More than just a rebranding exercise, the launch of Alphabet as the parent company of the world’s leading search engine, Google, sees its founders move their focus to the new ventures Google had been pursuing prior to Alphabet’s launch. The Independent reported that Larry Page, Google co-founder, announced Alphabet as a structure that would benefit investors, and provide greater accountability.
Google doesn’t always provide full transparency, ostensibly because of the need to keep their search algorithm secret to avoid businesses being able to “game” the system to achieve greater search presences. Alphabet will still own Google Ventures, the investment arm of Google, which has seen several of its backed businesses fall foul of Google’s rules and be penalized. Many industry commentators have noted that resolving these penalties has often been far easier for them than for small businesses, who can be made to wait months to return to the search results after breaking the rules. Alphabet is not a completely new business, the same people are running the show, so with a new focus that impacts all of humanity, not just search, it’s important to think about how Alphabet will behave as its influence grows beyond search.
Jess Zimmerman, reporter for The Guardian, makes the point that Alphabet, through the power of its search division, is uniquely powerful when it comes to promoting new brands, even those with common names like the word “alphabet” itself. With Alphabet brands encroaching on all of life sciences, Zimmerman notes that Alphabet can “rearrange existence in its favor”. That’s not just paranoia on Zimmerman’s part, Alphabet-owned Google is hoping to rearrange the web based on accuracy (as determined by their algorithm) according to Search Engine Journal. Contrarian views are less likely to gain prominence in search based on that model.
Before launching Alphabet, the business had already been mired in a long-running antitrust battle with regulators in the EU. Bloomberg reported many key industry figures expressing a “fear” of Google. The case centers around concern that Google’s businesses, now owned by Alphabet, were receiving premium positions in the search results at the expense of allegedly better products from competitors. That doesn’t concern humanity when the product is a travel comparison search, but it becomes more concerning when in future it might be Calico offering the chance to live longer, or Google X hoping to replace all human drivers.
Having previously not participated heavily in lobbying politicians, Alphabet companies, including the search giant, are now amongst the largest spenders. Alphabet includes cancer and heart attack diagnosis research, life extension research, self driving cars – all of which will disrupt society, perhaps necessitating a strong lobbying presence. Alphabet also competes with established businesses in travel, finance and health. With the huge profits from search and the new Alphabet structure to allow focus on new ventures, it’s likely this business will continue to expand and become more powerful. That’s probably a good thing for investors. Whether Alphabet will be good for humanity will be determined by how they use their growing influence.
What do you think – will Alphabet lead to a better world or is it dangerous for one business to yield so much influence on our lives?
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