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Google.org, a For-Profit Charity 355

Posted by kdawson
from the for-the-greater-good dept.
Google has set up a subsidiary, Google.org, a for-profit philanthropy with initial capital of a billion dollars. Not being organized on a tax-free basis carries both advantages and drawbacks. From the article: "Unlike most charities, this one will be for-profit, allowing it to fund start-up companies, form partnerships with venture capitalists and even lobby Congress. It will also pay taxes." One of Google.org's first projects is the development of a plug-in hybrid vehicle that achieves a mileage rating equivalent to 100 MPG.
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Google.org, a For-Profit Charity

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  • by rsborg (111459) on Monday September 18, 2006 @12:20AM (#16127864) Homepage
    I know that Google employees receive a $5000 discount (plus a few other perks that I'm not clear on) on any purchase of a hybrid vehicle that gets 45 mpg (ie, Prius, Insight or Civic Hybrid).

    I think one or both of the founders drive a Prius as well, so this would be inline with their vision of what can be done to make the world a better place.
  • interesting (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 18, 2006 @12:22AM (#16127868)

    I submitted this story (same exact NY time article even) 3 days ago, when it was news.

    Anyhow, the term "non-profit" evokes a warm fuzzy feeling that it shouldn't. John D Rockefeller did more to save the whales (via kerosene) than GreenPeace ever will.

  • Innovating (Score:4, Interesting)

    by kbsoftware (1000159) on Monday September 18, 2006 @12:24AM (#16127878)
    I don't always agree with Google tactics but at least they are innovative. Certainly changing the internet, computers and now looks like cars and beyond. Microsoft which doesn't innovate just buys or steals will have a hard time competing with such a company. Since I don't see Google being any more evil then Microsoft, I have to cheer to Google since like I said at least they are innovating :) Yeah ok I did a crappy job of explaining the message I'm trying to get through.
  • by timboc007 (664810) on Monday September 18, 2006 @12:29AM (#16127898)

    I'm glad to see that Google is going beyond their "Don't be evil" motto to "Be good". I applaud their apparent sense of social responsibility.

    I believe that much good can be achieved by large corporations who are willing to contribute to making the world a better place - whether it be through science for science's sake (e.g. Bell labs), welfare, world aid or whatever. I will be interested to see how this translates into a "for-profit" environment... presumably their profit margin expectations will not be as high as they might otherwise be?

  • by A*OnYourA** (946354) on Monday September 18, 2006 @12:30AM (#16127903)
    One of Google.org's first projects is the development of a plug-in hybrid vehicle that achieves a mileage rating equivalent to 100 MPG.

    After seeing the movie 'Who Killed the Electric Car' I was so angry I swore I would never buy another car that doesn't run on electricity. Hopefully Google is going to save my ass so I don't have build it.

    I Love Google.

  • by larry bagina (561269) on Monday September 18, 2006 @12:30AM (#16127906) Journal

    And the largest disadvantage to a "for-profit charity?" Your donations are NOT tax deductible.

    You and I aren't going to be donating money, google.com is ($1 billion in seed money). Since google.org is a child company of google.com, their accountants and lawyers can futz with it to minimize any tax implications.

  • by larry bagina (561269) on Monday September 18, 2006 @12:44AM (#16127958) Journal
    Actually, their founders use this [slashdot.org], which gets 0.3 mpg.
  • by caitsith01 (606117) on Monday September 18, 2006 @01:11AM (#16128042) Journal
    ...this development, along with the Bill and Melinda foundation, means we now have extremely large, extremely rich companies doing what our governments should be doing.

    If they're promoting cleaner vehicles or saving kittens it's all fine and dandy. But what about accountability? What if Google, with its billions, starts doing things that some of us strongly disagree with? Would Christian conservatives be happy if Google started a campaign to push condoms in schools and third world countries to help stop AIDS? Would progressives be happy if Google started a campaign to restore family values through aggressively marketing church youth groups?

    Let's remember that this is the same Google which is arguably supporting the tyrannical Chinese government's censorship. Fundamentally, we should be asking, what is Google's agenda? What if we disagree with it?

