Press Release

Big Bird’s Birthday: Part Of Google’s Charm Campaign?


Wed, Nov 4, 2009 at 1:30 pm

    For Big Bird’s birthday, the Sesame Street icon’s feet replaced the L in Google’s search logo. Is Google pressing Big Bird into the service of its charm offensive?

    Google celebrated Big Bird’s 40th birthday today by replacing the L in its search homepage with the Sesame Street character’s tell-tale orange legs.

    So why did the president of Consumer Watchdog call it “the Trojan Muppet?”

    Artful logo play is nothing new for Google, who has paid homage to bar codes and H.G. Wells in the past, little flourishes that build an image of a company with a playful and congenial posture. It’s an image Google has spent quite some effort burnishing of late, sending a team far and wide (including to the Monitor) to talk about Google’s role in Internet search, Web advertising, book digitizing, and antitrust, among other issues.

    But the Trojan Muppet idea has its roots in mounting criticism of the Mountain View, Calif., megafirm. Critics say its corporate motto of “Don’t be evil” is a smoke screen for invasive procedures that are stripping away privacy (like scanning your gmail account for keywords to create targeted advertising).

    “I love Google. But I also fear Google,” says Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog. “It’s made finding information remarkably easy, but I’m not under any illusion that that’s a free lunch. And most Internet users have had their eyes opened recently to the fact that they are being tracked and they don’t have a way of stopping that.”

    Don’t believe Mr. Court? Start typing “Google is” into the main search bar and the search offers “going to take over the world” and “SkyNet” as completing phrases.

    Google’s own keywords service suggests that those terms are actually searched about 28 and 390 times per month, respectively. (Somehow, you’d expect it to be more.)

    Of course, there are millions of Internet users worldwide that Google doesn’t need to charm.

    Start typing “I love” into the search box. See what comes up first.

    (Is that a subtle Google message?)

    – David Grant is a Monitor contributor. Is Google evil? Is Google awesome? Tell us on Twitter.

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