Tim Tan Huynh

H is for Hmm

12 Aug 2015 — Their new banner has a pretentious name, and their search engine is still the only good product that they've made, but the restructuring of Google makes sense.

I was surprised yesterday when I read that Google had basically changed to Alphabet a day earlier. Specifically, Alphabet is the newly formed holding company that now includes Google as its most prominent subsidiary. The Cynic in me says that it might be a calculated move to avoid corporate taxes, anti-trust lawsuits, or both. Still, after reading a co-founder’s blog post and listening to a Harvard professor’s assessment, I like the restructuring.

If I worked for one of the new, non-Google subsidiaries, then I would be excited about my company effectively operating as a startup while still having access to Alphabet resources. If I had a financial stake in Google, then I would approve Google separating from its Alphabet siblings with long-term ventures that might not become viable for years, if ever. In any case, the official appointment of Sundar Pichai as Google CEO is inspiring.

I have a lot of respect for Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the Google co-founders who are now CEO and President of Alphabet, respectively. Their idea to make a search engine with rankings based on referrals, instead of keyword counts, and their obsession with making it incrementally faster are now legendary. Google Search is the foundation on which their multi-billion-dollar empire has been built; “Google” is an everyday word.

Besides Google Search though, nothing in their stable of sites and software really impresses me. Google Analytics and Google Maps work as expected, but I only use them because they’re readily available; Google Chrome is popular, but I’ve only experienced page freezes (PC) and RAM hogging (Mac); Android and YouTube are the dominant players in their respective fields, but they’re Google acquisitions, not Google creations; and the Google Glass is so 2013.

I appreciate the ambitious Google/Alphabet undertakings that might change the developed word in a decade or two, but I’ve never viewed Google as being the paragon of technological innovation that most people seem to have in their minds. Google Search standing apart from things like self-driving cars and glucose-sensing lenses, which could fail or thrive, is the most interesting aspect of this week’s announcement.

Simply put, these work-in-progress, bleeding-edge-technology projects have been diluting the Google brand in my view. Maybe I have unrealistically high expectations of Google, but the accessibility and viability of Google Search is the standard that I have used to judge everything that Google has made or is making. I know that I can’t be the only one who thinks this way, but now Alphabet won’t have this problem anymore, at least in theory.