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Goodbye, Google; we hardly knew you

8/19/2015

There are big companies like Ford or 3M, and then there are massive companies like General Electric or ExxonMobil. Now, Ford generates more revenue than General Electric, but G.E. is a more diverse company that makes it seem like it might own half the planet. In technology, an easy equivalent is Apple and Google. Apple’s revenue is more than double that of Google, but Apple is a consumer technology developer, and Google is a firm that explores every possible avenue of technological innovation. To that end, Google is about to make the leap from big to massive.tech

Early this month, Google decided it no longer wanted to be Google and unveiled plans to create a parent company named Alphabet. Google will still exist, but not as an all-encompassing tech umbrella that absorbs and acquires other properties rebranding them Google This or Google That. See, three years ago when Google acquired Motorola, the popular refrain was Motorola didn’t feel like a Google property. Was Google going to rework the cell phone manufacturer and rebrand it “Google Mobile”?

That kind-of-awkward scenario will no longer exist. With Alphabet as the new parent company, properties such as Google Search, YouTube, Android, etc. will be self-operating machines without other properties contaminating their efforts. Alphabet will be the “holding” company that guides the direction of the separate arms, allowing each to thrive or dive. Under the reorganization, failed or risky ventures (think Google Plus) won’t impact all Alphabet entities but be the moonshot that simply missed the mark.

Truth be told, Alphabet seems like an opposite field reaction to the failure of Google Plus. Four years ago, Google went all-in on an integrated ecosystem where all of its properties were connected through Google Plus accounts. Comments on YouTube were suddenly from Google Plus accounts. Online documents and spreadsheets created in Google Drive were shared via Google Plus users. Calendar Events and Gmail information were automatically integrated through Plus.

The real sin was Google Plus was not so much a failure as it was a flash-less falter. Users simply didn’t flock to the forced social network. YouTube fans revolted, Drive users were mystified by the middleman, and Gmail users felt like the few shreds of privacy they had were being ripped apart. Becoming a spider web of technology, while seeming like a brilliant move, actually erased the entire democratic nature of Internet that Google normally champions. No one wants to be forced into commitment, let alone an interlocking network of commitments.

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Alphabet is a 180-degree turn from Google Plus. No more shotgun tech weddings but an ecosystem that shares an aesthetic and modus operandi. If Alphabet were to acquire Motorola now, the company moves would be obvious: standalone, restructure to Google efficiencies, and make the best products possible. As clear as that is now, this lesson should have been learned 10 years ago when Google acquired YouTube. Why didn’t Google turn YouTube into Google Video? Because YouTube had such a strong standalone brand, and even though it is Google’s No. 2 entity after Search, it has never been mistaken for Google’s mirror image.

Alphabet is finally implementing the lesson of YouTube. Anyone invited to the Alphabet dinner party needs only to bring his or her own dish, but they’re also not being forced to eat anyone else’s. It’s a brilliant move to entice innovation and protect employee dreams. Employees at Alphabet entities don’t need to worry their ideas might be repurposed for other Google concerns — their innovations are isolated to their own purposes. As far as I see it, there’s never been a better time to be a Google…err, I mean an Alphabet fanboy, employee or hater. CV

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