On Monday, Google announced that it was changing the name of the company to Alphabet, creating a structure that would encompass multiple parts. The search engine division will be separate from some of the more futuristic parts of the company, such as an anti-ageing biotech firm and the lab that builds self-driving cars.
The move is meant to better characterise what the company has become — a conglomerate that has a hand in everything from drones to pharmaceuticals to venture capital.
What is Alphabet? It is probably best described as a parent company with several subsidiaries. Google will be one of them.
Here are the others:
Calico, the anti-ageing biotech company. Sidewalk, a company focused on Smart cities. Nest, a maker of Internet-connected devices for the home. Fiber, high-speed Internet service in a number of American cities. Investment arms, such as Google Ventures and Google Capital. Incubator projects, such as Google X, which is developing self-driving cars and delivery drones. It means that the parts of Google that will stay Google are those, such as search and advertising, that are considered more of its core business.
Why did the company change its name? The point, according to Larry Page, the Google co-founder who will be Alphabet’s chief executive, is for the separate parts to be independent and develop their own brands. That would never happen with all of them under the Google banner, given that many associate the name solely with a consumer search product. Many of the companies operating under the Alphabet umbrella, artificial intelligence and robotics, for instance, may never be consumer-oriented.
Mr. Page, in a blog post announcing the move, took the opportunity to note some wordplay in the name. “We also like that it means alpha‑bet (Alpha is investment return above benchmark),” he wrote, “which we strive for!”
Where do I find Alphabet? Not on Alphabet.com. That website belongs to BMW, the carmaker. But good luck getting on the site. Around 7pm Monday, the site was slow to load, likely because so many people were searching for the new company. Chris Andrikanich, the owner of @alphabet on Twitter is probably making a lot of new friends, too.
If you want to see the website of the new company, it’s at abc.xyz. And if you look close enough, you’ll find an Easter egg, an Internet treat hidden from plain sight. Click more on Alphabet’s home page, scroll two-thirds of the way down and click on the period after “drone delivery effort.” You’ll be sent to the website of Hooli, the fictional company in the HBO series “Silicon Valley.”
Considered a spoof of Google and its growing ambitions, hooli.xyz promises moonshot projects and “radical thinkers who are building not only the future, but the future’s future.”
Self-driving cars? Why stop there? the site beckons. Self-flying cars are what Hooli promises. And maybe, one day, Alphabet might, too.
© The New York Times 2015