My name is danah boyd and I'm a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research and the founder/president of Data & 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)

  • danah makes me ::giggle::

    Which evil nation state are you? (similes for Microsoft, Yahoo and Google) She sez “…it’s not so very nice… but” Check it out. ::giggle::…

  • Yahoo, Google, MSN als base Nationen

    Also diese Klassifizierungen gefallen mir irgendwie:

    Microsoft is Germany. They did some pretty evil th…

  • 😉

    And Google is like the US. Everyone complains about them, but would never turn down a job with them.

  • mmm this is brilliant! You are missing Apple though. Lemme try a hand at this: Apple is the Netherlands – a little aloof, playing along with counterculture and making it mainstream, way over-designed, all the pot-heads love it, but it plays very nice with all the big doggies.

    ***add danah’s “this is just in jest” disclaimer above plz ;)***

  • Sun is France. Big, bit slow these days, defends against accusations of evil by referring to its part in a revolution hundreds of years ago that no-one but them now remembers. Own evil propensities overshadowed by outrage whenever any one else wanders from true path.

    Keep on going on about how great their language is.

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

    [Danah](http://www.zephoria.org/thoughts/archives/2005/07/16/which_evil_nation_state_are_you_similes_for_microsoft_yahoo_and_google.html) posts a great analogy for search companies… love it. Here is the gist (taken out of context):
    > **Microsoft …

  • And Verisign is like Panama, occasionally run like a dictatorship, but lots of people still pass through them even though there are lots of workarounds.

  • joe

    Yeah, SCO is kind of like North Korea… a small, insignificant country/company that is trying to extort its way to success.

  • Would this all make Ask.com (who bought them out again?) Australia or such? Bloglines would be a city full of TVs piping in news from the “real” countries.

  • When did Microsoft surrender and promise to stop being evil? I must have missed the memo.

  • Fun. So Grokster is Cuba. An obese, dying superpower (Big Music/Hollywood) continues to declare it an evil and illegitimate rogue state long after the superpower’s cartoonish rationale for doing so stops making any sense.

    This drama makes Grokster/Cuba an especially sexy and popular destination for everyone else on the planet.

  • delicious is Chechnya: Comprehensible only to those inside.

  • RG

    I’d turn down a job with Google.

  • So would I, but only because I’m unqualified.

  • Which Evil Nation State Are You?

    Danah posts an amusing article comparing the 3 big search companies (Microsoft, Yahoo!, Google) to countries. Microsoft is Germany, Yahoo! is Japan and Google is the US. Also mentioned in the comments are Apple (Netherlands), Sun (France), Verisign (Pa…

  • ☆☆☆: Over-Generalized and inaccurate, but inoffensive and somewhat amusing. 🙂

    Randy

  • Well I think you’re brilliant. I found your post because I just switched to Gmail, and I felt kind of icky about it, but couldn’t figure out why, so I did the naturual thing, a Google. And Google sent me to your posts on Google.

    I think I understand better now. And your maps are hilarious.

  • Depends on your POV, I guess. A lot of folk in Asia feel strongly about Japan, for example.

    Anyway, I’ll try one. PARC is Italy… there was a big renaissance back in the day, making them a huge cultural center on top of being the seat of a heavily influential religion. While it still has plenty of charms it’s no longer such a powerhouse, though people do like to visit and look at the relics.

    Was that too mean? ^_^

  • xeeliz

    And I suppose IBM is like Great Britain – post colonial, but still very proper and self important.

    ….is Hewlett Packard soon to be Pompeii?

  • W

    WHATTT??? Italy is way more fun than PARC.

  • Microsoft = M
    Yahoo = Y
    Google = G

    to which we add “on demand,” and precede it with “our hunting” thus creating:

    Our = O
    Hunting = H
    Microsoft = M
    Yahoo = Y
    Google = G
    On = O
    Demand = D

    Perhaps an exclamation point should follow.

    Is Vivisimo France? Might as well be, since it sounds like a wine, or maybe some special fromage.

  • Actually, I think Ask.com is Canada. Even though they’ve got a bunch of great things going on (amazing healthcare, an appreciation for beer and donuts, profilic output of 80’s sitcom stars, hockey) the rest of the world doesn’t really take them seriously. They simply pat them politely on the head and say “Sure we like you…”

  • B A Maverick

    I think you have it backwards, it is not how companies are like countries but how countries are like companies . . . so although China is like Intel, I’m not sure Intel is like China.

  • Tech companies as geopolitical analogies

    danah boyd’s put together a funny geopolitical analogy to three tech giants. Her readers have pickedup the game and are trying to figure out what other countries the remaining tech companies represent (delicious is Chechnya: Comprehensible only to thos…

  • Andrew

    I think that EBay must be India — it’s growing like crazy, everyone is moving their business over there, and as successful some of the businesses, there is a huge underclass of absolute desparation — so for every Nikon D70 going for under retail, there are a dozen Loverboy CDs, a dusty Stretch Armstrong doll, and a broken Lite Brite.

  • McGroarty

    So which company is Switzerland — ostensibly neutral, but a haven for Nazi gold?

  • Geopolitics

    A well crafted humor at apophenia, comparing three search giant to three evil empires

  • MattJ

    Those aren’t similies.

