My fickle relationship with Google

Consider this — certain brand preferences are so rooted in us that it feels natural as breathing when we use one of these rooted products.

When I buy peanut butter, it’s always going to be Jif. When I buy something online, my go to is Amazon. When I buy spices, they will be McCormick.

And when I search online, I use Google.

Google
Why is Google right for searching but not for being in your home?

Thing is, I recently wrote a blog blasting Google Home. For those that don’t know, the Home is Google’s answer to the Amazon Echo: a stand alone, voice-activated speaker. It will play music you request, complete tasks rooted in its interface (like turning off your lights), and answer any trivial question you wish to ask it.

I remain steadfast in my claims about Google Home. I still don’t trust the tech giant because I feel like it is always collecting and storing information on me and housing it in its servers.

Surely, I am not paranoid to suggest that. Right?

But then my mind comes back to this:

Google is unrivaled when it comes to search engines. 

Admit it. It’s Google and everyone else.

When I find someone using Bing or Yahoo!, I feel pity for them. Don’t you feel the same? I wouldn’t be surprised if these noobs still had a Hotmail account and frequented AOL from a dial-up modem.

So then, if I don’t trust the intentions of the market leader, why the heck is it my preferred default search engine?

Easy.

It always has the answers I need. It provides me the most relatable search options without the clutter. What’s more, it’s smart.

Therefore, being smart means using the Google search engine as I need it. It also means recognizing its power and not inviting it into my home imbedded in a speaker that’s always on. That’s not smart.

The confusing Google Alphabet structure

Google announced that it is forming Alphabet to be a holding company of sorts for all of Google’s many and varied businesses. The explanation for this new venture is that Google wanted to separate its money-making businesses from those still in development. That way, the thinking goes, it will be more transparent to Wall Street.

Okay fine, but I don’t really see how creating a parent company is any different than what Google has now and Alphabet is certainly not a better name. YouTube, for example, is not known as Google or even YouTube by Google. It is simply YouTube and the same can be said for Android.

For the sake of simplicity and focus, why add an additional name to confuse matters? The Google division of Alphabet will most likely always dictate what the other business units can and can’t do. The money Google makes has a direct relationship to what, where and how far the other moonshot ideas can go.

That is the way it always has been with Google. Or do I now call it Alphabet?

Adding to the complexity.

I understand the financial desire to break apart disparate businesses. But the reality is that companies already do that with adding complexity. Sony reports the sales figures of each of its divisions, as do all conglomerates. But even with the mistakes that Sony has made over the years, it has kept its name intact.

Here’s the kicker – Sony’s mistakes are well documented, including by me. (Particularly as they related to missing out on combining its music catalogue with its music player only to be kicked in the teeth by Apple’s iPod and iTunes.) But it remained one company with one name.

Is this now the Alphabet headquarters?
Is this now the Alphabet headquarters?

This Google Alphabet structure is running a terrible risk of losing the innovative culture that has propelled the Google brand to be one of the most successful companies on the planet. Adding another layer of bureaucracy, management and complication will not make Google Alphabet more innovative as some have predicted. Instead, it has the real possibility of squashing innovation.

The success of Google has always been the result of it applying its wealth of knowledge from computing to consumer data to infrastructure to other seemingly non-related endeavors, taking brain power from one area and applying to others. Creating a parent creates unnecessary compartments that Google has never had before. In essence, creating a parent company is a direct conflict with its company culture.

Google is relinquishing a portion of its brand equity, throwing away the power of its brand and creating an inefficient brand architecture that it really did not need. Brand is about being clear and simple and easy to understand. Alphabet or Google (I don’t even know what to call it) has done the exact opposite on all counts. Alphabet is not clear, simple and easy to understand.

I have been involved with many companies who claim they are highly innovative and the one thing I know for sure is that red tape kills innovation. Google has created red tape. It’s no longer one Google, it is a collection of companies.

Alphabet will have a honeymoon phase where everyone will play nice and get along. But I have a feeling that, over time, cross pollination of ideas will begin to slow down and some of Google’s world-class talent will view the new structure as a hindrance to being innovative and find that their once beloved Google is now just a corporate cog in ABC company.

Is Google on a slippery slope?

Being at the top is a lonely place because most of us love an underdog. Google is going to face much of the same future as Facebook or Apple — wins are looked at as failures and, in a secret way, everyone wants it to stumble a bit. It reinforces our own insecurities and we feel elevated by the pratfalls of the gifted.

Google has its challenges. More than 80 percent of our web traffic comes through that search engine. Today, Google cracks the whip, updates its secret formula for placement and everyone scrambles to comply.

googleGoogle on a slippery slope

But Google, don’t think we don’t notice that your first-page listings are now dominated by paid ad placement and articles rather than business sites. Are your search engines deliberately making search terms more imprecise so that businesses are willing to pay $8 a click?

It does not matter, even if you are king, if that’s true or not. Just that it’s believed. You heard it here first. Bing will soon be a real challenge to Google because no one feels comfortable with so much power in the hands of one despot.