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Alphabet Announces Fourth Quarter and Fiscal Year 2018 Results (abc.xyz)
154 points by throwaway5752 18 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 105 comments

I had been a Google fan for a long time but they lost my business recently because despite paying over $30/mo for G Suite and a YouTube Premium family plan with Google Play Music, they apparently can't help tell me why they blocked my daughter from live streaming to YouTube.

The video in question was her playing with legos, and when I disputed it asking why they blocked her... they literally just responded saying the block was valid without ever giving a reason. Like, what the heck Google you act like robots. Anyway, just cancelled my Premium services because they could never give a straight answer.

I don't know that any tech companies are good at this?

I would, a few times per year, spend $10 or $20 to promote some tweets on Twitter. At one point, I stopped being able to do that, due to some nebulous "violation" of their TOS. I've gone back and forth with them a handful of times, and they always basically say "Yep, we looked into this, and you definitely did something bad, but we won't tell you what it was or which tweet it was in." They still send me emails and other ads trying to get me to buy advertising, though. I don't really care, it is just kind of funny.

I don't know why they all are so bad at customer support.

Traditional companies are now just as bad anyways, Experian's website is giving me errors and the number to call has absolutely no way of reaching a human, all of the options in the menu just lead to voice clips. I found another phone number for Experian support and it's the same thing. I've searched up and down about my specific error (which is a generic "technical difficulties" error) and I've looked for alternate ways to contact and I've exhausted everything I can find. So, I guess I'll have to file my dispute through snail mail, because it is literally not possible to reach Experian if you wanted to.

Customer service is expensive. I've had more luck with the tech companies because at least they sometimes pretend to care whereas some of these traditional companies would rather you died in a fire than got assistance from them.

The only time I've ever really gotten good customer service was from businesses that people could decide not to deal with if they didn't like the service.

You are unlikely to be a customer of Experian, instead your employer and bank are.

That would be a protection racket payoff. Better classified as a victim or a putz in this case than a customer.

My theory is they're bad at customer support because they spend nothing to support us. That's why AT&T, Comcast etc can support ~100 million people by phone, Amazon support a multiple of that by live chat and Google can't even reply to email.

Comcast "support" is almost not better than just having robots at the other end, never have I ever gotten a problem resolved from support, I've just had them try to upsell me relentlessly. To this day my Comcast email is somehow setup wrong and I no longer care to try to fix it.

Interestingly, Comcast has been one of the consistently better support experiences for me over the years. Usually very quick and pretty helpful, even if it is just to schedule someone to come out and look at the problem.

Their service in general has gotten kind of unreliable around here the last year or so, with a handful of widespread outages, one of which lasted almost an entire day, but the customer support has never been something I've been unhappy with.

Google support is bad because 99% of Google users are not customers, but the product.

The lack of being rooted in a customer serving business then extends to other areas where you are the actual customer, like Google Apps etc, where support exists but is often sub-par.

> I don't know that any tech companies are good at this?

I’ve found Amazon has always been generous and easy to deal with from a customer support perspective. Apple is pretty good as well though you often have to pay for it (maybe not for web services, I only have experience with hardware and device software issues)

Amazon feels like it has gone downhill lately. The last few times I've complained about them not meeting their Prime shipping guaranteed delivery dates, they've been fairly rude and unhelpful.

At least in Germany, they are still fine (though AFAIK they also don't have the counterfeit product issue they seem to have in the US). I was asking how to handle some DHL shipping problem, they said they can't help me but they are sorry and I got a free month of prime.

Amazon. You generally get a very polite human on the line in seconds.

Jet.com was surprising generous too when I chatting with support.

At the rate you spend, if you're on live human support calls for a total of an hour a year, twitter might break even on you.

They'd rather lose your business, than lose money talking to you.

Edit: my bad, it wasn't clear in your post that you were promoting your tweets using Twitter.

Wait, what is? The $10 or $20 was money I was paying directly to Twitter for their advertising services, not to some third party doing shady stuff.

They don't act like robots, they design auto-emailers because nobody is forcing them to support their customers. Google's support strategy is so deliberately-negligible they could substantially improve their tech support by acquiring Comcast.

Unless you are huge corp buying ads by the bucket you are not "really a Google customer", are you?

The Comcast part made me laugh. But yes, sadly even in my experiences, Comcast has better customer support than Google.

