19 August 2015

The Guardian: “Where is Google taking us?”

He references two cultural commandments as his guiding principles. One is a line from the founders’ letter that Brin and Page wrote when Google was mostly just the two of them, 16 years ago: Focus on the user and all else follows.

We call it the toothbrush test, Pichai says, we want to concentrate our efforts on things that billions of people use on a daily basis. For it to work for us, it has to be global. Search started that way. You could be very educated or you could be a rural kid somewhere, but as long as you had access to Google connectivity it was the same thing. To me there was something very democratising about that.

Tim Adams

I think the quote above captures ’s long-term mission very well. But at the same time, their global ambitions are what concern many people and can easily be perceived as arrogant, a ‘we know better’-attitude. Despite their declared ‘focus on the user’, it’s evident many of Google’s initiatives failed to satisfy user needs – you only have to look at the string of failed social networks launched in the past decade – so people are naturally reluctant to embrace every new radical project coming from the search giant. I fear that, after the new Alphabet conglomerate structure comes into place, Google will be more transparent, but even less accountable to shareholders and users everywhere.

Employees at Google corporate headquarters in Mountain View, California, May 2015
Employees at Google corporate headquarters in Mountain View, California, May 2015.
Photograph: Norbert von der Groeben/The Observer New Review

On the way out of his office, Pichai wonders out loud how Google might make itself better understood in Europe.

You could pay more tax, I say.

He smiles politely.

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