My name is danah boyd and I'm a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research, a Research Assistant Professor in Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University, and a Fellow at Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society. Buzzwords in my world include: privacy, context, youth culture, social media, big data. I use this blog to express random thoughts about whatever I'm thinking.

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Which evil nation state are you? (similes for Microsoft, Yahoo and Google)

OK, i can no longer resist posting this even though it’s not so very nice. In a moment of snarkiness, i was thinking about how to frame the perceived attitude of the three big search companies: MYG (Microsoft, Yahoo, Google). By thinking on a global landscape and thinking about empires, i decided that you could draw similes between each company and powerful nation-states in the 20th century. Yes, it’s a crude and rude model drawing off of stereotypes to build caricatures. But it is kinda funny. I was trying to resist posting this because it feels so inappropriate, but why should that stop me?

Microsoft is Germany. They did some pretty evil things a while back but you don’t remember the details, you just know that you really hate them. Even though they’re really no worse than any other large corporpation/country, you can’t help but distrust them permanently because, well, you always have.

Yahoo is Japan. It had an economic crisis that almost destroyed it and it plays too nice with all of the other evil empires, supporting the most evil endeavors. It hasn’t really innovated for a while, but it tries to improve on known products to support average people. It’s currently trying to sell culture in the form of animated cutesy iconic images which you kinda like and kinda despise.

Google is the United States. It has never seen trouble on home turf. It is arrogant and loved by the elite. You know you’re supposed to respect them for being better than everyone else, because they think they are, but you actually kinda resent them for being so rich and powerful. Yet, you really like their cool toys.

Note: This post is meant to be humorous in that way when you make fun of things which are intimately a part of your life. I have much respect for all three companies and while parallels are drawn that sting, it is meant in jest, to poke at the issues of how attitudes by each company are perceived. I also know that this post can be read as xenophobic because i draw on stereotypes of different powerful nation-states. With both the companies and the countries, i am not saying anything about the employees/residents – this has to do with corporate and historical brands, not with the actualities or individuals.

I tried to draw parallels that were equally dismissive and offensive of each company, so don’t think that i’m aiming for one company in particular. I do respect all three companies and countries, even when they (as institutions) make a fool of themselves. In fact, i work for Google because i respect Google. But in any case, i figured you’d enjoy these caricatures and tear them to pieces (or at least critique the hell out of them).

(And thanks to Barb for the image!)

Update: The comments are *fantastic* – make sure to read them and play along!

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51 comments to Which evil nation state are you? (similes for Microsoft, Yahoo and Google)

  • Thomas

    Very funny indeed.

    The only thing is… I am German. Sorry about that. And no Nazi (and a little bit ennoyed about the old Nazi analogy…) Isn’t Germany a lot more than just Nazis and BMW. The Germans have learned a lot out of bad history and are against nationalism and also patriotism (like usual in the USA today).

    Perhaps yesterday, Germany was Microsoft. But it has tranformed a lot and now … is on the best road to become LINUX.

    Look on the names of core developers of some OS projects (e.g. TYPO3) and you will see many German names. The administration of the city of Munich (where Hitlers bad ideas formerly have been so popular) has shift from Microsoft to Linux. Every single desk! Berlin will follow. There is not much friendship with Microsoft as with Nazis in Germany today.

    Perhaps Microsoft will follow Germany’s path and publish it’s OS under GPL soon?

    ;-)

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