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Sundar will be the CEO of both Google and Alphabet (blog.google)
1194 points by minimaxir 1 day ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 582 comments





https://abc.xyz/investor/news/releases/2019/1203/

Slightly more organized info in the intro bullets.

Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the CEO and President, respectively, of Alphabet, have decided to leave these roles. They will continue their involvement as co-founders, shareholders and members of Alphabet’s Board of Directors.


In a way this seems like an admission of the failure of the "Alphabet" thing. The idea behind that originally was that all of these other projects were going to become so significant that it wouldn't make sense to have them or their management coupled with Google.

But a half-decade later, it's still 99.9% Google, so just double-up the Google guy to lead both tiers. Same as it ever was.


> The idea behind that originally was that all of these other projects were going to become so significant that it wouldn't make sense to have them or their management coupled with Google.

No, the idea was that they were high risk speculative efforts and that it didn't make sense to have their branding mixed up with Google, which is a stable, established industry leader.


That's a semantic distinction. All major corporations have highly speculative projects that they aren't certain will succeed. With (relatively) minor investments most don't form an umbrella corporation to distinguish them.

In this case, I dont see anything else coming out of non-Google alphabet of meaningful significance, and this org change kind of highlights that.

In my personal opinion, the Google founders probably still DO have some radical plans, but I bet with the increased scrutiny in Congress and abroad they are thinking the Google vrand is more of a liability than an asset.


> That's a semantic distinction.

No, separating branding and separating management are substantively different ideas, not a matter of semantics.

> All major corporations have highly speculative projects that they aren't certain will succeed. With (relatively) minor investments most don't form an umbrella corporation to distinguish them.

That doesn't support your argument that it's a semantic distinction, it instead seems to be an unrelated argument with some implicit premises that argues that most corporations wouldn't have done what Google did to separate Alphabet in similar circumstances, which may or may not be true but is irrelevant to what the point was of Google doing it.


Don’t the companies now also give different financial reporting? Alphabets companies have wildly different expected growths and margins expected. It totally makes sense to be clear with investors that Google’s margins aren’t suffering, Alphabet is just investing upfront capital in Verily or Fiber

Google kills so many projects that they killed their own holding company.

In the past major corporations used to launch speculative research projects and risky ventures, but that rarely happens any more. All the resources are being shifted to stock buybacks, everything else is a secondary priority.

Some companies like Chevron and Texas Instruments have even committed in writing to "returning 100% of all cash flow in perpetuity" to buybacks and dividends. So yes, they have legal contracts saying they won't agree to invest in future growth or investments or research no matter how much money they make, they are so committed to this buyback first model.

Google is a true leader in the buyback wars, they were the first company to commit to $25B in buybacks per quarter, which used to be a shockingly large number for these programs. Lots of other companies have followed that pattern since.


> I dont see anything else coming out of non-Google alphabet of meaningful significance

YouTube. But in general I agree with you.


YouTube was pre alphabet, was a purchased acquisition under the Google umbrella, and didn't "come out of non-google alphabet"

YouTube is part of the Google division of Alphabet as it makes money primarily from advertising.

Does anyone know how the subscription YouTube is working out? They sure are putting a good effort into getting me signed up.

I'm a subscriber, mostly because of YouTube Music. I wanted a music platform where I get push notifications of new music by artists I follow. This feature is broken in Spotify and they have no plans to fix (their words). It seems like a simple enough request, but it turns out this feature is also not available and/or broken in YouTube Music. I keep the subscription SOLELY to watch YouTube ad-free now, and for that it is awesome; but I'm considering switching to another music platform. It's hard for me to cancel my subscription to YouTube though because removing all the ads from YouTube is the only thing that makes it actually useful as a platform.

YouTube Premium is great. I'm happy to pay Google directly, but I've moved away from most of their ad-supported products, including Search.

If you love YouTube and hate advertising, then Premium is a very easy decision to make. I'm more than happy to pay Google $12 a month so I can have an ad-free experience on my TV, iPad, phone, and computer.

I have both Netflix and HBO-Now as well, but I'm thinking about canceling them, as 90% of my viewing time is spent on YouTube.


One really nice thing about YouTube is that you can download your favorite programs there with "youtube-dl". I don't know if that works for the premium stuff though (I doubt it). So if you want to download, for instance, all the Rick Steves episodes and then watch them on your plane flight (where you don't have free internet access, or someplace else where the service isn't fast enough to watch YT), it's easy to do, and impossible with those other services.

Maybe it's a way to signal that a project might last longer than 5 years before being killed off on a whim...

The original reason was that smart people like career progression. Money alone isn't enough to keep them - they want something good on their business cards. Otherwise some will leave to become CEO of another company.

By making a group of companies, you can have many CEO's, more directors, more VP's, etc. and therefore keep hold of more smart people who are after external recognition more than money.


Careerist people like career progression. I think that's largely orthogonal to smarts or lack thereof.

I doubt Einstein cared very much what was on his business card. Patrick Bateman certainly did.


In the case of the latter the shade and quality of the paper might've been even more important than what's printed on it. ;o)

I doubt Einstein cared what was on his business card, but I'm sure he cared very much about being in the right career position to do the work that interested him, and to have the ability to influence his work and others.

I dont want to nitpick, but some of his most influential work - dubbed the "annus mirabilis" papers / "amazing year" [0] - was done while he was an assistant examiner at the patent office in Bern. Definitely not a position he was aiming for, but still, a highly productive time.

- [0]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Annus_Mirabilis_papers


Sure, but GP's argument was about job titles, not about what work you're doing.

Typically job titles as noted in that post accompany some varying level of responsibility and leadership. If this is simply about what title is on your card then OK, sure. But in my experience, many (not all) are seeking the autonomy and influence behind those titles. Einstein had titles too, but it was the influence and work behind those titles he wanted. It's the same for many "careerists", a term I do not like.

I think you're losing sight of the original argument I was responding to: that a main reason for spinning off bits of Google as separate Alphabet subsidiaries was to allow job title inflation for the same role.

There's only one CEO per company, so if you want more CEOs you need more companies. Being CEO of Waymo probably isn't that different from being Manager of the Autonomous Cars Division or whatever, but it sounds more impressive.


>There's only one CEO per company,

Usually, but not always. When I was at Intel, they had two CEOs. They called it "two in a box" for some odd reason.


But you forget that to Patrick Bateman the (so called) greater good and broad knowledge expansion or other humanity-propelling criteria weren't nearly as relevant as the question if Patrick Bateman appeared successful.

The image of Patrick Bateman was more important to Patrick Bateman than Einstein or his accomplishments.


I'm not sure whether I'm missing your point or you're repeating mine. Caring about job titles for their own sake strikes me as narcissistic.

It is, but most people are at least slightly narcissistic. Most people get at least a little bit of validation & happiness from obtaining a "better" job title. Also, it's not really just the plain title itself, but the trust the company has in you that it represents. Being able to say to somebody, "I'm VP of ____" gives you some cachet in today's middle/upper-middle class.

Sure, there are also people who couldn't care less what their title is, but I can't help but feel that most people would find the possibility of a 'better' title at least moderately motivating.


Titles are a currency in some parts of society. I am strongly anti-title and also pretty strongly anti-celebrity but I think it’s important to recognize that these things both have value to most of the people around you.

You could easily do that by having sub-companies of Google instead of sub-companies of Alphabet.

I think the reason they went for this is so that the sub-companies would not be at risk if Google (the search engine / advertising giant) had a problem.

I think that was the other way around.

I don't think it was mostly motivated by management separation, as much as it was desire to break out revenue and expenses by unit. And this is unchanged.

You can do that even within a company. You certainly dont need separate share classes.

You're conflating a lot of things here. GOOG class A versus C (GOOG vs GOOGL) dates to a 2014 restructuring of ownership, whereas the Alphabet reorg was in 2015.

Can you break out revenue in a single company? Sure. But you can also easily do it with the structure Alphabet adopted. And, this structure also lends itself to easier valuations of entire units, useful if acquisition of a unit is something being considered.


> The idea behind that originally was that all of these other projects were going to become so significant that it wouldn't make sense to have them or their management coupled with Google.

This isn't entirely true. A major consideration was fear of anti-trust litigation. If all of these are the same company/orgs/departments, then you could reasonably say that this "search company" is far too powerful. If there's a search company and a youtube company and a self-driving car company (etc.) then you can make a (specious) argument that you're not vertically and horizontally a monopoly.


