Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Google struggles to give away $10 million

On its tenth anniversary in 2008, Google promised $10 million to the best five ideas for using technology to improve the world, through Project 10x100 -- a neat play on words (10 to the 100th power expresses the number "googol," which is a one followed by one hundred zeroes).

Google's intentions were good, of course -- $10 million spent the right way could have a real impact on these problems, which range from building better banking tools to a real-time, user-reported news service.

However, the company's follow-through leaves much to be desired. Google announced this cash prize contest in September 2008 and closed public voting on 16 finalists chosen from over 150,000 ideas in October 2009. Over eight months later, the company has yet to announce the winners.

Meanwhile, e-mails sent to Project 10 to the 100th's Gmail account are bouncing, indicating that Google has deleted the address. And the company's press department has yet to respond to our inquiries about the project.

"We'll announce the winning big ideas in the near future," reads a notice on the project's website, which lists "©2009 Google" at the bottom. According to Daniel Meyerowitz, who says his idea for mapping ongoing genocides and providing early warning of new ones is a finalist in the competition, Google has not said a peep about this competition in nine months -- despite having apologized for delays as early as March 2009.

"While genocide and other pressing problems relentlessly advance, it would seem that Project 10^100 does not," Meyerowitz told "Years behind schedule. Nine months since announcing their most recent delay. How hard can it be to give away ten million bucks? Harder than Google can handle, apparently."

Google, which reported revenue of $6.77 billion for the first quarter of this year, could practically consider $10 million to be a rounding error, so money isn't the problem. And the company already did the hard work of combining the overt 150,000 submitted ideas, many of which were duplicates or complementary, into 16 "theme" ideas, on which the public has already voted.

Assuming the project is still ongoing, Google will select an organization already involved with the issue to receive a share of the cash with the goal of solving the problem. So all that remains for the company to do at this point is to announce the five winning ideas and the organizations that will receive the money to implement them.

"An inspirational effort which began in the best Google tradition seems to be mired in the worst Google lapses," said Meyerowitz, who brought this situation to our attention. "When can we expect the final projects to be funded? Or how about just a blog update?"

Google's not talking -- not yet, anyway. But apparently, it's the process of choosing the right organizations to address these issues that threatens to turn Google's 10th birthday celebration into a 12th birthday surprise.

No comments:

Post a Comment