Who would have thought? Some 5 years after Google emerged in the public consciousness, and they have done their first kind-of-evil thing. When I logged into my Gmail this morning, there was a big, red stripe across the top of my Gmail account warning me that if I didn’t disable Firebug (web debugging software used by 99% of all web developers, 100% of all web developers in their right mind), than there could be severe performance penalties while I used Gmail.
I will admit that I was pretty disappointed that Google chose to try to make users change their habits, rather than taking the extra time (and yes, cost) to get Gmail to work with a tool so common amongst web developers. But at the same time, it made me re-realize just how seldom Google chooses to take the low road like this. In the pre-Google days, it was routine for applications to make me reboot my computer to install them. Or for applications to not include an uninstaller. And include spyware. And pester me with waits to use them if I didn’t pay.
Of course, many applications still do these things, and I don’t think that Google alone has turned the tide away from these annoying practices, but it has certainly risen public awareness that “don’t be evil” is a viable business strategy that can create both adoring users and a profitable bottom line. Katy recently pointed out that it should only be a matter of time until Starbucks’ insistence on charging users $6.00/hour to use the Internet could come back to hurt them. I hope she’s right. There is no need for these kinds of business practices, when righteous users now know to stand up to them.