When Google filed an S-1 for its 2004 IPO, one of the sections in Larry Page and Sergey Brin’s letter to shareholders was titled “Don’t Be Evil.” According to the prospectus, the founders’ belief was that Google’s long-run interests would be better served if it “does good things for the world even if we forgo some short term gains.” Since Google’s 1998 founding and its 2004 public offering, it has evolved from a powerful search engine provider to a company whose diverse set of products are used daily by millions. With growth came speculation and criticism that Google did not live up to its “Don’t Be Evil” standard.
One thing is certain: Google is being very vocal about informing its users of this policy change. Since announcing the change, it has barraged its users with notifications, such as the now-familiar “This stuff matters” pop-up. This follows some recent court decisions questioning the common practice of simply relying on users to stumble upon your changes, providing more transparency to users; if the change is important and you expect it to be binding on users, steps must be taken to ensure users actually see the change. Google’s aggressive tactics in informing users of its changed policy could set a new internet standard for dealing with such issues.