Is the Google IPO the Cluetrain Manifesto in action?

by phil on Friday Apr 30, 2004 8:23 AM

At the height of the dot-com boom in 1999, when companies were spending their time talking about gathering "eyeballs" and building up "brands," some hippie-like geeks proposed the Cluetrain Manifesto. It's a statement that urges businesses to get a clue and start treating customers like people rather than cattle and treat the Internet like a conversation instead of another marketing platform.

That Google has suceeded ridiculously well with a "Don't Be Evil" policy and that the dot-com's crashed soon after "cluetrain" may be a testament to the power of a Cluetrain-like form of business.

Yesterday Google applied for an Initial Public Offering, and this is what their filing says:

The letter states, among other things, that 1. We don't need to do this for the money; 2. We have no plans to run our business to satisfy Wall Street's need for smooth earnings predictability; 3. We plan to give no earnings guidance, not at least as it's understood on Wall St.; 4. Don't ask us to do so, we'll simply decline the request; 5. We'll do odd things that you won' t understand; 6. We will make big bets on things that may not work out; 7. We run the company as a triumvirate, so there will not be clear leadership from one person like most other companies; 8. We bridge the media and tech industries (interesting), which are in flux, so we've chosen a two-class stock structure similar to the NYT, WashPost, and NYT that helps us avoid being taken over by those forces; 9. We plan using an auction model, as it feels fairer and we understand auctions from AdWords; 10. Don't invest in us if this scares you at all, or the price feels too high; 11. Don't even think about asking us to cut expenses with regard to our employees; 12. We believe in the idea of Don't Be Evil; 13. It's evil to pay for placement or inclusion (a swipe at Yahoo); 14. We hope to bridge the digital divide through Gmail type free services and a foundation with at least 1% of profits and equity to help make the world a better place; 17. Betting on Google is a bet on Sergey and Larry (this was said multiple times, making me wonder if there wasn't some odd future blame being assigned here by the VCs or bankers); 18. This letter is our way of answering the questions we can't answer in the coming months due to the IPO quiet period.

This is a revolutionary statement coming from a business. The tone of this announcement is not from a CEO hungry for money but more like a professor attempting to float some idealistic, utopian vision of capitalism. I found it cluetrain-like in its rejection of the standard "corporation as shark" mentality.

However, it can be interpreted as arrogance: Sergey and Larry are practically saying, "We are God, and we know it. So back off."

Everything about Google can be duplicated. There is no market lock-in like eBay or Microsoft. I don't know how their IPO will fare, but I do know that the genius or arrogance of their filing letter will depend immensly on circumstances over the next three years. (Lifted from bOING bOING)


Nick Gray said on May 1, 2004 4:11 AM:

Hi! Just wanted to say GREAT page. I love your design and layout and colors. I agree with a lot of your thoughts on this IPO....

Rumored clip-art and a forced column width added to the Google Founder's Letter on my site at

Cheers, Nick

JSOATH said on May 4, 2004 5:46 PM:

Google's server farm cannot be duplicated. There exists no company on this earth as competant as google in this regard.

mahlon said on May 13, 2004 11:46 PM:

Thanks for the post on Google's Don't Be Evil philosophy. It's refreshing, isn't it?

Google's IPO should get "Don't Be Evil" a lot of publicity--and when people dig into it a bit, they'll find that it's not just an empty corporate catchphrase.

Google has lived this philosophy, and they're not just being altruistic -- it's paid off big time. By refusing to let ad dollars corrupt search results, they've become #1 in search. Users trust Google not to tamper with their information just to make a quick buck.

I'm exploring how the Don't Be Evil ethic applies not only to Google, but to business, politics and the media. I'd be honored to get feedback on my site,


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