Google, what happened?

It wasn't supposed to be like this. Once, you were the Apple of everyone's browser. But now ...

Google, it used to be I couldn't wait to see your cheery face in the morning. Now I'm not sure I can even get a straight answer from you.

When you first showed up out of nowhere, I was charmed like everyone else. You dressed simply. There was nothing artificial about you. You just did what you did better than anyone else. You were so low-key about it that I never would have guessed you'd become rich and famous.

[ See "Jailbreaking the Internet: For freedom's sake" by InfoWorld's Paul Venezia. | Read "Google, land of the spoiled brats?" by  InfoWorld Editor in Chief Eric Knorr. | Follow the latest developments in business technology news and get a digest of the key stories each day in the InfoWorld Daily newsletter.]

Then you did -- and I thought you deserved it. When you figured out a foolproof way to make billions, I was happy for you. You were making an honest dollar giving people what they wanted. The American Dream couldn't have happened to anyone nicer.

Then you got into news. Some people said you were freeloading off those who created the stuff; I thought you were just helping people get what they wanted in a new, hip, timely way. Yes, competition for your approval was fierce, and I guess I should have seen that as a bad sign. But I gave you the benefit of the doubt.

When you got into the tool business, I was thrilled. You were giving them away! And you were flying in the face of a big, bad company that charged too much for the old heavy versions. I didn't see how you could possibly be making money, but somehow that made it even cooler. It was David and Goliath all over again, even if you were growing so fast that some people said you'd be as big as Goliath in no time.

When you started dressing for birthdays and anniversaries no one else remembered, I thought it was a little eccentric, but charming. Some hinted it was pretentious, that professional designers had a hand in it. But I didn't mind. To me it just seemed like you.

You may have bought your way into video, but I didn't care. You were still giving stuff away free, even if critics said you were giving away stuff that wasn't yours. It was like Robin Hood. And a point of pride that they tried to pass laws to stop you from doing it.

I even defended you when Meg Whitman attacked you for those exorbitant lunches. It was your money. You had good taste and always picked up the check. What business was it of hers?

Then, suddenly, it became all about who you know. Your social network.

Talk about an entourage! You wanted one bigger than anyone else's and wouldn't stop talking about it. Everyone wants a circle of friends; you wanted millions of circles. And you weren't going to stop until you got them.

Now, every time I ask you a question, all I hear about is who you know and what they think. At some point I get the answer, but it's getting harder and harder to wade through the self-serving jabber. I used to trust your answers implicitly. Now, when I finally get them, I wonder.

We don't travel in the same circles. I'm not really interested in becoming a player in your mega posse. And because of that, I can't say for sure whether you care enough about me anymore to give me straight answers.

A little while ago, when the Internet protested terrible new laws that would restrict our freedom, you wore black. It's hard for me to say this, but I felt embarrassed for you. It was like those celebrities who visited the Occupy protesters in Zuccotti Park. Everyone knew it was for the PR.

These days, I can't help but remember one of the first things you said to me: That you'd never be evil. I thought it was a little strange at the time. Why would you say that, if at least a tiny bit you weren't attracted to the dark side?

Now I fear the worst. When I need answers I can trust, maybe I should start asking questions somewhere else.

This article, "Google, what happened?," originally appeared at Read more of Eric Knorr's Modernizing IT blog, and for the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld on Twitter.

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