  • I chose to call them similes which conveys that two essentially dissimilar items are being compared to make a point, typically but not often formed with ‘like’ or ‘as’ (which i omitted but which structurally is implied). I could’ve called them metaphors but i decided that was socially harsh since a metaphor really indicates cognitive similarity. (Of course, perhaps that’s what people see when they read this.) Since i’m going for caricature, i decided that it would be more valuable to invite you to frame them as similes.

  • MG

    > So which company is Switzerland — ostensibly neutral, but a haven for Nazi gold?

    Apple.

  • Technonations

    Heh. Mapping high-tech companies to nations: 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…

  • Joel Franusic

    Cisco is like Communist Russia – Everybody fears them, all their products are over-engineered and understood by only a select few, they are not going away anytime soon.

  • samd

    Yahoo is Canada. They’re big and have some great stuff going on, but they’re often overlooked.

  • Emilio

    And Nokia is Monaco- small, trendy, sexy, very well-connected, old but always new looking.

  • “Comprehensible only to those inside”

    Danah Boyd’s strained metaphors for modern corporations as geopolitical entities are pretty funny-
    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 ha…

  • I would assert that Google is actually Canada. Google’s motto is “Don’t be evil”. Canada’s motto is “Peace, Order, and Good Government”. Both Google and Canada do good things in the world.

    Both are trusted. American tourists sew on Canadian flags to stay safe in the world. Microsoft IE users sew on Google toolbar to stay safe on the internet.

  • anon

    it was funny until the attempt at “It has never seen trouble on home turf” analogy between the USA and Google.

    I instantly thought of 9/11.

  • Ah, but what about all the little countries?

    Is 6A like Canada? Socialtext like Sweden? Technorati Thailand? Dunno, maybe someone does.

  • Small companies like 6A, Socialtext, Technorati, Feedburner, Feedster – they’re all like New Zealand. Small, innovative, green pastures and full of smart people.

    Admittedly, that’s a bit of a suck-up comment as I’m trying to get gigs at some of those places 🙂 But I felt I had to add NZ into the conversation.

  • Web 2.0 Sampler

    – There are 1.2 million feeds in Bloglines that “matter”, says Ask Jeeves Blog (meaning at least 1 person subscribes to it. nb: SEW and Niall both point out that some blogs have multiple feeds) – Feedburner begins to…

  • Krista Allen

    Krista Allen

  • rollsroys

    BAE Systems is like Austria – exporting dangerous ideas/items (if I may name one of history’s most horrific leaders an item) but never admitting any guilt related to the outcome.

  • Kelpster

    What about megalithic (big) companies that defined such concepts as languages and programming and compatability, and then disappeared without a trace, such as the triumvirate that formed Unisys (Burroughs, Sperry, Rand); the mighty giant called Digitial Equipment Corporation (DEC) that pioneered the concept of the modern and successful non-IBM computer company, and does anyone remember AOL/Netscape, an alliance many thought unbeatable? Perhaps these are like the Ottoman Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and Atlantis?

  • havi hoffman

    lovely thread–it’s always fun to see how far a supple metaphor will stretch if msft is like .de, goog like .us, and yhoo like .jp, maybe it’d be apt to think of the fortunes of the auto industries in those three countries. which make/model do YOU covet most these days?: a VW bug (beemer), Ford (cadillac), or Prius (lexus)?

    And don’t forget who caught the competition off guard in the late 20th century…

  • I must get around to writing my post comparing state constitutions and system architectures. The US is OS X: almost but not quite a microkernel. The Soviet Union was Windows: bloated, byzantine, dictatorial, fundamentally corrupt, a mess. The UK is Linux: a monolithic kernel that works elegantly because everyone shares the same sensible customs. What will the EU be? The rejected constitution looked more like Windows than OS X!

  • Web 2.0 Sampler

    – There are 1.12 million feeds in Bloglines that “matter”, says Ask Jeeves Blog (meaning at least 1 person subscribes to it. nb: SEW and Niall both point out that some blogs have multiple feeds) – Feedburner begins to…

  • Link fest!

    Brad’s newest post spurred me to list some of the links I’ve had in the queue for awhile, but have never gotten around to posting.

  • Software as nations

    Software as nations: Sorry I’m so off-topic lately but, well, it’s summer, and conversations will pick up with the new releases pretty soon. But this page is just funny, with something guaranteed to offend nearly everyone… Danah Boyd starts explainin…

  • ike

    Not only would I turn down a job with Google, I’m horribly underwhelmed by their absolute lack of imagination or ingenuity (and the banality of their toys). Must be nice to get millions for selling ordinary every-day rocks that everyone has in their yard already. (Google Maps notwithstanding, but that’s more an issue of having the money than of having the talent.)

  • Marc

    I chose to call them similes which conveys that two essentially dissimilar items are being compared to make a point, typically but not often formed with ‘like’ or ‘as’ (which i omitted but which structurally is implied). I could’ve called them metaphors but i decided that was socially harsh since a metaphor really indicates cognitive similarity. (Of course, perhaps that’s what people see when they read this.) Since i’m going for caricature, i decided that it would be more valuable to invite you to frame them as similes.

    Jeez zephoria, we didn’t ask for your life story!

    j/k;)