This was my understanding as well.

Removing the “firewall” between Google and Google Health will prove to have been a big mistake. They should have stayed separate under Alphabet.

Yup.

Congress is already whispering about the Ascension deal and how it affects the Fitbit buyout with regards to them intervening.


What “Ascension deal” are you talking about? Also, do you have a source for what you’re saying?


keeping it as separate entities meant that useful data could not be shared. Under one org, more data can be safely shared while respecting user privacy.

Except Google doesn't respect privacy.

I doubt think this is accurate.

Google might not respect the desire for an open internet without ads and no single large player.

But i believe they fully respect their users privacy, comply with most of the law around privacy already, and have the strong desire to fully comply with it in the future.

Maybe I'm naive that way. But painting them as not respecting privacy at all is a bit blunt and not nuanced enough.


Saying "they fully respect their users privacy" is also blunt and not nuanced.

They are a huge company with thousands of teams pursuing their own agendas and made up of people of varying degree of scruples and viewpoints with regards to privacy.

I've worked for large companies that handle sensitive user data, and they all have at least some teams of people trying to figure out how they can respect the letter of privacy laws just enough, while ignoring the spirit of those laws, in order to profit from the personal data they hold, regardless of the potential side effects or long-term impact on the data subject.

Google is probably no different.


What i meant was that i believe they try to follow the law around privacy. The law might not be "good enough", but that's in us not them (modulo the lobbying).

I'm not trying to say larger companies are innocent. Saying they don't respect privacy insinuates to me that they intentionally violate the law, and i don't think that that's true.


If you only base good/bad actions around the law (which I understand is really the only _real_ reference point we have), then that's part of the problem.

Technology moves faster than the law, we all know this.. What we need are ethical companies who not only respect the law but also respect the data owners.

We need a company with a motto like "don't be evil" or something like that.. if only, right? ;-)


Then they don't respect their users privacy, they respect (or not) the laws.

> they fully respect their users privacy

The data shows they do not.

Google Is Fined $57 Million Under Europe’s Data Privacy Law: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/21/technology/google-europe-...

Google Is Fined $170 Million for Violating Children’s Privacy on YouTube: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/04/technology/google-youtube...

There is even a Wikipedia page about Google VS users privacy

Privacy concerns regarding Google: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Privacy_concerns_regarding_Goo...


Compliance with privacy law is not a good indicator of respect for users' privacy when you're in a position to nudge privacy legislation to limit its impact on you.

I'm not saying you're wrong, but there certainly is evidence out there that suggests Google in fact does respect user privacy. For example, activity.google.com. They are also pretty up front about their privacy policy, how they use cookies, data retention policy, and so forth on policies.google.com. There is a lot of information there.

There's a case to be made that Google is trying to do the right thing.


What Google does is try to look like they're respecting privacy and following the privacy laws only to the minimum amount possible.

Google of course cares a lot that your data doesn't get into the hands of other companies, after all, it's THEIR data. That's were their care ends.


this ++

I don't understand how being under Google vs being under Alphabet changes that.

They're still fundamentally one org sharing data with itself. If anything, I would think the company segregation would make it more complicated and difficult, wrt logistics, legality, and internal politics.


No they are separate corporations. Verily has received two rounds of non-Alphabet funding. https://www.crunchbase.com/organization/verily-2

Which is why it doesn't seem to simplify anything. There is still data crossing some form of corporate boundary, just a different one.

I'm of mixed emotions here.

I am both cautious enough of Google that I've started avoiding using some of their products, and still have an opinion on how they should organize themselves that has very little to do with those feelings.

I was sort of hoping Alphabet would be a spot they could stick all of the projects that aren't going to make a billion a year. I think it still makes sense to maintain projects that 'only' clear $20+ million a year in another division. That would cover a lot of projects that are getting cancelled and causing them serious PR problems (like accusations of being a group of spoiled man-children who can't be relied upon to stick with anything for longer than four years).

Basically there's a lot of space to make money and products that they won't touch, and I don't think it has anything to do with Wall Street. It's just an artificial limitation they've imposed upon themselves.


What do you mean, "failure"? Google hasn't been hit with an antitrust lawsuit which makes it an unmitigated success!

It's not an admission of failure. Two businessmen created one of the most successful, influencial businesses ever and are passing the torch. They're rich AF and probably want to retire.

Parent specifically said a failure of the "Alphabet" thing.

I don't know man. Doesn't that sound a little bit suspicious? If you were to create Google why would you just peace out? Look at Bill Gates. He still wants to do things but the google founders are all MIA. How do guys like that just lose all ambition and disappear?

I don't know their lives. Maybe they will do stuff like Bill Gates. All I know is that if I were them, I'd have stepped down long ago. Either way they achieved great success and are leaving on a high. I don't know how anyone can interpret it differently.

If I had created Google I would have peaced out looooong ago.

Sure, I wouldn't disappear completely, but I'd work on low-stress things where I have a lot of free time and don't have so much responsibility under me.


> low-stress things where I have a lot of free time and don’t have so much res...

Or children ;) John Lennon famously quit music for 5 years to raise his second child, after failing his first marriage.


Create Google first and we will all see :-)

Perhaps they didn't envisage it turning into a giant surveillance and advertising machine. I doubt that is what they imagined when they started on their PhD's.

Move along, nothing to see here.

A similar question was at the center of Atlas Shrugged

That's not exactly a standard work on business management advice.

If Larry and Sergey were the kind of people that were quitting and disappearing in the book, they would not quit, but instead try to sneakily dismantle Google from within, like d'Anconia in the book. :)

Are you proposing that Larry and Sergey are starting a secret society of billionaires who are withdrawing their genius contributions from society as a protest against government regulations?

They probably understood that the game is rigged in their favor and no matter who is leading the company, they will be just fine anyway. Also, playing a rigged game gets boring after a while.

He's talking about the decision to make the Alphabet conglomerate, not Sergey and Larry. Obviously no one disputes the two of them are extremely successful.

Even if your observation is correct, it's not a bad thing. A failed experiment is hardly a failure. I doubt the legal border between Alphabet and Google won't prove useful in the future.

I think Waymo still has a solid shot

How much money is waymo making?

It's a money sink right now, but has an obvious path to becoming a juggernaut.

Time will tell. But the more you sit on it, the more easy it gets for other people to catch up.

By now even companies like Tesla and Volvo can do most of what any one can do. And they actually have usable cars.

Google inventing AGI will be a great deal though.


Anybody inventing AGI would be a big deal, but (1) don't hold your breath and (2) it could just as easily be a negative for Google and for the rest of us.

TBF, doing most of what a Waymo car can do is the easy part.

people asked the same thing about facebook in 2008

Facebook was started by one college kid 4 years prior. Waymo has had the resources of one of the largest companies in the world for the last 10 years.

And their core goal of truly autonomous vehicles is a technical challenge that at this point seems like it will take at least several years more than what they originally thought 3 years ago. Their situation is not similar to FB in 2008 at all.

Even if they overcome this the bigger question is whether the market opportunity is worth the R&D costs, and whether or not bulky self driving vehicles are the best and most lucrative solution to mass transit.

Speaking of market opportunity, are there SDVs being tested in outside of California and Arizona? The rest of the US gets its fair share of rain, snow, and ice. Even if the Bay Area can manage self-driving cars, when would we expect a rollout in places like Minneapolis or Boston?

Yes, there are. Off the top of my head, in the US:

Las Vegas (Aptiv), Pittsburgh (Aptiv, Aurora, Ford, Uber ATG), Dearborn MI (Ford), Miami (Ford), Washington (Ford). There's also a retirement community in Florida that Voyage is testing in.


nuTonomy is testing in Boston too.

Volvo is testing self driving cars on public roads in Sweden.

I think the CEO of Waymo has already said that that driving in bad weather is likely much farther away.

That seems like a huge problem. Even places with idyllic weather like California can have bad days. I'm skeptical of anything purporting to be a revolution in transportation when it will largely limited to a few select areas and is prone to catastrophic failure based on something as common as snow or rain.

They tested Waymo out in Kirkland Washington for a bit. It doesn't have snow, but I'm sure they got a lot of data about wet conditions.