Near as I can tell, the only way to make progress there is to know someone on the inside.

Not true. Having thousands of followers and "going viral" is an equally good method.

That's like saying being born rich or winning the lottery is a good method to make money

If she's under 13, it's likely that's the reason.

Even if you're paying for G Suite, you can't have someone under 13. There is a special, limited type of Google account for sub-13 kids: https://support.google.com/families/answer/7103338

Then you'd think it would be easy for Google to have said that instead of giving him no reason beyond "yep it's legit"

Google typically won't give reasons because people use that information to get around blocks.

That seems ethically like a slippery slope explanation. Good thing the legal system doesn't behave this way when one is arrested (in most places).

In the case of COPPA, the slippery slope guidelines of being deliberately opaque come straight from the FTC:


"If you choose to block children under 13 on your general audience site or service, you should take care to design your age screen in a manner that does not encourage children to falsify their ages to gain access to your site or service. Ask age information in a neutral manner at the point at which you invite visitors to provide personal information or to create a user ID."

I see your point, but I don't read it the same way you do. This is referring to the age screen test (similar to Steam's on PG 13 or R games). But the poster above was spurned by Google support.

I think the real reason he was spurned is that Google support isn't that effective or responsive in a lot of cases, full stop.

Doubly not relevant for a paid g-suite organization. It’s not like his daughter can just go sign up for an account and lie about her age, the admin has to add users.

The admin is not asked for a birthday. IIRC, it's largely optional - YouTube will require it to watch a violent/sexually suggestive video, at which point you may get locked out if you give a sub-13 one.

For example: https://sunpig.com/martin/2011/07/03/google-made-my-son-cry/

Right, so

>you should take care to design your age screen in a manner that does not encourage children to falsify their ages to gain access to your site or service. Ask age information in a neutral manner at the point at which you invite visitors to provide personal information or to create a user ID

doesn't have anything to do with this. There's definitely no age screen for the kid to lie on, and it sounds like the admin doesn't even provide an age either

It does, at times.


> In order to ensure that such wireless collection equipment/technology continues to be available for use by the law enforcement community, the equipment/technology and any information related to its functions, operation and use shall be protected from potential compromise by precluding disclosure of this information to the public in any manner including but not limited to: press releases, in court documents, during judicial hearings, or during other public forums or proceedings.

They don't have to disclose how they inferred the age but they can absolutely say that they'll ban anyone under 13 from streaming. The rule must be made transparent and clear - how they measure it and its boundaries can be somewhat opaque to aid enforcement and prevent reverse engineering

> The rule must be made transparent and clear

The rule itself is transparent and clear.

Whether the rule in as the basis for the action here is not.

It clearly would generally be required (as due process) to make that clear, too, if Google was the government of the US or one of it's states, but they aren't. Absent a contractual obligation I have seen no evidence for, I don't see why they would be obligated to explain this, even if I might find it prerable if they would.

Aren't we all talking about how we would like it to be and not what is legal or contractual? I thought so at least. If we are talking about contract, it's all stacked against us. We have no bargaining power. We have no rights whatsoever. Google absolutely has the right to do what they want within legal boundaries. These discussions and the noise we generate is how we are flexing our muscle and accomplishing what we want from Google.

> Aren't we all talking about how we would like it to be

“Must”, in the post I was responding to, seems to clearly indicate otherwise.

It is possible that word was poorly chosen.

Wait, what about that Ryan kid (who's a proxy for his parents) who does all the reviews for kids' toys and makes millions. Is he in danger of getting nixed?

It depends on who owns the account. Kids under 13 can appear in videos posted by their parents' account.

Maybe Google should have put that in the explanation instead of not giving a reason.

I wouldn't be shocked if the lawyers say COPPA means they can't, as they're not supposed to have any info about the child, including a) that they exist and b) that they're under 13.

That is a possibility, however it would have been helpful if they had said that. I assumed with my permission that she would be able to live stream. She also likes to play Roblox, and I had setup OBS for her. She was honestly pretty sad about it seeing that there are lots of other kids live streaming that appear to be her age.

Then how do kid streaming shows like Ryan’s toy review gather millions of subscribers over several years?

But he also has YouTube Premium family. Family members are often sub 13.

Yes, and there are special types of accounts for under-13 family members.


Having a Family plan for YouTube Premium (or other Google services) doesn't suddenly make it okay to use regular Google Accounts for young children. There are laws that apply here, and Google has special accounts designed to comply with those laws.

