Under Eric Schmidt ads were always in the background. Google was run like an innovation factory, empowering employees to be entrepreneurial through founder’s awards, peer bonuses and 20% time. Our advertising revenue gave us the headroom to think, innovate and create. Forums like App Engine, Google Labs and open source served as staging grounds for our inventions.
But that was then, as the saying goes, and this is now.
The apparent obsession with Facebook and the failure of Google+, combined with the dilution of quality search results, do not inspire confidence. Is it really necessary to become the NSA and further invade our anonymity, to survive? Add to this a reported slow-down in its book scanning project, and it is clear the company is changing direction.
Now, we hear of approaching revisions in search results, apparently based on the emerging semantic web, or 'Web 3.0'. Could this be a good thing? Likely it will be a missed opportunity.
To my mind, what Google is missing is the chance to offer users some shelter from the social media-led datadump of individuals' personal histories. Google could lead the provision of anonymizing services, perhaps facilitating the creation of user-controlled online personae. That might do something to restore confidence in a company that has clearly 'moved on' from its commitment to 'do no evil.'