See No Evil: Google’s Transformation into Alphabet

Starting today, Google will fully report to its parent company Alphabet, a move that while being administrative in nature could be a sign of changes on the horizon for the search engine behemoth and the internet as a whole. Google itself still exists as an individual company; Alphabet will essentially be the parent company overseeing both Google and the more experimental projects formerly housed by the search engine. While the companies have been gearing up for the organizational changes, a report by The Verge reveals an interesting finding: Google’s famous “Don’t Be Evil” saying is conspicuously absent from Alphabet’s employee code of conduct. Changes such as the name and conduct policy in a normal company wouldn’t set off reports, but Google is no ordinary company. And as Google/Alphabet seeks to further expand its horizons and beat back the advances of Apple, Microsoft and Facebook into its market share, it’s changes like these that the world watches in order to divine the future of our online lives.

Given Google’s absolute dominance of the search engine field, the name change is likely to catch some people off guard. After all, Google is a verb, and its brand has achieved a level among Coca-Cola, Kleenex and Nike that is a marketer’s dream come true. The problem for the company came with its attempts to expand its portfolio of services beyond being just a search engine. Google has a well-earned reputation for being forward thinking, and with its financial success has the power to develop technologies that may not make total sense to investors back on Wall Street who are looking for additional profits. By reorganizing under the Alphabet banner, shareholders are able to keep their investments in Google while Alphabet is able to move forward with its experimental initiatives.

Google has always had a complicated relationship with power. The company has full access to over a billion search histories and the capability to link the far-reaching elements of the internet together, and along with its world-beating brand name and technology help it remain one of the overwhelming forces of the internet. Google’s motto, “Don’t Be Evil,” while being on one level tongue-in-cheek, also felt completely appropriate given its wealth of accumulated power. So for Alphabet to change the policy to a more neutered wording—employees are encouraged to “do the right thing,” but the right thing for who, the company or the consumer?—the company has to give up the moral authority that helped make Google feel like an ally to its employees, shareholders and users.

Another powerful pop cultural force has also coincidentally changed its name around the same time as Google. Comedy Central’s The Daily Show is now featuring South African comedian Trevor Noah as Jon Stewart’s replacement at the head anchor’s chair. On his opening monologue this past Monday, Noah addressed the change in true sarcastic Daily Show fashion, saying that “[Stewart] was often our voice, our refuge. In many ways, our dad. And now it’s weird because Dad has left.” In many ways, Google also has a father-like presence over its domain of the internet. And while the company remains, it is likely to feel different somehow as its umbrella company ultimately answers for it. Whether these changes are truly just administrative, or a sign of things to come, is still unknown. For now Google is still the go-to search engine worldwide, and that is something that is unlikely to be changed.

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