You can't just spin up a regular 13+ G Suite account for those family members, though.

I had a similar experience where I contested two $2 charges (so $4) a month at the beginning of every month.

It happened for 2 months and the only contact I could get was an automated reply saying that me or someone in my family had done this purchase. That wasn't the case at all.

After 2 months, this 1st of the month expense disappeared on its own.

I no longer have any paid services with them because trying to get a human to respond was impossible.

Unless you've also ceased usage of Google search, maps, and YouTube they didn't lose your business. You're still helping deliver 84% of their revenue.

For that particular person, no. Subscription users are more valuable, so 84% is on average.

True. It is hard to disconnect from them entirely, but at least this way I'm not giving them my money directly.

of those only youtube doesn't have what i would consider a viable alternative.

It’s no different with App Store submissions. For all the hate and talk of how stringent Apple is with their process, they at least provide very detailed reports and are quite good with feedback whenever things do go wrong. Google on the other hand? It’s often a crapshoot trying to track down what went wrong. Their responses are often too generic and getting a live person is an exercise in patience.

Crappy customer service is one of the hallmarks of a market dominated by a monopoly.

Had you heard about Sergei Brin obsessed about speed of page load on Google and could accurately tell how many seconds passed to a decimal? I'm using Google Music on iOS. It is by far the slowest app on device, sometime literally taking half a minute to perform an action. This was the time I realized billionaire founders must have left the building and Google is not what it used to be. Sure enough, I recently read article that Page and Brin went through divorces of their own, now spending lot of time staying out of the office basically leaving the company on auto-piolot. Pitchai et al may be good managers like Ballmer & Cook but they are far from visionaries. Fortunately AI is rising and search would be the biggest upcoming disruption.

Wait, you have gSuite and were able to use a YouTube Family plan?!?! Is this really possible now?

My YouTube family plan is separate from my G Suite account.

Ahh, I ended up doing the same and have painfully migrated everything over to a regular Google Account (except mail for which I'm still considering my options) just so I could use the Family sharing for Music, YouTube, Drive/One.

3 reasons:

- they are too big now. No one care, no one is paid to care, and no one has any incentive to change that.

- they are too big now. Tpoo many customers, with too many dumb problems. Just sorting out the real ones from just the idiots would cost too much. It's more economical to just reject in mass, and loose a few clients, when you have the monopoly.

- they are an easy legal target for huge sums of money. If they tell you why they blocked you, you can fight it in court. If they don't, you can't.

Your comment is completely irrelevant to the article.

That's another side effect of large monopolies - when you have millions of customers, most of which are already locked in through one way or another (Chrome, GMail, YouTube etc), there's no particular incentive to care about them that much. It's likely that the cost of losing you as a customer was deemed less than the cost of changing their policies.

That does seem capricious. At the same time, I’m not sure how old your daughter is, but it might be better that she’s not performing for an audience when she plays with her toys. I’m not convinced that sort of thing is healthy for a child’s development.


- will Porat be cutting "other bets", rumors is that other bets is in line for a big budget cuts

- Options implied vol is showing enough movement baked in that GOOG could become largest company by Market Cap if the street likes their numbers, and GOOG doesn't disappoint often

- Like Facebook the public and wallstreet have weighed in and they love money more than privacy.

- analysts are not in anyway mixed about Google's prospects

- 41 buy recommendations vs 2 hold and 0 sell

Add Revenue:

- 4Q paid clicks on Google's own sites is up 66%, seems high enough that it's not organic but more than likely increased advertising space on sites, forced youtube videos, etc

- Cost per click on Google's own sites is down 29%


- 4Q profit of $8.2B est $8.7B

- 4Q EPS $12.77

- 4Q expenses $31.2B up from $24.7B yoy.

- 6.85B on capex vs $3.8B yoy

- 4Q operating margin 21% down from 24% yoy.

- 4Q other bets lost $1.33 billion, don't hear much about these bets anymore but that is an outsized loss in this category.

-Again they mention Verily and Waymo in passing but no details worth mentioning.

- 4Q Add Revenue $32B

- 4Q own site revenues $27B


- shares are down a bit, lots of volume, nothing out of ordinary, guessing its mostly covering and profit taking.

