The big news came first in the form of a bunch of tweets that seriously could have been taken as one of the many internet pranks we seem to face everyday. The founders of Google were rearranging the corporate structure of what is arguably one of the most important companies of the digital age and turning the company on its head.
The result is one big holding company named Alphabet with Google now simply one of its divisions. Everything else that Google is working on outside of its core business of search will now be spun off into separate divisions
Gone is the idea that everything the company did fell under its main line of business — providing search results to make the internet more accessible to folks. In recent years, the company has ventured into other areas that are far from where it started as it pushed the envelope on the kinds of experiences that the internet can provide us.
The key word here is experiences.
This next step of the evolution of the company that made the internet friendly and accessible much like Apple made using a smartphone a key part of our existence is actually a quite brilliant — and necessary move by the search giant.
It can be said that Google owns search. Sure there are other options, however when you are dealing with the type of marketshare these guys are rocking, it’s safe to say they are it. What is important here is the reason they own it. In order to truly comprehend the importance of the company, we must remember one thing: the companies that have succeeded as of late have focused one thing and one thing only : empowering their users behaviours not just online but offline. The result being that their offering transforms from utility to habit.
It is important to focus on the behaviour of users because my years of working in advertising have put me in the front row of watching folks reject all kinds of messages that do not support their personal ecosystems.
And that is key to note because this why Google kicked ass so well.
If the first wave of the internet was the digital industrial revolution whereas people learned and accepted a whole new technology in spite of the fact that access to it was a pain and required quite the learning curve (remember Lycos/Altavista/Ask Jeeves anyone?), the second wave of the internet was about making the web easier to use and not scary.
This is where companies like Google & Paypal rose to dominance making billions of billions of webpages easily accessible anywhere and anytime by the simple of act of typing a few words into a box or making the task of sending money online not intimidating and super easy (respectively).
The third wave is the one we are coming out of where it was about using the tools available to us and connecting with people and things and content on a contextual level. One that made sense to me as a user and more importantly was relevant to my life. This digital wave saw the emergence of social media led early by the likes of Facebook and Twitter and more recently by Snapchat and Instagram.
Most importantly this where the rise of the very well guarded personal ecosystem happened. Much like the last age of modernism we went through where vanguards like Charles & Ray Eames and Miles Davis took existing technologies created by the industrial revolution and repurposed them for their own uses, users in this digital age of modernism took the the tools created during the digital industrial revolution and repurposed them to create new products like never before.
Powered by digital tools and an infrastructure that we are no longer scared of, the overwhelming amount of things allowed in our lives have to be relevant, support our lifestyle and most importantly, amongst the chaos of every day life, make our lives just a little bit easier or fun.
So now we have the ability for anyone to become a writer thanks to Medium. The concept of a TV celebrity is redefined thanks to YouTube. Even if you never marketed a product or wrote an advertising plan, you can tell others how to do it as a self-stylised expert on Twitter.
All of these are happening at a fraction of the cost it used to take.
And this is where the fourth wave we are about to embark on comes in. And why the reshuffling of the letters makes Alphabet the company to define the Modern Digital Future.
This wave is utilitarian. I am not scared of the technology and in fact embrace how it can enhance my life. I have access to all of the information I need as easily as looking on my fancy new smartwatch and can use that information and the tools it provides to automate certain parts of my lives. Yet I also realize that I don’t need everything. In fact I will only accept the things that truly assist my life rejecting everything else that is there just to create noise.
What this means is that not only the kind of content I access changes but how. The idea of what is digital has now expanded from information dissemination to the powering of everyday ordinary things which is the basis for the Internet of Things (which Google is firmly entrenched in btw).
I run out of Tide, press a button and Amazon will send me something. I need a cab, press a button and not only will one show in 5 minutes, the payment will be taken care through my phone seamlessly and without interruption. I am wanting to catch up with a show that all my friends are talking about, just log into Netflix on my TV/phone/tablet and bam binge-city.
To be relevant in the next wave, a company has to not only understand that this shift is already under way, it has to be very much part of the mix.
And this why I is no longer for Internet. When it was, Google built a business around how you interface with the world wide web. Now that digital is made up of the watch you wear, the car you drive, the phone in your pocket, how you workout in the gym, empowering and sharing your voice and so on and so on…. A company has to understand that I is for Individual.
Our goal as start-ups and marketers and creators is to empower this newly connected individual. And getting away from how we access information and the cumbersome business issues a publicly traded company has to face on a day to day allows the founders and their team at Google to truly innovate, play and create our future. Because have no doubt, that is what is happening here.
Here is hoping it’s a little more Star Trek and a little less Skynet.