Google’s “Don’t Be Evil” motto, first uttered by Googler Paul Buchheit (now founder of FriendFeed) in 2001, has long been the pillar of their self-imposed code of conduct. It was amended somewhat in 2006 when CEO Eric Schmidt, under fire for entering the Chinese market with censorship restrictions, said “We actually did an evil scale and decided not to serve at all was worse evil.” He turned it into a sort of evil minimization algorithm.
But the core motto is still displayed prominently on the Google Investor Relations site, and the company appears to be supporting it up 100%.
Not so, apparently. Last week, however, Google’s Marissa Mayer said “It really wasn’t like an elected, ordained motto” during an interview in Australia, adding “I think that ‘Don’t Be Evil’ is a very easy thing to point at when you see Google doing something that you personally don’t like; it’s a very easy thing to point out so it does get targeted a lot.”
There’s a certain disconnect between paragraph two above and what Marrissa says in paragraph 3.
This is most likely not a precursor to an official move away from the motto. I imagine it’s little more than a venting of a frustration that Google continues to be held to a promise made six years ago, when they were under significantly less scrutiny than they are today. Google can’t ditch the motto (the press would eat that up), and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to live up to it. What can they do? Not much. They made this bed. It’s too bad they couldn’t get Buchheit to take it with him when he left to found FriendFeed.