to open data policies, which enable users to control their own data privacy policies. Are users suggesting that they can't trust themselves?

This abandonment of trust in Google also comes in the face of an ever-growing commitment within Google to open source. Google now hosts more than 200 open-source projects, ranging from the more obscure (Protocol Buffers) to the well-known (Chrome browser, Web Toolkit).

Perhaps the drop in trust derives from Google's refusal to stay in its search sandbox, expanding its reach well beyond the search engine to mobile, for example, with a range of new features planned for the Android mobile open-source platform .

But why the lack of trust? The more Google has expanded its appetite for influence and dominance of the Web, it has has circumscribed its ability to control through open data, open source, and open APIs. As Google hasn't always had a policy of openness , I'm increasingly impressed by the search giant's widening commitment to it, even as it has the potential to seriously close off the Web to competitors' and, ultimately, customers' detriment.

Is Google perfect? No. But it is also not a 1990s Microsoft-style monopoly. Many of us begrudged Microsoft its dominance because it has been protected through things such as proprietary file formats and (past) illegal tying arrangements. Google does not compete this way. It competes in the open.

Have we lost trust in Google simply because it is winning , and we innately suspect the worst of a company at its scale?

Tech Culture
About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.


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