What should Google do?

I’m about to give some WWGD? advice … to Google.

When I’m asked about Google’s weaknesses – and they do exist – I list its lack of transparency in certain areas of its business, especially advertising (even as we all need to be transparent if we want to be found in search), its policy toward China (where it should be a better defender of free speech), its size (just because government and competitors soon see too much success as a problem), the other frontiers it has not (yet) conquered (the live web, the social web, the local web, the deep web), and its sometimes unilateral power over its ad partners. The fact that Google ad rates are set by auction in the market insulates it fairly well from claims that it could use monopoly power to set prices. But the fact that Google decides who may and may not use AdSense does leave it vulnerable to accusations of misuse of power.

See Aaron Greenspan’s saga about his $761 small claims fight with Google about canceling his account. There are other such cases in the court. I don’t know the specifics of Greenspan’s others’ claims sufficiently to take sides in the disputes. Doesn’t matter. The point for Google is that it can’t win by holding the power itself. It will be accused of ruining little guys’ businesses (though in many cases, those business are spam blogs — and I wish Google would work harder to get rid of more of them faster) or of wielding a monopoly.

So what should Google do? What Would Google Do with Google?

I suggest that Google should hand over the power of adjudication of such disputes to the community of publishers and advertisers. It is in their interests, like Google’s, to maintain a credible marketplace that is not ruined by spammers and click-fraudsters. Google should still use its automated systems to eliminate them, as they pop up like zits on a geek. But when there are disputes, wouldn’t Google be wiser to hand the matter over to a wise council – whose members could be elected by Google’s community of business partners, small and large – to rule? That way, Google cannot be accused of being unfair and acting with unilateral power.

That, I think, would be the Googley thing to do. To paraphrase some of the rules in my book… It would hand over control to Google’s public. It would exhibit trust in that public. It would rely on the generosity of that public. It would be transparent, doing business in public. It would open-source the process. It would take advantage of the network Google already has and distribute the task. It would be a way to elegantly organize the community and its needs and rules. It would be a recognition that Google can make mistakes. It would be a case of doing what you do best and linking to the rest.