The following is a slightly edited transcript of a portion of the Critical Path podcast #79. I am reproducing it here for the sake of brevity and focus of discussion.
I’m going to try to put together an analogy together here that maybe will help us think through the Facebook Home and the Google Fiber issue.
I’ve been thinking a lot about how to illustrate Google’s business model. The problem is that discussion has been polarized: Two camps have formed. One camp suggests that Google is a benevolent entity that does great things and only asks that we indulge their hobby of a business model called advertising. Fundamentally they are about pushing the envelope on technology, making wonderful things happen.
That is one camp. I call them the utopians. It may not be a nice thing to call them but I frame it as being exceedingly idealistic.
The anti-utopian camp is one that suggests that Google is an advertising company primarily, and fundamentally and overwhelmingly. And anything they do technologically is in support of that. The implication is that Google is sinister and manipulative, bent on getting away with as much privacy extraction as possible.
I believe that the anti-utopians dismissing Google as an advertising company sounds a bit incomplete. It’s not incorrect. It’s not erroneous. It’s just not a complete story.