Because of the elevation of parts of CA & AZ, it's absolutely possible to encounter snow and ice (and even whiteout conditions on interstate highways!) in those states, if you make the effort to find it. A smart testing team would make the effort to head for the mountains when the forecast calls for wintery weather.

You're right, and not just rural areas.

Flagstaff, AZ (pop. ~70,000, and double that in the metro area) has colder average lows than NYC during the winter, and several times more snow.

It's the closest major(-ish) town to the Grand Canyon, which is about 75 miles away.


Or Mumbai? Or Jakarta?

Even if the answer there is "never", so what? Do we really need to set the bar at "replace all vehicles everywhere in all situations" for it to be a success?

No but there is an opportunity cost to the research on self-driving that could potentially be spent on other methods that seem less cool.

It becomes much harder to justify buying a self-driving car if there are many parts of the country where I can't drive it. Even a mid-tier sedan can be driven all the way up the west coast from southern california to Seattle as long as you have chains and wait for the pass to be open. Waymo's cars are designed to not even have steering wheels, last time I checked...

Most likely due to Waymo being not designed for personal consumer use... but I’d also say they are pretty detached from having to deal with real societal problems.

Self driving cars is indeed a cool technical problem to solve if you asked an engineer, but if you asked society what it needed I doubt self driving cars would be the answer.


Facebook in 2008 had a singularity of users, so people were more comfortable with the answer.

I don't think it was a failure at all. It was a hedge against slowing ad revenue growth. They didn't want the billions they spend on moonshots dirtying the books of the ad business. This was specifically to keep the stock price moving up and up. I think they should find someone new to be CEO of Alphabet so they can focus on the non ad business companies.

Plus they got to change the name that appears in investment portfolios, and take the opportunity to appear at the top, since they are almost always alphabetically ordered, and at the very least they would be appear above Amazon since l comes before m, and also above Apple.

Sundar seems to be turning into Google's Ballmer, for better and for worse.

The lack of direction, apart from the bigger projects is noticeable.


How? Apples and Oranges comparison

Lack of any obvious vision or ideas: a safe pair of hands. The similarities are there, and not just Sundar/Ballmer but Sundar/Ballmer/Cook. It seems visionary CEOs like to appoint non-visionary successors. Someone who won't make big changes to their baby.

https://a16z.com/2010/12/16/ones-and-twos/

This is often inherent in the organizational structure of big companies. To the extent that there are visionaries in a big company, they're usually not anywhere on the executive team, or even anywhere that the CEO comes in direct contact with. If they were, they'd clash with the CEO's vision, which first of all would be confusing and inefficient for the organization and second is a power contest the CEO would win. So if the board wants to appoint a visionary from within, they usually need to reach several levels down in the org hierarchy, to someone who's run an innovative division semi-independently but been protected from overall company politics. If they elevate this person to CEO, everyone above them in the org chart will quit, as they've now been passed over for the top job.


Great link, thanks. I think you and a16z must be exactly right about it.

> still 99.9% Google

Maybe they should just rename the whole thing to "AdWords" then...


Alphabet was always mostly just a shell game for manipulating headlines about failing or political projects away from Google.

not that I know anything but it seems like the decision was complex both to create the Alphabet and now to kind of merge it under one CEO.

I think some of the reasons could be they no longer see a risk of anti Monopoly regulation targeting them so they don't need to keep everything so divided. they genuinely want to give Sundar a go. They need a process to gradually fade out The original founders, but also importantly ensure those founders isolate their risk from any future missteps the companies take, and vice versa.

maybe the two co-founders were simply getting in the way.


The reason reason is that antitrust is coming. Larry and Sergey are stepping out of the fire.

Anyone who thinks Google is a failure should reconsider. They have had their share of bad decisions, but nothing has yet challenged their dominance. They keep spreading to other areas of tech. They may not dominate the AlphaBets, but they sure attract attention and investment.

My read is that the parent commenter isn’t saying that Google is a failure, but rather that the “Alphabet” branding was a failure.

I don't know any other company that people love to hate. A large number of those will flee Google in droves when/if a viable alternative presents itself. Their lock-in on email and dominance in search may be enough of a moat to last forever but if your users (paying and free) hate you then you are on borrowed time.

Facebook too. I hate both with a similar passion. But I'm in tech and thanks to HN I have a vague idea how the sausage is made. Do regular users share our dislike of these companies? If not, which is what I suspect, this fleeing will be mostly nonexistent.

I think generally, people do hate both, though neither as much as Twitter.

Personally I feel most strongly about Google, because I really believed the marketing back in the day. Took me a long time to get disillusioned, and when I did I felt all the worse for having been a supporter for so long.


Why would anyone hate Twitter? I mean, I don't care for it either, but it doesn't really affect me because I simply don't use it. I don't have an account, and really don't pay attention to it, except for all the "tweets" from Trump in the news.

Facebook is different. It's pretty hard to avoid using Facebook without being an outcast in a way, if all your friends and family are on there and they use it to communicate, schedule events, etc. There's also Facebook Marketplace which seems to have taken over for Craigslist for selling stuff locally. I'm one of those people who has an account there, but never actually posts anything, but I keep it because I have a few people who insist on using it to communicate; I've met lots of people like this.

Twitter just isn't like this at all. I think it's dumb, but it's easy to ignore.


I'm curious what their continued involvement will look like.

For a while after Bill Gates stepped down as CEO, there was this awkward tension where Steve Balmer was CEO, but people still treated Bill like he was the one in control -- because he was.


> I'm curious what their continued involvement will look like.

Page and Brin, combined, are currently the majority shareholders of alphabet. Each controls 27% of the voting power ( 54% combined ). They are still in charge. They just won't be involved in the day-to-day operation of the company. Sundar will still report to Page/Brin and the board of directors.


Honestly, there’s so much drama and turmoil there, I wouldn’t want to be there either. So many other productive things they could be doing.

Care to elaborate for the uninitiated ?

[flagged]

greesil 1 day ago [flagged]

Why is this being downvoted? Now it's flagged. This is ridiculous.

I think burying a comment may lend it some validity. Critiquing it is a better method of understanding or correcting it. Here's a censored version:

Founders: Bring your whole selves to work.

Employees: great!

That one guy: what a relief, because I’m literally an unpopular-party member.

Everybody: no. Leave that part at home.

Guy: my rights are being trampled by a popular-party conspiracy!

Other person: my unique identity is the most important aspect of large-scale software development. Anyone who disagrees must be fired.

Everyone: that doesn’t seem all that relevant, actually.

Person: my rights are being trampled by a majority identity conspiracy!

Everyone: frustration


Because it's an extremely dishonest take on a highly political issue.

Isn't the more appropriate response to respond to the comment rather than downvote it? It doesn't seem to be a personal attack, or some other violation of the community guidelines.

I'm not a moderator, but IMO, it was absolutely a violation of community guidelines. It was incredibly snarky, flamebaity, and was obviously written to start a political battle.

The fact that it got flagged shows I'm definitely not alone in this thinking.


I suppose it did push some readers' buttons, thus ipso facto is flamebait whether or not that was the intent. I did not find it snarky (hyperbole is not snark), and it seemed to me its intent was to explain the situation as the author saw it. Of course, now that it's flagged I can't even re read it to check if my initial impression was off.

You can read flagged/dead comments by turning on "showdead" on your profile/settings page.

False: you can't if you're browsing the site anonymously.

This is funny, downvoted for writing the truth...

It is impossible for anonymous readers to open dead comments.

If it is not, please explain me how to do it


I wasn't one of your downvoters. (As you may know, you can't downvote a direct reply to your own comment.) But I think I know why your comment was downvoted.

greesil wrote: "now that it's flagged I can't even re read it"

I replied: "You can read flagged/dead comments by turning on 'showdead' on your profile/settings page."

You then replied: "False: you can't if you're browsing the site anonymously."

Now ask yourself, who was the "you" I addressed in my comment? Obviously greesil, and by extension other logged-in users like yourself.

I wasn't talking to, or talking about, anonymous readers. I never said they could read dead comments. They don't have profile pages! The discussion had nothing to do with anonymous readers until you brought them up out of the blue and incorrectly called my comment "false".


I thought comments downvoting or flagging was based on the content, not on grammar.

Anyway, I had to login with my phone to comment and read the dead comment, at work I go through a corporate firewall that strips all the unnecessary headers, so I can't stay logged in on HN and I can't read dead comments.

