Olia Lialina on "Rich User Experience for the poor"

Why does Google want us to feel like home on their pages? Not to bind us to themselves, that’s for sure – they don’t need that; they’ve already got us hooked. When they offer me to “feel at home”, they mean something different. They mean home as opposed to work. What they’re saying is “Relax, have fun. Play around while we work. We are professionals; you are amateurs.”

In his preface to “0 Comments” Geert Lovink noted – it was related to a different subject, namely the CC license, but I still want to quote him –:

“The exclusive focus on young and innocent amateurs that just want to have fun, and the resentment against professionals is not accidental. Amateurs are less likely to stand up and claim a part of the fast increasing surplus value (both symbolical and in real money term) that the Internet is creating.”

It might sound paradoxical, but by encouraging the user to “feel at home” services create more distance between the users and themselves. Simplistic, silly graphics, senseless gadgets, customized pages with virtual puppies and kittens of the day heaped together with CNN news and bites of wisdom from Oprah – all of that subtly serves to show the user his proper place.

contemporary-home-computing.org/vernacular-web-2/

Even then, companies were all about "redefining up" user-level activities as opposed to empowering people.