The Two Googles

Copied from a twitter thread with some minor edits. Opinions are my own, not those of my employer.

There are two Googles. The real-life one which is a massive for-profit company (which does some awesome things, treats it employees well, is very progressive in many ways, etc. But: it's still a massive for-profit corporation.) And then there's the imaginary Google that a lot of Googlers and Google users have in their mind. The imaginary Google is probably different for everyone, but think of like, if the EFF wrote a lot more code? Or, imagine if every engineer at Google was a huge believer in Net Neutrality and the Free Software philosophy and the power of technology to make society fairer. More importantly, imagine if decisions at Google were made democratically by those people, rather than by the executive team. Now you have some idea what Imaginary Google looks like. (Also there are zero neo-nazis at Imaginary Google. None at all. It's great.)

Anyway, here's the tricky part. A lot of us (including me, not sure if I made that clear on Twitter), in a weird way which is hard to describe, kinda believe we're working at Imaginary Google. Is that because A Few Years Ago Google was slightly closer to Imaginary Google than today's IRL Google? Or does it just seem that way because we look at the past with rose-tinted glasses? Hard to say. I bring it up because it's a useful framing for certain issues if you're hoping to get Google to change its position on something. The specific example that prompted me to write this was the revelation that Google is a donor to the Federalist Society which I don't know much about but I gather that it's not what you'd call a progressive organization. If you follow news about Google, you can probably think of other examples where Google has taken actions to remind you that it's not the idealistic Imaginary Google you sometimes think it is. Anyway, what I mean about "framing" is that once you remind yourself about the two Googles, your response to Google doing something that seems shocking isn't, "How could we possibly being doing this? This isn't what Google stands for!" but instead, "This is what Google stands for. Our actions are clear. But, let's change that please. Let's not take this position."