So maybe that you should have been an "I".

I'm not an anonymous reader, but during the day I'm forced to be one.

BTW anonymous readers are probably not an irrelevant number, they still are users and they still count.

Your answer was not entirely wrong, but it was incomplete, hence not true or false.

Don't take it personally.

It's like assuming that everybody speaks a perfect English, it's false.

Not even native English speakers are immune to errors.


I would consider hyperbole worse than snark, when considering if a post has value under the site guidelines.

I disagree, despite how much the hyperbolic posts I see on this site annoy me.

Assuming good faith, hyperbole is at worst intellectually lazy. It is, however, sometimes a useful rhetorical device.

Snark, on the other hand, is directly disrespectful of the content it is replying to. This signals that the snarker is not going to discuss the subject in good faith and disincentivizes further discussion.


I'm just giving you the straight dope on a few aspects of the organizational disaster that is google. The fact that you think it's incredible etc just shows what a basket case this company is.

If you want to give "straight dope" on a controversial issue, you don't do it by caricature without evidence.

Instead you present incontrovertible evidence that proves your point.



Then this should have been the comment.

But this article isn't evidence of Google having a liberal orthodoxy. It supports instead the claim that Google is a politically charged workplace, and that diversity advocates working at Google were facing harassment.


> Then this should have been the comment.

I simply noticed that it took literally a single search on Google to get to know about it.

Not trying to defend the OP.

> But this article isn't evidence of Google having a liberal orthodoxy

Or the opposite, if literally members of unpopular party work there and have that kind of power.

It supports the poster thesis (phrased in a provocative way) that this kind of issues are not unknown at Google, either one way or the other.

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/news/crenshaw-calls-googl...

I guess the part of the original comment (now dead) that says (quoting)

> That one guy: what a relief, because I’m literally a Nazi.

> Everybody: no. Leave that part at home.

> Guy: my rights are being trampled by a liberal conspiracy!

is exposed here https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/google-sued-bias-clai...


> Because it's an extremely dishonest take on a highly political issue

It is also plausible.

Burying the head in the sand to avoid getting political is part of the problem, not of the solution.


“cofounder” isn't “what you're doing now”; it's “what you did 20 years ago” but it's important because people put weight on what the founders say and think. “[large] shareholder” is sort of a role, and often goes together with “member of the board”.

Bill Gates is probably a good example to look to. He also stayed on the board (as chair) and remained a large shareholder, and was looked up to as the cofounder. So I'd imagine “like Bill Gates but with less active interest and involvement”.


The difference here is that Page and Brin have always been willing to give up the CEO seat i.e. day to day operations.

They're 100% still in control of direction and people will always treat them as the boss (esp voting power), but the dynamic will not have nearly as much friction.


Page and Brin have been out of the big picture for a long time.

> For a while after Bill Gates stepped down as CEO, there was this awkward tension where Steve Balmer was CEO

Bill was simply playing politics.


So who takes the role of President now? Neither the parent article or the one you cited makes that clear.

I would assume nobody. Unless it's explicitly stated in the Alphabet corporate charter, there's nothing that requires them to have an employee with the title President, or any employee with any particular title at all.

Weirdly this feels like a non-issue. Google has not felt like it has a "personality" for some time - maybe it's a function of hitting mega-corporate size, but it also feels a bit like when Microsoft (a Computer on every Desktop) essentially achieved its goal, it then spent a decade in "goalless and soulless exploitation" mode - something that one suspects is the next step for the worlds largest personality-free platform.

If the two of them leave (have fun sipping pina coladas on the beach!) I am not sure (from the outside) what difference will be made. This may sound like great corporate succession planning - but I feel without a goal there will be little to stop business plans that boil down to "squeeze every dollar from everyone everywhere"

(Was there a glimmer of light in "unbiased free information to all" - is that a mission for the new decade?)

Edit: Just to emphasise - I hope they have fun spending their billions.


"Weirdly this feels like a non-issue"

It is.

That page is awful with a hood that keeps flapping around up and down and text that is trying to be true to italics for quotes instead of lots of diacritics and ends up looking badly diseased. Then the letter sidesteps into a memo, which is equally odd and awkward. It's all a bit odd.

S and B (in my very opinionated ... opinion) did create a great thing in Google. I can't fault people trying to make a living and running with the ball to the point where the playing field is not just paved with gold but it nearly redefines what the concept of gold is.

I think they should have retired before "do no evil" was ditched. That would have cemented their status as internet demi-gods. Instead I think their legacy will be

<i>wierdos whot spy on you</i>


> <i>wierdos whot spy on you</i>

LOL. I agree with a lot of your points but this one really hit home. On this one, the spying, I always wondered how odd or awkward it had to be internally to push new methods, techniques, or initiatives for "improving user experience" (I.e., spying). I interviewed for some Technical Solutions Engineer role at Google a long time ago. I really wanted the job but when asked a couple questions about how I'd technically achieve some goal related to spying on users and I always found myself hesitating, looking at the interviewer, and thinking, "is it ethically okay if I say this?" I can't imagine how the work environment transitioned at Google over the years from "do no evil" to actively fostering spying on users. I have to imagine it happened because there were few if any laws around user privacy while Google was up and coming. But I know Google has good internal controls for privacy, but I have to imagine there were many unethical or borderline conversations in the name of better spying on users data. I'm still trying to get away from Gmail because I know everything I send/receive is parses but the struggle is real. This is in addition to Chrome and an Android phone, not to mention Google search results. What's the risk of all this spying? In sum, what is at risk is the loss of free will. People who don't care because "they have nothing to hide" cannot see the forest for the trees. Then again, I need to make some changes myself. As an ancient Chinese proverb says, "To know, and not to do, is in fact not to know."


>I'm still trying to get away from Gmail because I know everything I send/receive is parses but the struggle is real.

There's the spying, but then there are also the numerous instances where Google simply terminated someone's account for completely random reasons that their automated system picked up. And you literally cannot ever get a human to talk to you at that company unless you manage to create a social media circus. Just semi-recently a bunch of people got permanently banned (that includes gmail, gdrive, everything) because they spammed emotes on a YouTube stream (something that is fairly commonplace on Twitch, at most you'll get a small timeout on that stream). I think most of them got unbanned eventually, but it took like a week and the streamer trying to raise awareness on social media. If something like this happens to you and you're alone, your account is just dust.

Using gmail or google drive isn't just giving Google your data to look at, it also means that everything you don't have a local backup for might be completely inaccessible to you on a whim, forever.


I think it's very likely that they wanted you to question the ethics there. I don't know what your interview was like though.

Googler, opinions are my own.


I don't think trying to select for an ethical core really works. Ultimately, you are either going to go along with the people around you or you are going to stick to some principles that aren't shared by everybody, and in the latter case, you're going to be unsuitable for the job, because you're not running the company.

So looking for evidence of ethics in an interview is just looking for a smooth talking hypocrite, even if you think you really want to.


The point is about asking good questions and having a healthy debate not about arriving with a preconceived “ethical core.”

The one Googler I know personally and have talked to about this stuff seems to have a weird blind spot around privacy and data collection. They're super friendly and happy to discuss products and features, but any questions about keeping data on your own device, limiting data access etc. just gets a blank stare, as if the very concept of "data which Google doesn't track" is nonsensical to them.

It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it. -Upton Sinclair

I'm just now realizing why I might have failed my interviews that I thought I nailed some questions in...

About "don't be evil": It's still very much in there. From: https://abc.xyz/investor/other/google-code-of-conduct/

> And remember… don’t be evil, and if you see something that you think isn’t right – speak up!

The problem was that it was moved from near the top to being near the bottom (though it's own paragraph). Sadly there were lots of very inaccurate headlines like this:

> Google Removes 'Don't Be Evil' Clause From Its Code of Conduct

https://gizmodo.com/google-removes-nearly-all-mentions-of-do...


It's there on paper, but is is really still there?

I am a Googler, opinions on my own.

The problem with the phrase is that it is very relative depending on your meaning of evil. It's a shifting over time and varies by person.

At the same time it provides a good guiding principle for Google as a whole. You need to think about users in different parts of the world with different ideas of what is good and evil, and try to cater to all of them. It's a really hard problem.

