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Google Chrome Bait ‘n Switch?

Update: Google has changed it’s Agreement to eliminate some of what is mentioned here, and since Google Chrome was released last week there have been at least two security vulnerabilities exposed. So if you downloaded Google Chrome last week and want to keep using it, be sure and re-download or otherwise upgrade to get the patches.

Yesterday I tried downloading Google Chrome and couldn’t…. the “Download” button just launched a Windows installer. I already had it installed, I wanted to download the file. Huh. I copied the “terms of use” to a file to look at it closely later. Obviously Google has made available a windows binary for the initial release, and since I heard “open source open sourceopen source” during the webinar, I can assume the source code is available somewhere. I’d find it later.

I twittered a comment about that and Danny Sullivan replied about how Open Source is a happy term and all good and such. Clearly he is also cautious of Google… he knows he must be, although like me I’m sure he’s cautiously optimistic. We don’t hate Google nor do we want them to prove themselves evil.

I replied to Danny that the term “open source” means nothing more than that the code is available to be seen. A company can sell proprietary “open source” software, but license it so it cannot be modified or adapted or re-used or distributed etc. The controls on use and distribution are in the license, not the availability of source code.

This morning my buddy Stefan sent me the gizmodo link that shows Google’s license for the Windows binary known as “Chrome”:

you might want to take a closer peek at the end user license agreement you didn’t pay any attention to when downloading and installing it. Because according to what you agreed to, Google owns everything you publish and create while using Chrome.

The offending text from the Google license includes:

By submitting, posting or displaying the content you give Google a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute any Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services…You confirm and warrant to Google that you have all the rights, power and authority necessary to grant the above license.

Wow (that’s what Stefan said, too). It seems Google is pulling a Bait ‘n Switch with Chrome.

Chrome” is the licensed distribution that Google has put behind that “download now” button, and which everyone agreed to yesterday. “Chromium” is an open-sourced version, which Google has placed into

Of course everyone will end up with Google Chrome installed, not Google Chromium. If you follow the links, Chromium is for developers who can “get involved” and “contribute” and compile their own binaries.

Bait and Switch is the practice of offering something attractive to draw an audience of consumers, to which you then sell an alternative. Bait and Switch doesn’t have to be a covert, deceptive process, although it usually is because the bait and switch practice can cause considerable ill will when boldly done.

Google spoke so much about “open source” yesterday. Google promotes “Google Chrome” and “Chromium” which I believe are confusingly similar to consumers. Google will of course benefit from the marketplace confusion as people simply refer to it as “the Google browser”. Based on the download process, Virtually everyone will get Chrome, the one that hands over the rights to all content. Who amongst you can compile the source code?

I’m impressed and annoyed at the same time, a sensation I am learning to associate with companies like Enron and Verizon and Comcast and Google.

I think I understand why the Big Guns were in yesterday’s webinar… Larry and Sergey. This project is HUGE for Google. Wow.

Note: End-user License Agreements like this (EULA’s) haven’t faired well under court scrutiny thus far, but also haven’t been tested much. They certainly influence things.

Note: When Mozilla got greedy and switched retro-actively from non-profit to for-profit, their “open source” was re-compiled and distributed by the SeaMonkey project, leaving out many of the more burdensome “features” that had been added in by the for-profit Mozillers. Despite easy availability of SeaMonkey (Firefox), hardly anyone uses it. We can expect the same “success” for a similarly benevolent compiling of Chromium. If anyone suggests that “it’s open source! You can change whatever you don’t like!” it’s sort of like the used car salesman saying “the boss won’t let me write it on company letterhead, but I can personally guarantee this car is a good car for you“. Caveat emptor, even if it is “free”.


  1. Matt Cutts wrote:

    John, I just did a blog post about exactly this:

    Here’s the official statement from Rebecca Ward, the Senior Product Counsel for Google Chrome:

    “In order to keep things simple for our users, we try to use the same set of legal terms (our Universal Terms of Service) for many of our products. Sometimes, as in the case of Google Chrome, this means that the legal terms for a specific product may include terms that don’t apply well to the use of that product. We are working quickly to remove language from Section 11 of the current Google Chrome terms of service. This change will apply retroactively to all users who have downloaded Google Chrome.”

    Wednesday, September 3, 2008 at 12:54 pm | Permalink
  2. john andrews wrote:

    @Matt: I hope this is an internal embarrassment to your legal team. “In order to keep things simple for our users…” has never been acceptable language from any legal department anywhere.

    I have to admit you have me soooooo curious about the terms of your job and your performance metrics at Google! Surely you have a unique and coveted role over there, or at least I hope you are respected appropriately for the work you do. I’d buy the book, in case you were hesitating.

    Wednesday, September 3, 2008 at 2:22 pm | Permalink
  3. Matt Cutts wrote:

    John, thanks. In this case I’m not doing much more than trying to get the official word out. It would have been nice to avoid this entire situation, but I’m glad that Google reacted pretty quickly.

    Wednesday, September 3, 2008 at 5:52 pm | Permalink
  4. Jamie wrote:

    great post John, thanks for covering this and thanks Matt for chiming in. I especially like the last line, though I think I’d insert “especially” in place of “even”.

    Wednesday, September 3, 2008 at 10:16 pm | Permalink
  5. Matthew wrote:

    Facebook has a similar TOS with regards to any photo anyone uploads to their site, which has had very little fan fare.

    Thursday, September 4, 2008 at 4:31 am | Permalink
  6. Aaron L wrote:

    Interesting as it reads out. Apparently I was real positive on the release of Chrome and really wondering if this was just a blunder which I hope it really is..

    Having the above fore mentioned agreement really is a buster for Chrome. Am a big fan, and a loyal one, but I think the others which comments as well are correct in this matter. It’s like Big Brother written all over.

    Thursday, September 4, 2008 at 5:54 am | Permalink
  7. Google Chrome is very fast, but with firefox i can have a lot of extensions… so… i keep my Fierfox.

    Thursday, September 4, 2008 at 6:06 am | Permalink
  8. D Wood wrote:

    “In response to the reaction to Chrome’s terms of service, Google has truncated the offending Section 11, apologizing for the oversight. The new Section 11 contains only the first sentence included in their Universal Terms of Service, now stating: ‘You retain copyright and any other rights you already hold in Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services.'”

    Sunday, September 7, 2008 at 8:22 am | Permalink
  9. IncrediBILL wrote:

    These terms are pretty standard on Google for ALL SERVICES.

    See “#11. Content license from you” on the standard Google license on their site covering everything you ever do using Google services.

    Sorry, it’s not just Chrome…

    Sunday, September 7, 2008 at 3:43 pm | Permalink
  10. Bait the hook, throw the line, catch the user!

    Google is a fisher of men (and women. and all the other users of the internet.)

    Sunday, September 7, 2008 at 6:02 pm | Permalink
  11. James Boyer Summit NJ wrote:

    ouch, Not that most of what I write is worth more than nothing, but I will not be using chrome if this stands. I did give it a try the other day and liked how it worked but not so much that I will start using it over firefox or IE.

    Sunday, September 7, 2008 at 7:21 pm | Permalink
  12. Shiva wrote:

    Does it mean if I publish anything on my site using chrome, it will be owned by the big G?
    OMG thats scary!!

    @Shiva: there have been updates, and Chrome has also been patched at least twice for security reasons so best revisit the issue and redownload if you choose to use it.

    Monday, September 8, 2008 at 4:33 am | Permalink