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Firefox Creator No Longer Trusts Google 528

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the watching-the-watchmen dept.
watashi writes "Blake Ross the man whose scratched itch became the Firefox browser explains on his blog why he has a problem with Google's policy of promoting their own products over competitors' in search results. His main gripe is that the tips (e.g. "Want to share pictures? Try Google Picasa") result in an inability for other products (perhaps even Parakey?) to compete for the top slot on Google."
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Firefox Creator No Longer Trusts Google

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  • Let's get real... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by creimer (824291) on Thursday December 28, 2006 @10:48PM (#17394672) Homepage
    It's no longer cool to be whining about Microsoft. That's why everyone is starting to whine about Google.
  • by blakeross (611172) on Thursday December 28, 2006 @10:52PM (#17394706) Homepage
    Some people seem to find it incomprehensible that a person might genuinely put others' interests above his own. This has nothing to do with Parakey, which won't even exist for some time. You would think this statement from the post would defuse conspiracy theorists: "I believe, for instance, that shipping Internet Explorer with Windows was a good move." Hmm, doesn't that hurt Firefox?

    I wrote about the issue because I believe it's important. You are, of course, welcome to disagree.
  • I don't see it. (Score:1, Interesting)

    by bersl2 (689221) on Thursday December 28, 2006 @10:53PM (#17394720) Journal
    Google might be capable of the same kind of shenanigans (e.g.) Microsoft or Real are capable of, but they haven't demonstrated it in the same palpable manner.

    (Disclaimer: Didn't RTFB.)
  • Re:Business (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Aladrin (926209) on Thursday December 28, 2006 @10:57PM (#17394740)
    I agree. And we've seen no proof that Google refuses to put others first. All we've seen is a TON of businesses unwilling to put that kind of cash into advertising on Google. If a business paid enough, I'm sure they could get first place, even over Google apps.

    Also, if you go on Google and search for 'maps'... I think there's a pretty darned good chance you are looking for 'Google Maps', and not someone else's. There's every reason to believe that Google's apps are #1 on their search engine because people are actually looking for them when they search on Google.
  • by Astarica (986098) on Thursday December 28, 2006 @11:06PM (#17394806)
    Didn't Google object having Microsoft put their own site as default search engine of IE7?

    Of course, Google lost that one too, though in this case, as I understand it, there is no way to ever get the top spot from the ones Google wants their stuff at the top, whereas you could configure IE7 to use another search engine.
  • by briancnorton (586947) on Thursday December 28, 2006 @11:23PM (#17394926) Homepage
    Can you believe an ad-supported free service would be SO BOLD as to put THEIR OWN ADS into the results? What a bunch of Nazis, I bet they vote republican and sacrifice fuzzy animals to lord satan. That's just criminal, like an organization putting their own preferred [google.com] home page on a new browser installation.
  • by John Hasler (414242) on Thursday December 28, 2006 @11:26PM (#17394942) Homepage
    > Google can make a Picasa ad say "Easier to use than Kodak," but Kodak cannot
    > create an ad that reads "Easier to use than Picasa."

    Where is the support for this claim? Neither would be trademark infringement.
  • by tpv (155309) on Thursday December 28, 2006 @11:28PM (#17394954) Homepage
    Why shouldn't Google put their own products first?
    Because ultimately it may not be in their best interests.

    Google relies on trust. I enter my search criteria, and Google returns the "best" results it can find.
    If users start to think that Google is manipulating those results for their own gain, then they will stop trusting the results and start looking at other search engines.

    Is this "hints" section a sign that Google has crossed the line? Maybe - that's for each person to decide - but there is a line there, and Google needs to walk it very carefully if they want to maintain that trust relationship.

  • Re:Uh.... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by JFMulder (59706) on Thursday December 28, 2006 @11:29PM (#17394958)
    Great post. I was going to post something similar, but I'll add to it.

    It's like owning a hockey team. For many many years, the Molson beer company (a Canadian beer company which merged with the American beer company Coors a few years ago) was the majority (or complete?) owner of the Montreal Canadians. Because of this, the only beer you could buy at the forum was Molson beer. Even more, it was the only beer you could see advertised or sold during Montreal Canadian hockey games or Montreal Canadian related events. Molson had a monopoly over beer consuption during the hockey games. It truly was a monopoly since no other beer company could advertise there. Who in their right mind would allow advertising from a competitor in their own distribution or promotional channel?

    I see Google's situation the same. They own the space and the distribution channel. They have the right to advertise anything they want in there.

