Hey, Google: Opting IN is less evil

June 7, 2007, 10:03 PM UTC
Fortune

Last week I wrote about the revelation that Steve Jobs in a way is the biggest Windows applications developer of them all because of how frequently iTunes is downloaded onto PCs. The insight came from an interview with the Apple (AAPL) CEO by Walt Mossberg at the Wall Street Journal‘s tech conference in Southern California. Today, the WSJ’s million-dollar-man expanded on his own interview with a fascinating explanation of just how clever Apple is in exploiting its window into Windows.

What particularly caught my eye in Mossberg’s lesson was his discussion of how iTunes allows users to share their music libraries with others on the same computer network. Listen to Walt, with my emphasis added:

Out of the box, each copy of iTunes looks for other shared iTunes music libraries on your local network. It doesn’t share your library unless you authorize it to do so. The user merely has to go into iTunes’ Preferences function (under the Edit menu in the Windows version), click on the Sharing tab and select “Share my library on my local network.” You can choose to share your entire library or just selected playlists. You can require people to enter a password to gain access, or not. You can also turn off the function that allows you to see others’ libraries.

I’m emphasizing this for the simple reason that Apple requires you to OPT IN to its function to share your music with others. Most other companies – including that company that does no evil, Google (GOOG) – probably would go ahead and enable the software to share unless you OPTED OUT. That’s the deal Google asks book publishers to follow, for example. If they don’t want their copyrighted titles indexed on Google they need to say so. Similarly, YouTube (owned by The Goog) asks content producers to inform them if their property shows up on YouTube in an unauthorized way. (It also bugs me that YouTube requires tags, even if I have no interest in tagging my videos; whose purpose does that serve?)

Asking users to opt out of services you want them to use is at best arrogant and at worst evil. Opting IN is the respectful way to do business on the Web. Am I wrong?

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