That code have conduct I linked tries to explain how evil is defined and give more concrete principles to follow.

From my experience, no one tries to be evil within Google, and we try to do right by our users. But when you're dealing with products like YouTube and Search with massive amounts of user-generated data, suggesting good answers that satisfy everyone and doesn't generate news headlines is impossible. We do what we can, but when you have billion user products, some people are always going to be pissed at you.


"but when you have billion user products, some people are always going to be pissed at you"

The problem with this narrative (which has been the official line for almost 7-8 years now) is it doesn't cause exaptation or adaptation. It is good enough to hold on to, if the goal is stagnation (which is what has happened with Search - you can point at things like wolframalpha, alpha go, stackexchange, quora, wikipedia, elasticsearch etc etc and ask why if the goal was to organize the worlds info, these things failed to develop internally - Similarly with Youtube - why did they missed being netflix or twitch, how did they not become the default platform for disney). The answer is the Scale has worked against that goal. So you stagnate.

The initial goal was to scale globally. That goal was achieved. After that new goals had to be defined. That did not happen because its hard to define achievable goals at that scale. The only default goal was empire defense - i.e. hold on to scale by hook or crook. For what? Well no great answer to that has been found. Which is hinting that global scale is counter productive to innovation whether technical or moral.

Its kind of like a football team winning the game and then staying on the pitch. Not playing any new games or restarting play. Then saying but guys we won leave us alone now.

I don't blame Google. But I expect Google to lead not to react and be defensive. And to do that the narrative requires honesty.


> Which is hinting that global scale is counter productive to innovation

I'd say not Global Scale per se, but achieving own goals without further goals to work towards. I.E you've achieved everything there is to achieve, what can do you do more?

Bill Gates reinvented himself by tackling humanitarian causes. Googlers set up further missions, e.g. self driving cars or health improvement, but those seem unimpressive comparing to world dominance.


I'm a Xoogler myself, I understand the struggle.

And I agree that I've never known any individual Googler to be evil, or intend to be evil (Although I've seen questionable decision making at times).

But whilst no one Googler is evil, the larger body that is "Google" has turned slightly further towards evil (In my personal definition of the word evil).

It's still nowhere near what I would consider true evil, I would probably go back to Google one day if the opportunity presents itself. But I would argue the Google I see today is less "good" than the Google I saw 5 years ago.


Individual motivation and well intent has nothing to do with the forces that drive a large corporate entity at scale.

Implementing censored search for an oppressive regime or providing research to killer drone programs is quite a different ball than "pissing off a few users".

Megacorps are only driven by one goal: growth. And Google has certainly proven that a lot is flying under the radar way on the wrong side of the good vs. evil dichtonomy.


While valid take here, I don't think it was ever meant to be taken as a literal guiding principle that needed to be written down so clearly as much as do the second thing you said, act as a guiding principle.

To me, the minuta having to be written down was a symptom of the complexity making the simplistic and guiding principle don't be evil useless, which I think mainly was caused by scale and the way the ad industry and personal data practices everywhere have evolved. No need to dig in there, but basically, I think that the fact it's still there doesn't really say much. This isn't to say the problems and scale of Google are easy, for the record. Also not impossible either of course.

Curious, in your 100% personal opinion, do you disagree that the company has more or less "deprecated" it?


> That code have conduct I linked tries to explain how evil is defined

You don't need to define evil for us. Small children know evil when they see it. People are quite capable of gleaning a person's or group of people's intent from their actions.

When you start needing to define what evil is, you've lost the debate entirely.


Just give me what I search for, no filters, no bullshit.

I saw a 4 to 5 year-old child watching the psychological equivalent of a snuff film on YouTube while his mother was working the kitchen at a warung in Ubud. "Don't be evil" means if you knew this sort of thing could happen you should've done absolutely everything you could to prevent it, or simply resigned your post at the company.

Evil to most people is obvious. But where money is concerned few "Googler" could do the right thing even if they wanted out of fear of biting the hand that feeds six-figure salaries in exchange for obstinate servitude.


Was it ever really there for the entire time period between the founding and when it was moved to a lower part of the page?

I don't know, I wasn't there the whole time :)

Oh, and if you try to organize people speaking up, you'll be fired.

> > And remember… don’t be evil, and if you see something that you think isn’t right – speak up!

How does this fit in the narrative, when the ones speaking up (right or wrong, that's not the issue here) are being fired?

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/20/technology/Google-union-c...


Google kept deprecating its use of the phrase "don't be evil" and now almost a footnote in its code of conduct.

As if remaining part of code of conduct doc promotes evil. Please ...

I share the sentiment that Sundar to me feels a bit like an invisible placeholder for leadership that I would argue is obviously lacking in Google lately.

There's nothing wrong with its stock price and revenue and I'm sure from that angle a lot of financial people are pretty happy with the status quo of just milking that cow perpetually. However, looking at it from the technical angle, I see a company that is asleep at the wheel and showing a distinct lack of vision, leadership, and direction across the board of its product portfolio. Perhaps a bit like MS under Balmer ramming out increasingly less popular iterations of windows and office. MS turned things around under Nadella. Google perhaps hasn't sunken far enough that it needs that kind of leadership change yet but it seems in my eyes to be going down that same path slowly.

IMHO all the money making units worth mentioning in Google have their origin in a brief period of the early 2000s perhaps up to the 2006-2008 time frame (i.e. the Android launch) when it was smaller, more creative, nimble, and definitely more capable of translating vision into execution. That includes things like google docs, hangouts, maps, photos, youtube, gmail, android, chrome, google cloud and of course the big money maker ads.

A lot of other stuff launched in the years since has simply failed to get traction or got killed early. This has actually become a meme on HN and elsewhere where people openly wonder when they will kill X at the moment of the announcement where X is a long list of stuff Google tried and failed to deliver or just walked away from despite internal and external enthusiasm (e.g Google Inbox). The list of stuff that they announced in the last decade or so that actually didn't get killed is worryingly short.

There actually is very little of significance that I can name that emerged out of Google in the recent decade that is worthy of being added to that list and only some stuff under the Alphabet umbrella that comes close (i.e. Waymo would be the main success story there that has yet to prove itself as a long term money maker).

In other words, I think of Sundar as a caretaker, not a leader. He's greasing the wheels of the money printing machine that is ads but maybe not really the best for coming up with the next big thing. Maybe now is a good moment to start looking for a real leader to replace the founders that clearly just announced their permanent retirement from the industry and any other meaningful involvement with tech (tu un-sugar coat this announcement).


"maybe not really the best for coming up with the next big thing"

But does any huge successful company that ends up having a second act really do that, go and find a visionary* to rejuvenate the company? With Nadella, wasn't it more like, Microsoft did a lot of random things, and when one of them was particularly successful, then the leader of it (cloud, Azure) rose to the top? Not that they picked him and then he decided the direction of the company.

*Jobs isn't really what I mean, because he was the original visionary, not a replacement.


I think Nadella is a clear case of MS getting lucky. They picked a leader from their own ranks that transformed the company in a few short years. Given the names that were circulating for that role at the time, I don't think they could have done better. It's current valuation would not have happened ever under Balmer. Not even close. That's why he was pushed out. MS was down a path of slow decline and now they are not. There are plenty of big tech companies that technically still exist but are shadows of their former glory. E.g. HP, Oracle, IBM to name a few. MS was on a track of joining that list of has-beens.

Google is in a much better shape than MS just a few short years ago when they replaced Balmer (certainly financially). But yet I'm calling out that now is a good moment to prevent Google from going down that path any further. Sundar is in my view simply not the type of leader Google needs to prevent that.


I think the decline of Microsoft in the mid-2000's was mainly caused by them missing the boat on the two massive shifts in computing -- from desktop software to web and mobile. Google, on the other hand, is firmly entrenched in both web and mobile. Until there is a similar shift (if there will ever be one), I don't see Google stagnating the same way that Microsoft did.

They missed that boat because of a lack of vision. They lacked viaion because of their leadership. Nadella drove through some big changes in short timespan and demonstrated a keen sense of what was important for MS. E.g. applying embrace and extend to OSS is a classic MS play that neither Ballmer nor Gates was prepared to make happen long after it was obvious it needed to be done. Enter Nadella and we now have vs code, ms github, and an actual ff-ing linux kernel that actually comes with windows 10 ready to run docker and a lot of other stuff. Also Azure is now runs mostly linux and things like sql server can run on linux. To top it off, MS is now once more exciting developers. I've not seen that level of excitement about anything they do since the mid nineties. That's leadership.

