Dear Google, why do we have to have this love/hate relationship?

Dear Google,

How you have grown.

I gave you GNU/Linux to play with when you were still very young, and you took it and programmed on it and then used it to give me meaningful answers to my questions. The Web was such a jungle, and you made it tolerable, even fun. We had great times.

Later you gave me funny cat videos and a place to host my own web show. Then you even gifted me a more freedom-embracing phone operating system than anyone else in the business had. I appreciated that greatly. You were a rascal then, you shook things up. You showed Big Content a well-earned and unlubricated middle finger when they started trying to crash our YouTube party. Remember those rebel days?

Oh, there were other startups. We were all such intelligent people with our shiny neckbeards or nerdgirl glasses, working at DotComName 2.0 and Initrode. Then you opened a research center in our town, and my colleagues and friends went away. You hired half of them, you bought the town’s three good companies, and I never hear from any of those people again.

Well, maybe that’s harsh. Once every few years they invite me to your on-campus restaurant as if they were excusing themselves for not seeing me. There we eat your delicious and healthy food, but we don’t talk shop, because they’re not really allowed to talk shop anymore. You keep them on a leash, and they keep to themselves. It’s sad to see this, man. I used to have such interesting discussions with those people, but you turned them mute. Keep your succulent tofu, your delectable curries. I will just bring a sandwich because I want to talk to my friends, I’m not there to steal your food.

But there’s something else that bugs me. Some time after we met, you changed, Google. You started mentioning things to me that you couldn’t possibly know from our conversations, things that I’d written in my email or that I’d casually said to other people when you weren’t even there.

You’d suddenly start steering the topic by bringing up companies or products you thought I’d find interesting, and you’d be referring to facts about me, facts you shouldn’t know. Google, are you spying on me? I know you said you aren’t, but please, Google, how else would you know these things? I used to trust your judgment, but I can’t shake the feeling that you’re being influenced by other people. Maybe they pay you for it, I don’t know, but it’s embarrassing.

I think you’re selling information about me to those companies. Companies run by the same people you once tried to overthrow, whose business models you once wanted to disrupt. It disgusts me.

One more anecdote before I stop: Some time ago you gave me a little authenticator token, something I could use to log in to many services more safely. You also gave me the source code, it’s the only way to create any trustworthy authentication. But then you turned around. You don’t give me your new releases anymore. You left me on my own without a good explanation, in order not to expose any “Google-internal workflows.”

It’s okay. I have other friends, you know. RedHat helped me along, and their authenticator actually works. But this is just one in a series of many things you did that erode the trust between us.

Since you turned weird, I’ve been seeing more other people than just RedHat. Ones that don’t seem to be as wickedly poisoned by greed as you are. Ones that just want to have fun, that just want to do a good job and that let me play with their toys without keeping taps on my behavior. Maybe you know some of them. Their names are Mozilla, Debian, DuckDuckGo and Linux; GitHub, GitLab, DigitalOcean, Gandi and Vimeo. And also KolabNow, KDE, ProtonMail and Posteo.

How stupid of me. Of course you know them; some of them grew up with you, too. We used to be all one big circle of friends. You probably don’t remember.

It’s not like we never bicker, those old friends and I, but at least I know that I can trust them.

Google, please go see someone professional and get your head fixed so that we can be friends again. I can’t help you pay your shrink bills. Or then again, maybe I already have. Just sell some of my data, and write to me when you’re feeling better.

Sincerely, your former friend,


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