Warning of half-billion-dollar settlement tops off tough week for Google

Windows may be 'torturing users,' but a lot of things are torturing Google

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Anyone who prefers their IT marketing content flavored with self-serving snark rather than the more usual tone of passive/aggressive faux-virtuousness must have enjoyed the May 11 keynote in which Google co-founder Sergey Brin described the often kludged interface of Windows as "torturing users."

Looking at the news for the rest of the week, you have to wonder if it's Google being tortured.

The attack with the clearest effect is the half-billion dollars Google has already set aside to pay an impending settlement over charges from the U.S. Department of Justice that it broke U.S. laws by running ads from online pharmacies using the Internet to avoid U.S. drug-control laws.

Facebook's contribution had less impact on the bottom line, but showed far more enmity than one might expect from a professional social-network host.

Facebook hired Microsoft's second-string spokes-company PR firm Burston-Marsteller to smear Google by planting negative stories in the mainstream press and various blogs, focusing on the way Google's business model pretty much assumes it will routinely violate the privacy of its customers.

That little effort makes Facebook – whose integrity and respect for privacy prompted even WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to name it "the most appalling spying machine ever invented" – the leading candidate for IT-industry hypocrite of the year.

The only saving grace for Facebook is the entertaining level of what ITWorld colleague Chris Nerney called Facebook's level of "skulduggery and ineptitude."

It's easy to go negative and try to smear a competitor; it's harder to do it so badly that your villain manque was clearly Black Adder, rather than Richard III.

That didn't make life any easier for Google, though. ComScore reported Google – still the search engine with the greatest breadth and shortest time-to-usefulness of any major search site online – lost fractions of a percentage point of market share to Yahoo and Bing.

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