- Too bad for almost all factor models that really on trade on tech Momentum

- The company added nearly 20,000 employees over the year. * WOW, double check this, that's a large head count addition.

- can't find any Cloud break outs, I guess MSFT and AMZN are really beating them, given how much of a growth engine it is for the 2 leaders I can't see why GOOG would hid it if they were able to compete.

- No youtube breakout of revenues, Again not a bullish sign for that division, stil nothing on youtube on the call.

- EDIT on the earnings call they did talk briefly about Youtube, no real new numbers though, just their assurance that youtube is crushing it

- Porat is doing gymnastics to talk about youtube but not actually say anything about youtube. Are youtbue numbers really that bad????

- Google was the top lobby spender of 2018, not in tech but for all companies. Silicon Valley is now arguably bigger force than Wall Street on US politics.

- margins are down and spending is up, not sure if its GOOG that wants to spend to grow or its competitors that are forcing it to compete. Either way, this competition is great for tech salaries

- Employees totaled 98,771 in the quarter vs 80,110 a year ago, WOW

> Silicon Valley is now arguably bigger force than Wall Street on US politics.

There's no argument there. The banks and military industrial complex have drastically more influence and power than Silicon Valley, despite SV closing that gap over time.

All politicians, with few exceptions, bow to the feet of the military industrial complex. They all get in line. That's slightly less true for Wall Street, however only slightly.

Every aspect of the US Government is dependent on the Federal Reserve and US banking system, without exception. Silicon Valley companies come and go over the decades, they rise and fall. JP Morgan predates the Fed and has been critical to the US Government for over a century.

Google is a Walmart or the former GM, as far as the politicians in DC are concerned. Powerful, rich, influential, and still not a first tier power in DC. It never can be.

Military, weapons, currency, financing. That's the source of real power, all of DC knows it. Everything else is just a play thing of the moment, inevitably replaced by a new shiny play thing in the next decade or two. Long after Google is gone, banking and military will still be around.

That's the impression, sure. But soon, Tech companies could become darlings. Think about it: the government works in close cooperation with banks to catch money laundering.

It's not too far fetched to say the government works in close cooperation with Google to catch ...?

Some rich people serve as target for being hostage as opposed to exerting influence. I have to wonder how many politicians are holding guns to Google and FB for serving them information+money in exchange for not striking anti-trust or other legislative hammers.

I wish there was a way on HN to follow and subscribe to individual users' comment feed.

It didn't happen this way by accident, but because a lot of money has been expended on lobbying and other "political investments".

Now think about the pile of money that e.g. Apple is sitting on, and how much political influence that could buy.

So you are saying that the company who holds all of the worlds information and makes it publicly available is a fad?

That’s bold!

They don't hold the world's information. They are an advertising company with a search engine for public websites, which are all hosted outside of Google.

In the age of information overload, the host of information is less important than the portal to information.

No, merely that our need to blow each other up has ultimate longevity.

>can't find any Cloud break outs, I guess MSFT and AMZN are really beating them, given how much of a growth engine it is for the 2 leaders I can't see why GOOG would hid it if they were able to compete.

"Other revenue" is up 30% YoY. I'd imagine this is mostly Google Cloud (it also includes Pixel and other hardware). In another article I read, Google said "Last year we more than doubled both the number of Google Cloud Platform deals over 1 million as well as the number of multiyear contracts signed" [0]

[0] https://www.cnbc.com/2019/02/04/alphabet-earnings-q4-2018.ht...

Microsoft doesn't break out Azure in their public financial reports.

Employee counts via Form 10-K releases (as of EoY each year):

2013: 47,756 (too lazy to look earlier)

2014: 53,600 (+12.2% YoY)

2015: 61,814 (+15.3% YoY)

2016: 72,053 (+16.5% YoY)

2017: 80,110 (+11.1% YoY)

2018: 98,771 (+23.2% YoY)

Source: https://abc.xyz/investor/

This does not include contractor, temp, and vendors

I imagine most of the engineering addition is in Google Cloud? Given the fierce competition at the top with AWS and Azure. Just a guess though.

Any idea of the breakdown of engineers vs sales?

Asking the real questions here, I'm seriously interested in knowing the staff breakdown by role.

The opening statements of the quarterly public analyst calls give a lot of good direction. I don't think anyone would be foolish enough to blab an actual breakdown for this, Alphabet- or Cloud-wide.


> The company added nearly 20,000 employees over the year.

