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Has Google Lost Its Mojo? 

Is Google becoming the one thing its Founders promised it would never be: boring? 

Words by Karan Karayi 

In the world of technology, few companies have had as much impact as Google. From its humble beginnings as a search engine startup to its current status as a tech giant, Google has been at the forefront of innovation and disruption.  

However, in recent years, it would seem that Google may have lost its way and some of its mojo for good measure. The company that was once synonymous with cutting-edge technology and groundbreaking products is now facing criticism for being stagnant and uninspiring. From lean, mean fighting machine to fat cat that’s happy to be an industry leader, how has Google got to where it is? 

The Rise of Google 

Since being founded by Larry Page and Sergey Brin in 1998, Google quickly became the go-to search engine for internet users. Its simple and intuitive interface, combined with accurate search results, made it the preferred choice for millions of people around the world. Google’s success was not limited to search, as the company expanded into other areas such as email (Gmail), online advertising (Google Ads), and mobile operating systems (Android). 

For a long time, Google was known for its innovative and ambitious projects. The company’s “moonshot” initiatives, such as self-driving cars and internet-beaming balloons, captured the imagination of the public and showcased Google’s willingness to take risks. These projects, along with Google’s acquisition of artificial intelligence (AI) startup DeepMind, positioned the company as a leader in emerging technologies. 

Signs of Stagnation 

However, in recent years, there have been signs that Google’s innovative spirit may be waning. The company’s focus on its core advertising business has led to a lack of new and exciting products. Many of Google’s recent endeavors, such as Google Glass and its foray into gaming with Stadia, have failed to gain traction and have been discontinued. Additionally, there have been concerns that Google’s search results have declined in quality, with users complaining about the increasing presence of ads and biased information. 

A Culture of Bureaucracy 

One of the factors contributing to Google’s perceived stagnation is its shift towards a more bureaucratic culture. As the company has grown, it has become more risk-averse and focused on maintaining its dominant position in the market, as a leaked companywide survey hinted, with 45% of those surveyed saying bureaucracy was slowing down their work.  

This has led to a decrease in the freedom and autonomy that employees once enjoyed, stifling innovation and creativity. The company’s decision to scale back its “20% time” policy, which allowed employees to work on side projects, has further reinforced the perception that Google is becoming more conservative and less willing to take risks. 

Google’s Financial Success 

While there are concerns about Google’s lack of innovation, it is important to acknowledge the company’s financial success. Google’s parent company, Alphabet, has seen its revenue soar in recent years, with a market cap of over $1.7 trillion. The company’s advertising business continues to be its primary source of revenue, generating billions of dollars each year. Despite criticisms of its core products, Google’s cloud business has also become profitable, demonstrating the company’s ability to capitalize on emerging markets. 

The Threat of Competitors 

Another factor that has contributed to questions about Google’s future is the rise of competitors. Companies like Meta (formerly Facebook) and Microsoft have made significant strides in areas such as virtual reality, augmented reality, and cloud computing, threatening Google’s dominance in these spaces. Additionally, the increasing scrutiny of Big Tech by regulators and the public has put pressure on Google to address issues such as privacy and misinformation, further challenging the company’s position in the market. 

A Search for Relevance 

In response to these challenges, Google has made efforts to diversify its business and regain its innovative edge. The company has invested in AI research and development, launching projects like ChatGPT and AlphaFold. It has also made acquisitions in areas such as robotics and healthcare, signaling a renewed commitment to exploring new frontiers. However, whether these efforts will be enough to restore Google’s reputation as a leader in innovation remains to be seen. 

But Google’s biggest fumble is perhaps its most damning of all. 

Artificial Intelligence, Real Threat 

Google “owns” search from a technological and cultural perspective. None of us search for anything online, we merely Google it. With presumably mountains of data to sift through, and an early start in the AI game (it acquired DeepMind, a pioneering AI startup, in 2014), Google should have brought its might to bear in the AI arms race. 

So how is it that a smaller startup has got the jump on them? 

Ironically, a seminal research paper published by Google in 2017 that introduced a faster and more effective way for AI to parse information served as the seed of what was to become ChatGPT. How Google failed to capitalise on its own discovery has been the ultimate question since ChatGPT arrived in 2022.  

Page was prophetic in 2015, when he wrote in a memo to employees, “In the technology industry, where revolutionary ideas drive the next big growth areas, you need to be a bit uncomfortable to stay relevant”. Perhaps Google grew so large, shaking it out of its comfort zone became nigh impossible. Especially since a wave of recent layoffs probably left in-house innovators wary of chasing bleeding-edge bets, and instead settling on the tried and trusted instead. 

The Future of Google 

While the jury is still out on whether Google has lost its mojo, there is reason to be cautiously optimistic about the company’s future. Google continues to attract top talent and invest in cutting-edge technologies. The appointment of Sundar Pichai as CEO has brought a renewed focus on product development and innovation, but even that has come with question marks after Gemini spat out biased responses by way of image and text responses. 

Nonetheless, Google’s vast financial resources and global reach give it the potential to regain its position as a leader in the tech industry. 

Searching for Meaning 

While Google may no longer be the belle of the ball everyone wants to woo, it is still a dominant force in the industry, with a strong financial position and a history of innovation. However, Google must address the concerns about its culture, product quality, and competition to ensure its continued success. Only time will tell if Google can reclaim its former glory and once again become a beacon of innovation in the tech world.  

Never say never; Satya Nadella managed to script a massive turnaround at Microsoft. Perhaps in time working at the Googleplex will again be the flex it was. 

Karan Karayi
Karan Karayi
A part-time car enthusiast and full-time food aficionado, Karan is forever chasing his next big creative thrill. He also doesn’t enjoy writing in third-person.

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