    I expect many people will be inclined to give me responses about it being an example of a company doing what it wants in a free market, and that it is still bound by the law. However, I say, TANSTAAFL, and I prefer my social engineering to be done by the government because in principle at least the government represents me and my interests, whatever my financial involvement.* Are we looking at a future where democracy is contingent on share ownership?

    * yeah yeah, spare me

    Google seems a bit like Apple around here at times, perhaps a little too far above reasonable criticism. A great many people seem to ignore the fact that it is a self-interested entity in a competitive market, and at the end of the day what it values is what's good for Google and not the good of all mankind. Even if you think this is great, I urge you to think about whether it's really a positive thing to have one company exerting so much influence over the information we receive (google.com), knowing so much about what we are interested in (google.com), what we talk about (gmail), where we go (google maps/earth), what we buy (Adwords, froogle), what we are creating (the emerging word processing software and related tools, Picasa), and apparently now, how we operate as a society.

    Put it this way - if Google's board turned rabid tomorrow, how much damage could it do?
  • by creimer (824291) on Monday September 18, 2006 @01:27AM (#16128094) Homepage
    Sounds like Google pretending to be a for-profit charity when it really should be an investment bank. As soon as people's heads stop exploding over the concept of a for-profit charity, I'm sure the financial paperwork will be picked over most throughly.
  • Re:Odd. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by drDugan (219551) * on Monday September 18, 2006 @01:41AM (#16128137) Homepage
    Those restrictions are there for a reason. I agree they are sometimes onerous. However, they make it so that the organization actually must do charitable things, and they make impossible to do the "screw everyone and take the money" things.
  • by ColaMan (37550) on Monday September 18, 2006 @02:40AM (#16128287) Homepage Journal
    He's talking about the plug-in hybrids... I suppose you could convert the cost of the electricity into how much gas that would buy and go from there.

    eg: You use $1.20 of electricity to charge your electric-only car up. Gas costs $2.40/gal. You have bought the equivalent of 1/2 gal of gas. You drive 100 miles before recharging, thus you've reached the equivalent of 200MPG.
  • by Eivind Eklund (5161) on Monday September 18, 2006 @07:05AM (#16128814) Journal
    As an OSS developer, I can say that 1 billion dollar would make fairly little difference, and might make a negative difference. People seem to believe that open source software would be tremendously helped by money. I've worked with a very large open source project (FreeBSD), and have seen how we fairly often have had problems with spending money. Anyway, before, we had the problem of vetting the people that worked on things. We tried just hiring people to do a project for us a few times, and got so-so results in many of the cases. Fortunately, we also had a lot of people that worked as consultants and did FreeBSD stuff in their spare time. So we tried paying one of those to spend more of his time on FreeBSD.

    Oops. Bad plan. We got a time disparity: He had lots of time for FreeBSD, and the volunteers didn't have time to catch up...

    We seem to have learned a bunch about how to spend money since - there's been pushed some amounts of money through the project (many scales down from a billion dollars, though) and it doesn't seem to mess thing up. However, we spent years learning how to do that, and there's still clear limits on how much money we would be able to spend positively. I suspect Google understands this. Through their Summer of Code projects they seem to be pushing about the right amount of money that open source can gracefully accept. Pushing another billion dollar into the open source economy in a sudden fashion would in my opinion most likely destroy large parts of the Open Source world.

    Eivind.

  • by the-pdm (685864) on Monday September 18, 2006 @07:15AM (#16128837)
    I wonder if this is a way to avoid being labeled a mutual fund [statesman.com] by the SEC. They drew attention from the SEC for investing in projects outside their core business and ascting more like a mutual fund [marketwatch.com] than a company.
  • by xplenumx (703804) on Monday September 18, 2006 @07:24AM (#16128865)
    So how is this different from Google simply being a venture capitalist? There are already plenty of venture capital firms who specialize in specifically funding clean technology, disease research, and other 'social good'. While I welcome Google's investment, this 'for profit charity' sounds more like nothing more than a spin-doctoring PR stunt.
  • by Twinbee (767046) on Monday September 18, 2006 @08:52AM (#16129215) Homepage
    Perhaps this is why we should simply change the system to miles per dollar. This would cover any technology, past and present.

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