Monday, 2 July 2012

What was that about "Don't be evil"?

    I'm sure most readers of this blog will be familiar with the famous Google motto "Don't be evil". Having had the chance to look at Google culture from a viewpoint slightly closer than the average Joe it comes across as something taken pretty seriously within Google. When they say that, they really mean it.
    "Being evil" is generally taken as a reference to some of the shady practices found elsewhere in the tech industry. Really good examples of "Being evil" can be found in the history of Opera Software, as the underdog in the browser race they faced over a decade of unfair practices from the developer of the dominant browser.
    But things are different now, aren't they? MSIE is no longer the top dog, and there's a new kid in town. Chrome, from Google, and they have that "Don't be evil" motto, don't they?

    I use all the main browsers, I'm a web developer. I use Opera quite a lot, it's a damn good browser, just like Chrome or Firefox. I'm also a Google user, you might say I've drunk the Google Kool-Aid. So seeing screens like these three from flagship Google services running in the latest version of Opera (12.00) distresses me.

 I develop interactive web sites that work with all major browsers. Chrome, MSIE, Firefox, Safari and Opera. It's standard web developer stuff, not difficult at all. The web is full of HOWTOs, compatibility libraries and guides for the novice developer, so I'd expect the kind of experienced developers Google hires to have no problems writing code that works cross-browser. It's hardly as though Opera makes it difficult anyway, it's one of the most standards-compliant browsers on the market.
    So what I'm seeing is a major browser developer not making the effort to support a smaller competitor's product in their web servicess when I know that supporting that product is straightforward for a competent web developer. And then using the lack of support to display a message pushing users of the smaller competitor product to their own offering.

    "Don't be evil" is Google's motto. It pains me slightly to say this, but as an Opera user I don't think they're living by it here. Come on Google, step up to the plate!