    (On an unrelated note, now that Molson sold the hockey team to George Gillet, an american interrest, they are still the only beer company associated with the team. Why? They offered the best advertising dollars to the team and became one of the biggest sponsor)
  • by blakeross (611172) on Thursday December 28, 2006 @11:43PM (#17395048) Homepage
    > I didn't see Yahoo, MSN, or Ask pushing Firefox the way Google did.

    And you believe those engines (with the exception of MSN, perhaps :) wouldn't similarly support Firefox if *they* were the default? We made Google the default in Firefox long before Firefox was popular because we believed Google provided the best service to our users. Perhaps that's why I'm upset with the company now. It was only once Firefox started getting big and driving significant traffic to Google that a deal was cut.

    > Talk about biting the hand that feeds you.

    I criticize Google because I want to see them improve.
  • by dreemernj (859414) on Thursday December 28, 2006 @11:46PM (#17395078) Homepage Journal
    It's understandable. Firefox was a rallying cry against Microsoft, the monopoly, the company that only cared about making money, not following standards and playing friendly. But now Firefox is controlled by a for-profit company (the Mozilla Corporation), it is heavily backed by Google, a ginormous for-profit company, and he is starting to get nervous that Firefox is becoming the very thing that people were fighting against when they so openly accepted it.

    So, he is going to be extra vocal about not playing fair.
  • Re:Business (Score:5, Interesting)

    by metlin (258108) on Thursday December 28, 2006 @11:50PM (#17395100) Journal
    "Doing evil" as you put it isn't something that is going to magically happen one fine day.

    It is something that creeps up, a little at a time.

    Google had promised not to do evil, and it always starts small. Remember that there was a time when MS was the underdog. Google starts with corrupting ads and results now, and of course such things as revealing the search information of someone [boingboing.net]:

    Google has confirmed that it can provide search terms if given an Internet address or Web cookie, but has steadfastly refused to say how often such requests arrive. (Microsoft, on the other hand, told us that it has never received such queries for MSN Search, and AOL says it could not provide the information if asked.)

    Of course, I will not even mention what happened with Google China etc.

    The thing is, most people will not notice if Google was turning evil because it's not like one fine day they decide to do evil things. Remember that they are a publicly traded company, and sooner or later the desire for profit will win out over everything else.

    They have already decided not to provide search results in a nation where such things as massacres by the government occured, and they have provided data to government agencies and refused to disclose how often they do this.

    The thing about "evil" is not that it happens, it's that you would not know if it did. Who knows what else Google does with all that information?

    That is the scary part. /tinfoil hat

    Just my two cents and all that! :)
  • by eln (21727) on Thursday December 28, 2006 @11:50PM (#17395112) Homepage
    Given that every post he makes is fake [slashdot.org], I think you may be on to something there.
  • by Urza9814 (883915) on Friday December 29, 2006 @12:13AM (#17395234)
    I haven't ever seen google appear to be unfair in their search results. Google 'pictures'. If they were unfairly promoting their own products, google image search or picasa would be on the top. AOL pictures is on page two, google image search is on page 5. The thing they DO do is, before the search results, say 'Tip: Looking for pictures? Try Google Images'. What's wrong with that? They're not even pretending it's a search result, they're just saying they have a product you might be interested in. Might as well complain that the last EA game I bought came with a flyer advertising other games, but *gasp*, they were ALL EA GAMES! Actually, no, that's worse. Quite a bit worse.
  • by tylernt (581794) on Friday December 29, 2006 @12:23AM (#17395280)
    ...as long as their ad results are clearly distinguishable from the real results. I don't have a problem with the ads of a different background color at the top or side... it's the ad results injected into the middle of the real results with only a faint horizontal line to separate them, that I find objectionable. What's worse is Google doesn't do it all the time, so they tend to catch people off guard.
  • by blakeross (611172) on Friday December 29, 2006 @12:27AM (#17395302) Homepage
    That merely explains how to file a trademark complaint with Google.

    My post does not claim it's trademark infringement, which you must know, since quoted it. The post says that Kodak could not create an ad containing "Picasa".

    You've done this?

    Yes.

    What happens when you do it with "Kodak"?

