Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/03/21/google_soccer_vendetta/

Google's deceptive do-gooder claims turn dangerous

At risk youth

By Ashlee Vance

Posted in Media, 21st March 2006 22:25 GMT

Analysis Google likes to attach a greater social significance to its varied work as an advertising broker. The best and most obvious example of this policy comes from the "Do No Evil" stamp placed on financial statements. Time and again, however, Google's actions demonstrate that there is no greater good at hand. Google is little more than a purveyor of capitalism's most despised offshoot - advertising.

The latest Google move to support this thesis is the launch of Joga.com. Nike and Google partnered to bring this "community site" to life. As the homepage tells it, Joga will nurture some kind of soccer renaissance by allowing every Tom, Dick and Harry to share their thoughts on the game and trade photos and videos.

"WELCOME TO JOGA - THE COMMUNITY FOR SOCCER PLAYERS DEDICATED TO KEEPING THE GAME BEAUTIFUL," the site says. "JOGA IS A PLACE TO MEET OTHER SOCCER PLAYERS, SHARE YOUR OWN SOCCER EXPERIENCES AND ENJOY PHOTOS AND VIDEOS FROM AROUND THE WORLD.

"JOIN US AND HELP REMIND THE WORLD HOW THE GAME WAS MEANT TO BE PLAYED.

"PLAY BEAUTIFUL."

That's some touching stuff.

The site even has a fake oil painting vibe in the background, presumably to give it some authenticity and age. It barks out "Heart, Honor, Joy, Skill, Team," instructing us all about the key tenets to soccer. (Apparently trying to counter the Adidas and Yahoo sponsorship of the World Cup with a web site is also a key tenet of soccer.)

Of course, the reality of Joga places the "community site" as little more than an advertising portal. The first image you see on the site is that of a swoosh-branded Ronaldo.The only publicly accessible video at this time is a Nike advertisement.

Apparently the way to play soccer right is with Nike shoes on, and members of this "community" will hear this message repeated again and again.

Photo of Ronaldo Nike and Google looking to make money off folks won't bother anyone. That's their job, even though Google often denies that its main priority is making money.

The only real problem with Joga is that it continues Google's ruse of being some kind of entity that can cure social ills via text ads. This time it's going to fix the world's most popular sport.

If you don't think people buy into this idea, you're wrong.

Take sixteen-year old Tom Vendetta, for example. This poor kid has dedicated his teenage years to being a Google fan-boy. On his blog, he has posted notes about Google CEO Eric Schmidt being "in a city three and a half hours away from me. . . . I think I am going to sneak out of the house tonight and ride my bike to new york. If I am lucky I will make it there sunday morning."

Vendetta goes on to talk about how Google "is showing that they arent afraid to fight the government" by trying to protect their proprietary search data from US legislators.

"I like it how they actually care about there users," Vendetta writes. "It makes me feel good to know that my search data is between me and google."

Just before posting that, Vendetta basically gives Google a free pass for conspiring with the Chinese government to censor information. While not enamored with Google's decision, Vendetta hopes that software developers will be inspired "to help the Chinese citizens get around the censorship."

We doubt that Chinese dissidents have the same "feel good" relationship with Google that Vendetta holds or that they place much stock in software developers freeing them from Communist shackles.

Why look at this one sixteen-year-old?

Well, he's the same chap that managed to get a fake press release about Google hiring him posted on Google's news aggregator. That incident ended up with I-Newswire being banned from having its releases posted to Google News.

As far as we can tell, Google hasn't bothered to contact Vendetta or you would have read about it on his blog. A more savvy company - such as MIcrosoft - would no doubt have offered up a free tour of its campus and maybe even given Vendetta a chance to play with Sergey's colored balls.

No matter, Vendetta continues to hold out hope that Google will hire him one day and prays this fake press release episode hasn't cost him a chance to earn some colored balls of his own.

"I guess all my dreams and hopes of getting a job at Google have officially been demolished," he writes.

There's something really sad about what Google has indirectly done to this kid.

Picture of Google co-founder Larry Page"Anyone who knows me in real life knows that I am the biggest google fanboy ever," Vendetta writes. "I mean hell, I even dressed up as Larry Page (Google him :) for halloween. "

Very few teenagers grow up wanting to get in the text ad business. At sixteen, they're usually exploring a broad set of interests including but not limited to sex, sports, books, science, games, movies, gossip, drugs/alchohol and either having fun or being depressed. Vendetta seems to have centered his interests around the prospect of "doing no evil" via Nike advertisements and maps that show how close the local Borders is to your house.

Heaven help us all if Vendetta is anything more than an anomaly.

Just six or so years ago, people still fought the idea of internet advertising with their every fiber. No self-respecting child would cry out, "I want to sell text ads when I grow up." The geek set actually attached itself to things such as open source software, battling the DMCA and keeping the internet as open as possible.

Google appears to have fooled a new generation of youngsters into thinking that freedom lies behind an invite-only Nike sponsored community site and that justice can be delivered from money earned by visiting www.flog-your-blog.com.

Many of you will criticize this as being melodramatic and over-the-top. Be careful with that line of thinking. Just a few years back, no one questioned what Google did with search data, no one wondered about its super-secretive policies and no one thought Google might contribute to China's oppression of its people just to sell text-ads in a market that it admits is too small to matter right now.

Many of you spend a lot of time trying to avoid ads. You flip the radio station when the booming salesman comes on. You scan through different TV channels waiting for the commercials to finish. You hang up on telemarketers. In fact, advertisers often stand as some of the most despised creatures on the planet.

But now we have a sixteen-year-old wanting nothing more than to sell ads for Google and doing everything in his power to get the company's attention. Google has recruited some high-powered friends such as Nike to keep its advertising warm, fuzzy and wrapped in Web 2.0 magic.

The only thing we can thank Google for its total ineptitude - outside search - at doing anything but placing text ads.

It has once again rolled out a horrific "live beta" with Joga, which follows on the heels of the "live disaster" Google Video and today's other crayon coated "live beta" Google Finance. Google can't set the bar any lower with these web sites, and people will soon come to associate Google with shoddy products just like they did with Microsoft - the company Google seems to want to emulate.

With any luck, Google will disappoint Vendetta and others like him enough that they can dream big again. ®