Google at the same time seems to struggle to convince developers that they need to drop their fancy languages for a bastardized and outdated thing called Dart that basically can only be explained as a ginormous not invented here syndrome combined with sunk cost fallacy. Just a minor example of things Google tries that have an obvious ticking clock in terms of them killing it in favor of something else. Also what's up with having 3 operating systems for devices and dragging out picking one out for half a decade? That's Conway's law in action right there.


Microsoft didn't miss the boat on either web or mobile, they were one of the first to both. They just fundamentally misunderstood the value proposition of each because of how successful they were with Windows on the desktop.

For the web, they thought the browser was key to the web and would be what would hold all the APIs because the browser was like the OS for the web. The most valuable thing about the web ended being the graphs and connections you can create through data rather than the browser, which is why Facebook, Google, and Amazon had the most success because of the internet.

For mobile, they released Windows Mobile in 2000 but it was just a slimmed down version of Windows on the desktop. They didn't understand that mobile required a completely new UX experience and just tried to fit what they knew (desktop UX) into mobile.

They viewed both opportunities through the lens of the desktop, which makes sense, that's what made them so successful. But because of their success, they weren't capable of looking at the opportunities with fresh eyes.


Google missed cloud computing, they are only 3rd behind Amazon and Microsoft.

> is that a mission for the new decade?

It would be nice to see a focused mission from El Goog. From the outside it feels like they incubate a bunch of random semi-competing products which are arbitrarily terminated or boosted. There's a lot of talent that could be marshaled.


People find the thought of a company with a clear mission appealing but there's no clear advantage of having a mission other than maximizing financial value.

The company mission is just one of the Sillicon Valley tropes, another one is the idea of "changing the world".

Having a mission might be useful for focus and clarity in thinking but if it's taken as something more than that, it's just an artificial constraint. If you can use the company capital more effectively in a completely different market, you should do that, regardless the mission.

I feel that the mission is often constructed backwards from the products. I.e. at Google they looked at their products and came up with a broad description of the user need (organizing the world's information).


> The company mission is just one of the Sillicon Valley tropes, another one is the idea of "changing the world".

Maybe you think of it this way because of how much its abused. At its core, I do sincerely believe (still) that Silicon Valley does represent a unique force of change in this world unlike any we've seen before.

Semiconductors and then Software: it has changed the world (for better or worse, that's another question).


Corporate missions are valuable/futile tools for filtering investors: "we may occasionally compromise between that and Total Profit, don't act all surprised if we do".

Google and it's story were inspirational! The prospect of working there .. free food.. working with fellow like minded people who were supposedly the best of the best(kids from Harvard, Stanford, etc), the 20 percent hacking time they advertised and the fact all was wrapped up in their "Do No Evil," bow made it further an inspirational place to dream to work for or with.

It's "Do No Evil," ethos/mission was important and having one & sticking to it is equally important vs. swiping it under the carpet for the sake of profits. Further it's mission was important to all the women and men they inspired to start up and to get into tech. Yet once they brushed their mission under the rug & focused on money many who they inspired became shocked to learn that many times they do 'Evil," prompting disenchantment. You can see that disenchantment with Google everyday here on Hacker News with the various negative stories and comments about Google. Something I bet if you go back more then five or six years you'd never see here.


They have a mission, to control the interface between consumers and digital business.

All their 'random' stuff makes sense in that context.


Not just digital. In the analog age, all those little "yellow pages" publishers around the world were in a similar position and got quite fat from it as well. Now that entire market is concentrated, with enormous automation benefits, at a single address in Mountain View.

Injecting Google intro the interface for brick and mortar businesses is why Maps and Android exist.


Ironically, they could find some focus by no longer being a one size fits all search engine, and instead offer different search products for different types of users, or focused on different types of information. They do to an extent with travel data, financial data, scholar, but their product just isnt great at crawling the web anymore.

They, like Apple and Microsoft, also need some consumer experience advocates, who take a step back and ask how the consumers entire experience is across the whole suite. All of them have products that are often less than the sum of their parts.


> Ironically, they could find some focus by no longer being a one size fits all search engine

Or just fixing the search engine that they do have. It really has become shockingly poor.


I don't think they can. No matter how smart the people working on it are there well always be a group of equally smart people on the opposite side trying to game it.

What makes you think they're retiring to sit on their asses all day and "spend their billions"? Maybe they have new and interesting things to do.

They recently acquired Fitbit so I expect we should see some brand new product developments within that category soon enough in the future. I do feel they have not participated as much within the IoT market which still has so much potential unrealized. Perhaps the market is not ripe yet without 5G availability? It's incredible that we have all these new AI and ML tools and still they don't really have a lot of meaningful impacts yet in improving our daily lives if we really think about it. The main opportunities still remain mostly unexplored.

I wouldn't expect to see a new kind of product coming out of Google. They have 0 track-record of product innovation. Their main innovation power is in the back-end, on the implementation side.

Internet search existed before Google, but they came up with a newer and much better way of implementing it. Internet email existed before Gmail, but they vastly improved the offering. The iPhone already existed, but they came up with an alternative in Android. Same story repeats with GSuite, Chrome, Chrome OS.

YouTube was sort of new, but it was an acquisition, so I don't know if it counts.

When they do have ideas for innovative products, they fail to deliver.


Waymo is a new kind of product coming out of Google, as was Chromecast, as is the so-far-successful Stadia. I'm there there are others, but those are a few I can think of off the top of my head that are delivering very well for the technical challenge they pose.

Waymo is so far unproven, but you're right, it may turn up to be a successful product.

I forgot about the Chromecast, that's a good point.

Stadia is close to being new, though there have been similar efforts for some time now. However, it is by no means successful so far, most reviews I have seen from the gaming press have seen it as impressive, but ultimately not a great way of playing games, and Microsoft's offering is likely to quickly outshine it by sheer force of games catalog.


You can say the exact same things about the supposedly 'innovative' companies. Did Apple invest desktop computers? No, they copied the concept from Xerox. Same story with the iPod (Rio), the iPhone (Blackberry) and Watch (Garmin).

Sure, there are no completely innovative products. But the difference I see is this: going from a clunky, ugly, essentially business-only phone like the Blackberry to ubiquitous smart-phones is a more close to a difference in kind. Essentially, before the iPhone, most people did not believe they needed a smartphone. On the other hand, most people before Gmail did know that they need a mail provider, Gmail was 'just' a much more convenient mail provider. Most people did know they need a browser, Chrome was just much nicer. When Android rolled out, people already knew they want a smartphone, Android was cheaper and less walled-in.

A good example would be if Google's Stadia succeeds. Even though there have been attempts in the past (e.g. OnLive), the mind-share is so low that they are almost irrelevant. If Stadia gets anywhere near console-level market penetration, I would consider it an innovative product that Google created. I don't expect it to succeed, though, based on the track record.


> Essentially, before the iPhone, most people did not believe they needed a smartphone.

I think that's way overstating it. Long before iPhone people were asking for more software features out of their phones. Browsing, email, music, etc.

Even the touchscreen and the development model were things tried in the past with many attempts by various companies to make the PDA a success.

Apple did exactly what you say. They took a few ideas whose time had come, ideas that just happened to be in their wheel house from the work they did on iPod and presented them better than anyone had before.


Lets just say I am hoping. I am clearly projecting my desires onto people I don't know and have never met, but at least it is a nice goal.

(yes of course they and I would get bored of a life of endless luxury - but I would like to at least try it and see how long I can hold out ;-)


"All I ask is the chance to prove that money can't make me happy." - Spike Milligan

Because they historically have done new and interesting things under the corporate protection afforded by the Google cash cow.

Why spend their own money on a risky capital intensive venture when their cash engine let them do it unopposed?


Sundar lacks that maverick charm that founders of legendary company usually have.

He feels ... reserved and safe.

Maybe that is what Google needs at this moment


What ever happened to digitizing all of the world’s information?

That still feels like at least a 100yr mission.


https://www.wired.com/2017/04/how-google-book-search-got-los...

They got sued, prevailed in court, but by then the 10 year battle sapped energy out of the project. With antitrust and other scrutiny, I doubt Google will attempt other massive forms of digitization that need it like academic journals. My personal opinion.


