Wed Mar 28 2012


There was meaning to Google. I’m quite sure my friends who work there now will say there still is. But I will argue that much of that meaning has faded away, at least temporarily, in the last few months and years while the company struggled to find its post-social identity.

The signs are quite evident, for anyone who’s looking in the right direction. You’ve certainly noticed the slow cluttering of their once sacred homepage, the increased complexity of their always-redesigning navigation bar (first white, then black, then integrated, then black, now black with a Play link adorned with “NEW” in red). You’ve seen the odd product launches, and the sad product “sunsets”. You’ve struggled to comprehend Google+‘s direction, and probably never really used a “Hangout” even though the idea of one sounds “okay”.

If you remember the early days of Google, you know exactly what is fading away. The idea of a large company with a minimal approach to engineering, management, product and design. The idea that your experience using their services (particularly search) was more important than anything else they did. The perhaps naive impression that you mattered more to them than the ads they ran along your search results.

Google is still a stellar company, employing stellar people and working on solving amazing problems - I can’t begin to say how important it is that there is a company out there trying to figure out things like cars that drive themselves, or how to - actually, no-bs - organize the world’s information. But I wish they found themselves again amid all their new services, offerings and changes. While it is easy to understand that as a public company they need to keep value to shareholders in mind, fanning out into a ton of things has made them masters of none.

Someone out in Mountain View should be very uncomfortable about the fact that hackers (in the good, true sense of the word) are actively looking for an alternative to google in Search. Search - what got Google where it is today; their core public-facing service. Early adopters, current and future opinion makers, are looking for alternatives to it. This is not good.

Now I could say “Google, listen to your users”; and from Mountain View, the word back could be “but we are”. But you truly are not. Because people want the old Google: the company that fought over the pixels in its homepage, stellar search results, sheer speed. The company that was solving great, insane problems through computer science. The company that people, hackers, would never, ever, consider trying to find (or build) alternatives to.

And I write this because I care - because Google was for many years a huge inspiration, to me and countless others. And quite honestly, I want to see them going back to kicking ass and taking names.