Google Pays Tribute to the Empire

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Because I am in the software field, I find it especially sad and painful to watch yet another important entrepreneurial company in the industry “growing up“, (one wonders why the phrase “growing up” is used for politicians who become more statist and companies that are forced to give bribes to politicians… Would these people call getting anally raped in prison “growing up” also?):

“They are brilliant engineers,” said Lauren Maddox, a principal in the bipartisan lobbying firm Podesta Mattoon that was hired by Google last year. “They are not politicians.”

“It’s sad,” said Esther Dyson, editor of the technology newsletter Release 1.0 and former chairwoman of Icann, a nonprofit group that plays a role in Internet administration. “The kids are growing up. They’ve lost youth and innocence. Now they have to start being grown-ups and playing at least to some extent by grown-up rules.”

But I have trouble throwing stones at Google because it is unclear how much choice they have:

Started less than a decade ago in a Stanford dorm room, Google has evolved into a multibillion-dollar business, its search engine ubiquitous on the Internet. Its sprawling growth, fueled by a public stock offering in August 2004 that created a market behemoth, has now thrust it into the glare of Washington.

As lawmakers and regulators begin eyeing its ventures in China and other countries and as its Web surfers worry about the privacy of their online searches, Google is making adjustments that do not fit neatly with its maverick image.

It has begun ramping up its lobbying and legislative operations after largely ignoring Washington for years, in a scramble to match bases long established here by competitors like Yahoo and Microsoft, as well as the deeply entrenched telecommunication companies.

This point that growing to a certain size “thrust it into the glare of Washington” reminds me of what a Sicilian friend said when I asked him what it was like to live with the Mafia. He said that most people only read about the Mafia in papers… The Mafia only bothers people who are very successful in business or politics.

I’m afraid that the wonderful anarchic world of computer technology isn’t going to be fun much longer.

3:15 pm on March 28, 2006