Google’s mission statement is both simple and vastly ambitious: “organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible”. So far so good on that, but about the corporate motto “Don’t be evil,” critics have been saying ‘not so good’. It has been modified. Some feel success has corrupted it.
The number one search engine was born in 1996 as the research project of Larry Page and Sergey Brin, for their PhDs at Stanford University, California.
Now Google is the world’s second most valuable brand, after Apple, said consultant firm Interbrand, which estimated that the company circling the planet was worth more than 107 billion dollars in 2014, with more than one million servers processing more than a billion search requests per day.
How does that pay? Mostly through advertising. Google’s online programme AdWords shows ads relevant to the content a user’s researching. Advertisers compete to appear. Placement is based on key words, location and language.
Is AdWords impartial? Not according to Google’s rivals. They complain Google uses it unfairly, favouring its own sponsored services and products, pushing others down the page.
Competition regulators on both sides of the Atlantic have been scrutinising these assertions.
Firms such as Yelp, TripAdvisor and Amazon provided the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) evidence in 2011 that stacked up: nine million documents. They accused Google of taking their web content.
But in 2013, the FTC said ‘no’ to allegations Google had abused its market position. Google agreed to end some of its most controversial practices.
But not everyone at the agency agreed, according to a report published last month. It said certain officials were convinced that the company was distorting the playing field, and they wanted to prosecute.