> Edit: Just to emphasise - I hope they have fun spending their billions.

Meh (time for my socialist side to come out) they could try and do the Bill Gates Foundation thing. Don’t be cynical — it is making some much needed positive change!

Money = Power = Responsibility (with wisdom).

Exponentially true if you are a super billionaire.


"unbiased free information" was never a goal because it's impossible.

Seems like “interesting“ timing given that the Alphabet board just recently stated they’re investigating the handling of sexual misconduct by executives:

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/06/technology/google-sexual-...

And relatedly:

> Charlie Ayers: Sergey’s the Google playboy. He was known for getting his fingers caught in the cookie jar with employees that worked for the company in the masseuse room. He got around.

Heather Cairns: And we didn’t have locks, so you can’t help it if you walk in on people if there’s no lock. Remember, we’re a bunch of twentysomethings except for me—ancient at 35, so there’s some hormones and they’re raging.

Charlie Ayers: H.R. told me that Sergey’s response to it was, “Why not? They’re my employees.” But you don’t have employees for fucking! That’s not what the job is.

https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2018/07/valley-of-genius-exc...


I was thinking “interesting timing” given we are coming up on 2020 elections and Twitter CEO Jack announced he would be living in Africa for a portion of the year... they are washing their hands of whatever shenanigans that Google and Twitter will be up to during this election cycle.

It's hard to have the moral authority on that with Sergey still running things: https://www.bizjournals.com/sanjose/news/2017/11/30/google-e...

If your theory is correct, we should see Drummond retire soon as well. I expect it...


That's years old news.

The investigation of executives to fend off shareholder lawsuits is less than a month old...

The investigation is supposed to wrap up early this month.

One thing I really like about Larry Page is that it's obvious he never really wanted to be a manager. He's a real nerd at heart who likes technology. But he also realized the value of what he created and acted as a good steward for 20 years. He took the reigns when he needed to, and let others take over when the time was right. He's still one of the people I look up to most.

> He took the reigns when he needed to

I strongly disagree. Alphabet is an unfocused company which seems to treat product releases as experiments that can be killed at any time without warning. There's a culture that incentivizes more experiments rather than better products.

The aimlessness is obvious in the frequent and baffling product renaming, reorganizations (like Nest joining Google), duplicated/overlapping products, and killing of acquired products.

A smart CEO knows how to focus, build on early success (rather than abandon), and tell a coherent brand story.


Yeah from my limited view when I was there as an L4, Google felt very much run by a weird network of politics and some bureaucracy. Mid-high level VPs seemed like they controlled things a lot more than real higher-ups.

I think this can be... interesting? Trying to give more power and autonomy to individual teams is nice (there were some efforts that tried explicitly to map things to some kind of free market model). Sometimes higher-ups would be like "hey we're all gonna migrate to technology X" but individual teams were like "lol nah the new thing sucks" and keep using it and nothing really ever happened. But I think that attitude also kinda opened the door for a large political/influence market. And there's not _real_ market pressures on individual teams that I think tend to keep the actual free market a little closer to ground truth.

This all reminds me of a critique I'd heard of flat organizations, which is that all groups of people are going to have power structures, and by not formalizing them, all you're doing is allowing them to opaquely evolve in strange ways on their own.

I really wish that someone could study internal Google politics and actually understand it and map it all out.


One of the first initiatives Larry undertook when he became a CEO is to "put more wood behind fewer arrows" by canceling a ton of bullshit projects that _haven't_ yet been released to the public, and some that have, as well. So if you're going to blame Larry for anything, this is not it.

I'm sure his intentions were good. It doesn't mean he followed through or succeeded.

If they canceled a "ton of bullshit projects" and still ended up with a time when Hangouts, Hangouts Chat, Hangouts Meet, Allo, Duo, Messages, and Voice are all actively used but somehow still missing important fixes/features, then he utterly failed.

No one gets credit for the things they didn't release when the things they did release are still baffling and often result in a betrayal of their loyal users.


Plus ChromeOS, chrome browser, Android, Android TV, Google TV, fuscia. They just can't seem to figure out how to own the set top box (which is obviously hard, it took Microsoft forever too and it's still too expensive, where is the $30 Xbox).

Chrome OS and Android are a worse version of ios and macos.


> He's still one of the people I look up to most.

I don't. He's allowed Google to become many of the things he's long stated he was opposed to. Either he never had his stated values in the first place, or he's turned his back on them in later years.


> he took the reigns

Friendly amendment: reins


I always thought of that as a pun between “reins” (a thing you use to control a horse) and reigns (what a monarch does).

Perhaps it was a pun?

There are some ongoing theory-crafting in this thread, but the real reason seems pretty simple; Larry and Sergey obviously don't want to deal with all the management and operational stuffs, but only "moonshots" like autonomous vehicles or quantum computing. Yeah, this was the whole purpose of establishing a holding company, but Alphabet has grown by 2 times (both in employee count and revenue) and probably they're now facing the similar amount of bureaucratic workload again.

Personally, I think Sundar has been a pretty good CEO and probably a better businessman for this size of organization but I'm still not sure whether this leadership change will work better for Google though. Due to Alphabet's structure, Larry and Sergey will keep majority voting stocks but they will be away from most of the details in the company. Can they still make good business decisions without such details?


> I think Sundar has been a pretty good CEO and probably a better businessman

Has he though? I get the sense that he’s really Balmering it up in that he inherited a super successful company, and didn’t do much with it except not screw up.

The two big growth areas- social and cloud- are dead or a distant and growing third.

Google hasn’t done much new or exciting through his whole term. So no new products, the 2016 election and congressional testimony debacle, randomly firing different people with no sound reasoning.

It would be neat if someone could establish a vision beyond “10% growth forever through lots of rent seeking.” Maybe a company has to go through their Ballmer to get to their Nadella.

Maybe they can somehow convince Jeff Dean to be CEO and just write an AI that generally maximizes profit.


YouTube and Gmail are massive social networks.

If you want to water down the definition beyond recognition then snail mail is a social network.

Snail mail is a social network. I think the OP meant online social networks, though.

It's in the nature of social networks that new social networks don't look like old ones. Youtube is definitely a social network, and so is Twitch, Discord, TikTok, etc. Youtube has the additional advantage of having persistent count, so I would count on Youtube lasting much longer than any other social network whose popularity changes generation to generation.

It is interesting that the part of "social network" that now defines something as a social network is really the feed. Its a neverending not-river of more. Chatrooms notwithstanding, a newsfeed a la facebook/youtube/reddit/, it's a mix of professional content and user generated. The actual messaging with each other, and sharing with each other is tangent to what they do. Social network is almost a misnomer because most of the interaction is person->ai. For a lurker who doesnt have friends, doesnt comment, and doesnt share; youtube and tumblr are closer to netflix than they are to anything "social." That grouping should be called something like an Autofeed Broadcaster, of which gmail is tangentially like, because people use it to consume mass marketing and newsletters.

Discord feels more like the odd one out because it is a realtime river, not sorted or ranked like reddit. That sort of content rearranging is what makes modern social networks different from forms and chat.


I would debate both of those are social networks. Now I will grant you that in the past I would have considered YouTube one, but today it's just content delivery with comments.

Thats exactly what the facebook newsfeed is. A streaming feed of content, posted by publishers and users alike, and through likes, shares, and comments its popularity rises and it floats its way up the algorithm. Then when it gains reach, lots of people comment on it.

I'm not sure that Sundar has been a good CEO. The constant shutdown of google services that people rely on has been troubling. The management troubles over employees lately has been troubling as well. They still own the search market, but would you worry about the lifespan of the google products you're thinking of buying?

I still have a Sony Google TV, it works great as a TV but the android OS is no longer supported, so there are no more OTA updates. It's a shame because it seems like if they had thought about it they might have wondered what happens when they no longer support the product.

There was a time when Google questioned the value of managers and managers had to prove their value to the engineers. Maybe it's time to question their value again.


Isn't the constant shutdown a google thing before Sundar? I doubt it's an imposition from him.

Yes, Google has a chaotic culture of project incubation, which leads to over-promotion of product launches and their eventual deprecation. And this predates Sundar's tenure on CEO. I think Sundar is trying to reduce a frequency of product launches, but there's already a crazy number of product in flight or development so deprecation of certain products are inevitable IMO.

