Google Graded On Its Own Principles

If you explore Google's corporate website, you'll encounter the company's ten core principles. It's a philosophy, sure, but it's also a report card. Good news! Google's passing its own test. Bad news: Big G's getting a C.

We took those ten founding principles—which Google itself professes to revisit to "see if it still holds true"—and used a 1-10 scale to grade the company on each aspect. Here's how it stacks up:

1. Focus on the user and all else will follow.

In search? Sure. Google's user experience is first-rate when you need to know a specific piece of information quickly. Productivity, too—Google Docs has a intuitive interface with loads of functionality, and there's no email client that can keep up with Gmail. But when it comes to dealing with actual people? Orkut. Wave. Google Buzz, so help us. These are products that failed because Google didn't understand the user one bit—sometimes to the point of real pain. SCORE: 6

2. It's best to do one thing really, really well.

I'd agree with that sentiment, but it doesn't seem as though Google does. Sure, search is where it makes money, but the Web giant has also gradually rolled out one of the most diverse and diffuse businesses around—with limited success. The Nexus One was put out to pasture after poor sales. Projects like Google Checkout seem to come and fade every other month, and there are dozens of other side projects that have died along the way. (RIP, Dodgeball.) Of course, these all feed into search in one way or another. But it's not so much laser focus as it is throwing spitballs against the wall. SCORE: 5

3. Fast is better than slow.

Google's fast. No argument here. Fastest results, fastest mobile browser. SCORE: 10

4. Democracy on the web works.

Change this to "democracy on the wired web" and you get a ten. But while yesterday's agreement with Verizon maintains net neutrality on wired networks, it shrugs off an open mobile internet. The future of the web is wireless, and Google's letting it be far more oligarchy than democracy. Or rather: a Wild West, where Google's got by far the biggest gun. SCORE: 5

5. You don't need to be at your desk to need an answer.

Google believes in mobile so strongly that it's one of the company's core principles. Which, again, helps explain the Verizon pact. And even if the Nexus One was a commercial failure, over 200,000 Android phones are sold every day. That's a third of all smartphones. Google're just a killer Android tablet away from perfection. SCORE: 9

6. You can make money without doing evil.

Sure you can. That doesn't mean Google necessarily always will. A document from 2008 leaked just today showed that the company seriously considered selling user data to advertisers, a direct violation of a precedent that's held since the company was founded. And while that hasn't yet been actualized, the recent Wi-Fi snooping conflagration was a sudden realization that Google may not always have our best interests in mind. Ultimately, though, these are fears about what could happen. Not what has. SCORE: 8

7. There's always more information out there.

Again, no argument. Google aggressively logs as much information as possible. Which is fine, until Google Book Search started scanning works under copyright, prompting lawsuits from the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers (a settlement is still pending judicial approval). More information? Yes. But that doesn't necessarily give you the right to access it. SCORE: 9

8. The need for information crosses all borders.

Google's done wonderful things with language tools and taken enormous strides to make its service available around the world. But while its recent decision to stop censoring search results in China rightly garnered a lot of positive press, it doesn't entirely excuse the fact that from 2006 until 2010, Google was an willing accomplice in filtering results. SCORE: 6

9. You can be serious without a suit.

I've personally seen Google's co-founders rollerblade into an important press conference. So it's got the "without a suit" part right. But reports about Larry Page and Sergey Brin's dismissive attitudes—like ignoring a Barry Diller meeting in favor of an app— suggest that just because you can be serious in a tracksuit doesn't mean you will be. SCORE: 6

10. Great just isn't good enough.

You can't really score on this last point, so I'm excluding it from the scoring process. But you can use this last criterion as a lens through which to view Google's grade. Out of 90 possible points, Google scored a 64-or 71 percent. That's a C, which is a passing grade. In Google's terms, that's "good enough." But if "great just isn't good enough," then good enough is barely acceptable. I want you think about this, Google. You have so much potential.