Google claims “open will win”

Google has published a manifesto on openness, as it attempts to undo some of the damage done to its “don’t be evil” image in recent weeks.

Google claims

The manifesto was initially published as an internal memo by Jonathan Rosenberg, Google senior vice president of product management. It was intended to clear up misconceptions on Google’s definition of “open”.

Rosenberg has now published the memo on the company’s official blog, and he doesn’t shy away from taking a pop at some big names, including Apple.

“At Google we believe that open systems win… The conventional wisdom goes that companies should lock in customers to lock out competitors,” Rosenberg writes.

Eventually innovation in a closed system tends towards being incremental… complacency is the hallmark of any closed system

“A well-managed closed system can deliver plenty of profits. They can also deliver well-designed products in the short run — the iPod and iPhone being the obvious examples — but eventually innovation in a closed system tends towards being incremental at best because the whole point is to preserve the status quo. Complacency is the hallmark of any closed system,” he says.

Gaming the algorithm

Of course, this swiftly raises the thorny issue of why the company isn’t more open with its search algorithm. “Our goal is to keep the internet open, which promotes choice and competition and keeps users and developers from getting locked in,” claims Rosenberg.

“In many cases, most notably our search and ads products, opening up the code would not contribute to these goals and would actually hurt users. Not to mention the fact that opening up these systems would allow people to ‘game’ our algorithms to manipulate search and ads quality rankings, reducing our quality for everyone,” he concludes.

However, while Rosenberg does a good job, on the whole, of defending Google’s position and image, he does inadvertently offer ammunition to those worried about the company’s fascination with our personal information.

“On the web, the new form of commerce is the exchange of personal information for something of value. This is a transaction that millions of us participate in every day, and it has potentially great benefits,” he says.

“An auto insurer could monitor a customer’s driving habits in real time and give a discount for good driving – or charge a premium for speeding – powered by information (GPS tracking) that wasn’t available only a few years ago,” he concludes.

The manifesto comes a week after Google chief executive Eric Schmidt shocked web users by suggesting that those worried about their privacy probably had something to hide.

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