I have loved Google since high school. I had used Lycos and AltaVista and Ask Jeeves and Yahoo. Then I used Google, and I’ve never looked back (except in the funny nostalgic way, like “Hey, do you remember AltaVista?”). More than search, though, I think Google Maps was what made me love Google so much. When I was in high school MapQuest was how you looked at online maps, and panning meant a full page reload. No one should be surprised that Google Maps stole the market so quickly. Then they went and added Street View. I signed up for Gmail in fall 2004, just months after it launched, and AJAX began changing my life (I had no idea at the time how much AJAX would change my life). I used Google Wave, Google Plus, and even Google Buzz. Some of my friends in college called me “Mr. Google” or something like that. More than any of the products, though, what I love about Google is the Google attitude.
The Google Attitude
Years after my Google infatuation began I was hired by LinkedIn (my current employer), and I worked in an office in Mountain View, CA, surrounded by Google, Googlers, and their colorful Google bikes. It was fun for me to meet Googlers as I would ride my bike into the office on Stevens Creek Trail. I met a guy who was working on Google Glass. I had lunch with a friend who was working on the Self-Driving Car project. Honestly, I wasn’t always impressed by the attitude of individual Googlers, but I have always been impressed by the attitude of Google (at least the way I interpret it). Google looks to solve some of the worlds most difficult technology problems.
If there is something interesting and amazing and cool going on in technology, Google is probably involved somehow. Shortly after Sebastian Thrun’s Stanford team won the DARPA Grand Challenge he joined Google, building the self-driving cars you now see all over Mountain View. If you’re interested at all in robotics, you’ve probably heard of Boston Dynamics, or at least seen the (slightly frightening) video of BigDog (see below). Boston Dynamics was acquired by Google in 2013.
Google is like a big research-only university that happens to be funded by a hugely successful business. Some research projects contribute significantly to the bottom line of that successful business, but that doesn’t seem to be the main criteria in determining if a project is worthy or successful in itself.
Sometimes I think there are just too many famous tech founders who dropped out of college. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, and Larry Page and Sergey Brin. But the other day I realized that Larry and Sergey didn’t really drop out of college—they just transferred to Google University. They’re still working on the research they started at Stanford, just at an institution better suited for their goals. With this in mind, I believe that the Google Attitude and Google University are behind the creation of Alphabet. Splitting Google X from the rest of Google makes it much easier to make things like Project Loon a reality. I hope more companies can adopt the Google Universtiy-way of doing business.