Some of them probably are from HTC acquisition.

> - can't find any Cloud break outs,

They never published cloud break outs, but they posted 6.5B revenue of non ads business, which is essentially cloud + office + pixel sales.

Just because Google Cloud doesn't break out its revenue, doesn't mean its a sign of trouble.

It makes complete sense, they're obviously in the third position. Why put additional shareholder pressure that can put an enterprise in a position where they're incentivized towards short-term gains vs. the long play that this is..

> Google chief financial officer Ruth Porat pointed to sizable jumps in compensation for Other Bets employees and executives, with the total stock-based compensation now amounting to nearly $500 million for this past quarter.



I'll just leave this here. This may be part of the puzzle:


> The company added nearly 20,000 employees over the year

They hired more than half-a-Facebook worth. Where are they finding these people? Seems most other companies are struggling to fill their headcount

What happened with the increased headcount? Which areas is this in? It would be great news if this were on sales / support (in cloud?) since they’re severely underrepresented in these areas and it seems like low hanging fruit to invest here.

Would this increase in headcount be an explanation for increased expenses? If not, what would explain the dramatic increase in expenses?

joined HTC employees?

Amazing they went from nothing to 100K employees and $100B+ in revenue in 20 years.

Amazon went from nothing to 500k employees and $200B+ in only 25yrs. Even more impressive

I'm slightly more impressed by GOOG in light of the net margin and average employee salary difference.

Amazon has an easier time hiring though. Bezos would hire trained chimpanzees if he could.

> Google was the top lobby spender of 2018, not in tech but for all companies. Silicon Valley is now arguably bigger force than Wall Street on US politics.

Lobbying is not where power is in US politics. Spending on elections is.

I'm not sure that spending on elections is where the power is either, but certainly any claim that lobbying gives you durable political power is at best undersourced.

The cloud bet better pay off or they’re in big trouble. Especially since they’re the number 3 player and not the market dominant player like Ads. Will be interesting to see how they play out

Right now Google is niche for Big Data and ML type of stuff. Their ecosystem has the lead as far as the best tool for the job out of the big three.

AWS is still blowing them out of the water in the "Enterprise" market, which they are really struggling to break into, but they're pushing hard.

Part of that is because "enterprise" doesn't trust Google to not drop support on short (by enterprise standards) notice and leave them in the lurch. Microsoft, in contrast, has spent decades building trust at large companies by supporting old stuff essentially forever[0].

[0] https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2015/06/navy-...

Google may have a lead in real ML (AlphaGo etc) , bust for most economic use cases ML is snake oil, and snake oil is easy to clone.

By 2025, they will dominate. I have used it, it is better, and slowly but surely people are moving to Google cloud.

Yes, the myth of tech superiority. Just like MS DOS, Windows, Android or the web stack won by being superior.

AWS is bigger and growing at least at the same rate.

I wouldn't bet on Google becoming #1.

where lies a myth? It's customer needs vs. tech that wins.

I agree, I personally don't think it's a valid myth. As you said, the customer overall knows what he wants, and he doesn't want technical (or ideological, in the case of Free Software) purity.

I was just pointing out that because techies consider something superior (ergo the myth), it doesn't necessarily "win". Plus in this case I think it's really, really hard to argue that GCP is superior to AWS.

Aren't IBM number 3? But either way, Microsoft, Google, IBM, are all way behind Amazon.

Microsoft Azure has shown stunning growth and has AWS worried.

The TLDR: First time in years EPS dropped Q/Q. Big increases in spending.

I hate office google products. My work place uses it.

Google Driver File Stream is slower than share drive, along with it always "streaming" in the background. VPNing makes it even worse.

Can't use hotkeys in Google Sheets, and there are limited functions to it as well. I hate clicking when using Excel all day.

Chrome is slow and bloated. Sites sometimes don't render properly.

GMail is slow, and its UI isn't making things better. Notifications do not always appear, and missing a scheduled meeting/call can be embarrassing or make you look irresponsible -- and looking at long email threads can get confusing.

GChat/Hangouts or whatever it's called runs within the browser, which I entirely dislike because it takes up a fraction of what you're looking it -- so I just end up using the hangouts software.

The whole GSuite thing is only good for collaborative purposes. But it slows down the PC so GODDAMN much that it brings inefficiencies and headache. I really wished the employer didn't go Google and chose an alternative.

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