    That's exactly the point here. Google's tips are not subject to the same policies as AdWords ads, so irrespective of whether Kodak blocks ads from using its trademark, a tip could do it anyways. That wasn't the case when Google was using its own network. [blogspot.com]

  • by laffer1 (701823) <luke@@@foolishgames...com> on Friday December 29, 2006 @12:46AM (#17395444) Homepage Journal
    You make some valid points. Its just like Microsoft pushing IE and including it in Windows to kill Navigator. I think people forget that Netscape practically had a monopoly on browsing for a time. Yahoo was once in google's position and they did exactly the same thing. Its called marketing.

    There are several things that google has done I'm not happy about. This is very small on my list. As a geek, I realize that many of us have stronger ethics than most others. The public will continue to use google just as they love their Windows install. The difference is that its much easier to unseat a search engine.

    Now if the developers at Mozilla wish to look down on google, they could stop making it default in Firefox as a search engine. Frankly I find it interesting after Microsoft started giving them help with Vista compatibility that we hear this negative google talk. I can say things about others just as easy as the Firefox guy.

    I think its time some of you realized that google is not this amazing company that is totally different. Its similar to the argument I have with my mother over Yahoo. She views them as the best thing the internet has ever seen. She chooses them over google daily. For a long time I tried to talk her into using another search tool and game site. She stuck with Yahoo because of her personal experiences. I stay away from Yahoo because of my personal experience*. If you don't like google, just don't use any of their products and chose something else. The same goes for IE, Windows, etc. Modern computing is about choice.

    * If you are curious about my hatred of Yahoo, its simply a flaw in their early childrens search feature. Their advertising code displayed a porno ad to a 7 year old I was watching and nearly lost me my job. His search was totally unrelated and quite clean.

  • by blakeross (611172) on Friday December 29, 2006 @12:48AM (#17395452) Homepage
    I believe if you read the comments on the post [blakeross.com] you'll find that I reconsidered many of my opinions based on the opposite views presented there. But thanks for the kind words :)
  • Re:Priorities (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 29, 2006 @01:36AM (#17395666)
    Because the way Firefox (or, more accurately, Gecko) is designed, all chrome JavaScript runs in the UI thread. So anything done in JavaScript, which is almost anything, can effectively freeze the browser. Some background threads might be doing something useful - who know? - but with the UI completely frozen, there's no way to find out.

    This is also why doing things like opening the bookmark manager or Help window completely freeze the browser for a bit, and installing any cross-platform extension will slow the browser. In order to make an extension cross-platform, it has to be written in JavaScript. (Or include binary stubs for every single platform Firefox might conceivably run on - yeah right.) Well, chrome JavaScript (ie, extension JavaScript) is always run in the UI thread and JavaScript cannot be multithreaded. (I've tried, using XPCOM. Firefox crashes.)

    So, in the end, the browser seems slower than it really is because the UI locks up randomly whenever some bit of JavaScript doesn't complete instantly.

    Note that, annoyingly, page JavaScript appears to be run in another thread. So a page won't lock up the UI. But it can still effectively freeze the browser with a simple while(true);.
  • by quixote9 (999874) on Friday December 29, 2006 @02:01AM (#17395822) Homepage

    I think Giovanni has hit the target. A monopoly is defined as too little meaningful competition, not no competition, as some of the folks here seem to think. And even though Google doesn't yet have a complete monopoly even by that definition, it's headed there because search engines, like electric utilities, are natural monopolies. Natural, in the sense that competition is a waste in that case, like having 2 competing utilities, each stringing miles of wire. It's the same with searching. Whichever portal has the widest reach will be used the most, will therefore have an even wider reach, and so on. In short order, it can have a stranglehold on the process. That is Not Good.

    There's a reason why monopolies are regulated. I would have thought that watching Microsoft leverage another "natural monopoly" product, an OS, into a stranglehold would have shown pretty clearly why this is something that needs to be controlled at the outset. I don't know about you, but I'd like to set my own criteria for my preferences. So far, Google's come up with some excellent products, but I want to use them by my choice, not Google's.

  • by blakeross (611172) on Friday December 29, 2006 @02:44AM (#17395982) Homepage

    You got me. I had qualms at first about "Blake Ross was bribed by a lobby" showing up in searches of my name for all eternity, but then I thought--wait, I can get some karma points!

    To solidify the illusion, I prepared another comment [slashdot.org] and posted it simultaneously.