My personal prediction is that Sundar will be to Google what Ballmer was to Microsoft: He will make tons of money but will drive Google into a corner where it will be disrespected by, well, hackers (That is, people who are interested in technically open solutions, configurability, fitness of unplanned purposes, etc). But is it refreshing that Microsoft now is going back into an opposite direction.

Yeah you could say they are close to jumping the shark... it remains to be seen what former Google employees do next. If Google continues to dump money into salaries and stock then they might not have much to worry about. Personal assistants, knowledge graph, Alexa/Siri/"Ok Google" are definitely the future. Apple seems to be winning in the car but Alexa is winning at home.

Interestingly, for my family's n=1 case, we have Alexa and Google Home Mini sitting side by side and Google usually has better answers. Maybe Alexa as a standalone device has more market share, but Google has the advantage of bundling "OK Google" into every Android phone.

I don’t have a google mini so I can’t compare specifically apart from the iOS app.

Google has never lived up to the "do no evil" motto but under Sundar things have only gotten much worse with no signs of getting better at any point in the future.

Sundar made a mistake in wading into politics after the 2016 elections. A good business leader knows to stay out of the forbidden topics of politics and religion; unite the troops, don't divide them. I don't think he realized how much impact his words would have on conservatives once the TGIF video got out. Anyway let's hope they learned something about remaining neutral in public, as the company "grows up".

None of the big tech companies have avoided "wading into politics" since 2016. Tech is far too big and inextricable a part of society for any competent CEO to think they could hide on the sidelines.

There's a big difference between "hiding on the sidelines" and maintaining a neutral stance in public. Apple's Tim Cook is an example of the latter.


In fact, Tim Cook has been actively engaging with politicians (including Trump) and that is a part of his magic sauce for "maintaining a neutral stance in public".

Buried in a paragraph 2/3 of the way down:

> ... Going forward, Sundar will be the CEO of both Google and Alphabet. ...

Not knowing the internals of Google, it seems as if this is the announcement that Page and Brin are stepping down. Is this correct?

If so, what an incredibly subtle way to announce a high-profile pair of resignations.


Yes, this is the announcement that Page and Brin are stepping down.

I wouldn't really call it "incredibly subtle" - most similar announcements are wrapped in a bunch of corporate language as well. This is a pretty standard way to announce this sort of thing.


I guess I just don't believe this. Google is one of the largest and most powerful companies in the world. Having both people step down like this is incredibly strange.

I mean, neither of them even tried the ol' "I'm stepping down to spend time with my family" thing.


Larry and Sergey are basically best friends. Their involvement with Google, as a pair, has been receding for quite some time. Today's announcement was foreshadowed by the creation of Alphabet Inc. as a parent company in 2015.

After Brin’s affairs came to light, Page was so pissed off, he didn’t talk to him for many months. They might not be best friends at this point.

Details in Sergey Brin and Amanda Rosenberg: Inside the Google Co-Founder’s Romance with the Google Glass Marketing Manager | Vanity Fair http://archive.is/kQvuR Febr 2015

They were practically absent from day to day affairs anyways. This is unsurprising.

Would be interesting if they cashed out their war chest and started another search engine. Won't happen but fun to think about.

This has been well known for sometime now[0], it was a matter of when..

[0] https://www.cnbc.com/2018/09/13/alphabets-larry-page-has-lar...


Do you know what they will be doing next?

Distancing themselves as much as possible to avoid legal trouble I'm sure .

Cashing out before the antitrust suits start to hit.

I'm not sure how long these sort of antitrust cases take to litigate (I was young during Microsoft's high profile case), but I'd say this is one of the most rational explanations as to why, seemingly out of nowhere, they'd parachute away together.

It looks like an attempt to try to distance themselves, their personal images, and their assets before it gets too ugly. I would certainly do so unless my personal financial analysts told me otherwise.


My hunch would be that they are just bailing before they get mired in something like an antitrust suit. They strike me as the type of person that enjoys the fun of a fast startup environment, and a big Co under an antitrust suit is pretty much the opposite of that. I doubt they are driven by money as much, in comparison.

> I'm not sure how long these sort of antitrust cases take to litigate

They typically take years, often over a decade. I'm talking about the entire process, not just the litigation (which is the easiest and fastest part). With Microsoft, it took 19 years from start to end.


Out of nowhere? - They created Alphabet to pull themselves out of daily Google business.

Yeah. As anyone at Google could tell you, they've been a familiar face at TGIF, and nothing more, for years.

At least at the operational level. I'm sure Sundar has had much contact with them. But regular Googlers certainly have not.


I've seen this explanation multiple times in this thread, but I find it incredibly hard to believe Alphabet was created to shift Sergey and Larry's time away from Google. It seems like there are far easier (and cheaper) ways of accomplishing this without creating a conglomerate.

Well, what they did is install a "CEO" for the main business, so they weren't operationally involved in that part of the business anymore and focused on different side businesses. Now the crown prince takes over everything operationally and the founders move to the board ... No idea if that was the primary plan, but certainly one of the options considered back then.

That's why they can cash out at 10% per year because they cases will last a -minimum- of 5-7 years. Google has the best lawyers in the world. Definitely a slow Homer recession into the bushes.

They've made other major moves together. This is apparently part of a slow fade they've been doing at least since they started Alphabet. The reasons behind that remain mysterious.

Mysterious? I'd personally retire to enjoy my millions long before I got to the point of having billions, so I don't think there's much explanation needed about why they'd want to not have to worry or work anymore.

Those rarely result in lower stock prices.

This paragraph seems pretty straightforward:

>Today, in 2019, if the company was a person, it would be a young adult of 21 and it would be time to leave the roost. While it has been a tremendous privilege to be deeply involved in the day-to-day management of the company for so long, we believe it’s time to assume the role of proud parents—offering advice and love, but not daily nagging!


From the outside, it feels much more like the company is hitting a midlife crisis (feeling unsettled, not as agile as they used to be) than a young adult.

Company lifespans these days are a lot shorter than human lifespans. 25-40 years seems typical, making a company-year 2-3x a human year.

By that yardstick, Google was in its young adolescence when it IPO'd (seems reasonable), was an idealistic young adult when I joined in 2009 (also reasonable), is now hitting a midlife crisis, and will die sometime around 2040.


Yep I'm down with your timeline. I joined in 2012 and it felt like a person in their late 20s or 30s in an energetic but responsible part of their career, just settling down to have kids... But before all the buying of sailboats and sports cars and treatments for baldness...

So IBM is like a 300ish year old vampire then? They really seem like an outlier longevity-wise.

If IBM is a "300ish year old vampire", Nintendo is basically God.

A better comparison is likely an old tree that is mostly dead tissue, but that dead tissue is solid enough to support its own weight.

Certainly it feels like that :D

Well, unlike people, companies don't begin to die at a super-exponential rate once they hit a certain age.

Ignoring the lifespan, they are pretty stodgy and conservative now, so middle-aged just seems a better fit.

The funny thing is: If you are used to coporate speech, then immediately after you read the headline "A letter from Larry and Sergey" you know that there is a resignation coming up.

"An update on Larry and Sergey"

No no no, Larry and Sergey are simply pivoting.

It's not subtle at all. Anyone who knows the current state of affairs (i.e. Sundar being CEO of Google) will have deduced this based on the myriad of titles on this topic alone.

Nah, anyone used to reading Google press releases knows that a subject line of, "An Update on X" always means X is being shut down, and thus, "A letter from Larry and Sergey" could mean nothing else except they're stepping down.

I came to the comments to express my disappointment this wasn't titled "an update on Larry and Sergey".

This meme has to die. It's time.

When the entire culture of a multibillion dollar megacorporation has become one big meme, there's not much that can be done

I remember Google's earlier days when they shutdown projects and people praised them for iterating fast, not carrying weight, etc. The only difference now is that they have more users but I think they have given enough warnings about their shutdowns, IMHO.

Now that Google Is Evil (tm), we don't seem to appreciate that behavior as much as we did in the past.


An Update On This Meme

Only if it isn't true. It's still true.

You mean they should post "an update on updates"? It seems pretty reliable, actually.

Maybe it'll get acquired by Google soon?

But it's still in beta!

An Update On This Meme It's Time

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