"Don't be Evil" is Google's motto. How's that going?
In this context, "evil" does not mean wicked, like Sauron or Voldemort, or bad in the way some people might judge tobacco companies or corrupt enterprises like Enron.
Nick Carr probably got it right when he said, "When Google adopted 'don't be evil' as the cornerstone of its corporate code of conduct, what it really meant was 'don't be Microsoft.'" This does not imply that Microsoft is truly evil, just that Google was defining itself against the most powerful company in the software industry at that time — a company that was feared but not loved.
So "don't be evil" translates roughly as "be customer-centric, and act with some greater good than your profit margins in mind — don't be just another huge company." By that standard, it's grown harder over time to argue that Google lives up to its motto. It is a useful and valuable and in many ways admirable enterprise, but maybe not so special after all.
This article was originally published on 10-14-2009