  • by Torvaun (1040898) on Friday December 29, 2006 @05:04AM (#17396548)
    Excellent post, you only missed one thing. Google currently does not charge for these services it provides, other than the advertising service. If Google wants to say 'use our bandwidth and access our servers without giving us money,' let them. Yes, I understand the underlying business model of selling advertising, it's worked for radio stations for years. It is better for more people to use your service for free, because then more people will want to pay you for a related service. But from the average citizen's viewpoint, it doesn't really matter. Personally, I prefer to grab Google's free services for many things, from searches to email. I'm glad they're telling me about the new things.
  • No need to worry... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bnf (16861) on Friday December 29, 2006 @05:06AM (#17396556) Homepage
    pop will eat itself

    (forgive me, but let me go on a rant...)

    which is to say that the common fancy becomes so common that it's commonality becomes a point of contention and leads to the fancy's demise. We're just about there with the ubiquity of google now just like we've been there before with IBM and at&t and ford and pan am.... this is the cyclic nature of (near)natural monopolies. Their success is their importance is their weight which means every step they take is heavy and is heard. Of course they can't be trusted; their success means that they've become "the man". It's easy to look sceptically upon them. How dare they self-agrandize. How dare they try to shape the world into their vision. Aren't they being irresponsible in propogating that vision?

    It's very easy to be egalitarian in the face of such things. Big bad google is the new big bad wolf... They don't care about me, they only care about their stock price, which is all their stock holders (read: owners, read: larry and sergey) care about.

    (The egalitarian view is always in conflict with the view of any particular hive, otherwise you're just kissing up to the masses and appear wishy washy)

    From the google IPO filing:
    Kumbaya: "We aspire to make Google an institution that makes the world a better place. And now, we are in the process of establishing the Google Foundation. We intend to contribute significant resources to the foundation, including employee time and approximately 1 percent of Google's equity and profits in some form."

    in present time that rings: "we have a foundation for good to offset our foundation of commerce. Hopefully it will mitigate the evil enough for your tastes"...

    but now we're at the "what have you done for me lately" phase with the over arching question of "prove to me it's not just the money". They have a particular PR battle on their hands since they are so much better off with us on their side. I mean, what if we all of the sudden realized that other search products were at least as good?

    but they're not. Right? The other tools aren't as familiar or as elegant or as relevant. So at the end of the day this argument is moot. You can grumble as you use google or you can nod, but nine time out of ten the big G is still your dog when it comes to playing fetch with the net.
  • by blakeross (611172) on Friday December 29, 2006 @05:14AM (#17396596) Homepage
    Right? The other tools aren't as familiar or as elegant or as relevant. So at the end of the day this argument is moot.

    I think you raise a very good point, but I don't think the argument is moot. Using a service and trusting a service are very different. When I trust a service, a competitor has to be significantly better to get me. When I'm neutral, the competitor has to be a little better. When I distrust a service, the competitor only has to be equal. Brand loyalty is important.

  • by lohphat (521572) on Friday December 29, 2006 @07:32AM (#17397034)
    Give me a break.

    They had to do business under the rules set down by the government in that country. The alternative was to not do business in China and let some other company do it, gain market share, and dilute Google's position.

    If you haven't noticed, Communist regimes tend to crumble when they loose their grip on information and a middle-class develops -- Google being in China only accelerates the eventual slide from power.
  • Language (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MidnightBrewer (97195) on Friday December 29, 2006 @08:47AM (#17397260)
    I find it more more annoying that Google insists that localized versions of Firefox automatically default to that locale's official language, and won't let you change this default no matter what. I live in Japan, and yes, I speak and read Japanese, but I'd prefer my searches not be limited by language. I have to click "search the entire web" every single time, which means searching twice. No other search engine has this built-in limitation.

    Ironically, Yahoo! is the search engine of choice in Japan, and doesn't discriminate against language. Also, their results are often better than Google's.
  • by Peter Cooper (660482) on Friday December 29, 2006 @08:51AM (#17397278) Homepage Journal
    I've been a big Google fan for many years now since I started using them in 2000. I was the sort of idiot who got people to try them out in the early days and changed my clients' default search engines to them :) But now... man, the results they're dredging up in the last few weeks have been so atrocious I'm trying to jump ship to another search engine with a clean design and actually good results (still looking though.. Yahoo has nice results, but is surrounded by spam and distractions).

    I think people have celebrated Google a lot in the past couple of years while they've been on top and the largest, most popular search engine. Some of the other respondents talk about tall poppy syndrome, but Google have been a much celebrated tall poppy for a while now. I think the reason for the whining is legitimate here and based on things like quirky advertising, piss-poor search results, and the lack of any great new developments from Google since Gmail in 2004.

"Only the hypocrite is really rotten to the core." -- Hannah Arendt.

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