Growing Pains

If you’ve been following the crop of links I’ve selected this week, it’s clear that it has been a big week for Google. From Mat Honan’s mockery to Nick Bilton’s privacy, and from video codecs to my disdain for Google+’s redesign, it might appear that I’ve been crafting a narrative of displeasure with Google over the past few days.

That hasn’t been my intent at all, however. What this week has illustrated is that Google is in an awkward place as a company. Their internal culture, their external perception, their realized products, and their conceptual ideas are all floating in a soup which has been brought to the front burner owing to this week’s I/O conference.

In the middle of the keynote of a geological time scale, Dustin Curtis tweeted:

Before last year, everything Google made was uninspired crap. Now it is carefully executed, designed well, and part of a massive vision.

I think it’s hinting at a massive vision, but I think what’s being realized throught the articles I’ve linked to this week is a clear sense of the blind spots in that vision. Google’s no longer the benevolent college search engine project. The company has the most popular search engine, smartphone operating system, and web advertising platforms, plus a massive quantity of other products of varying popularity. It’s not a small company any more; Google’s fucking enormous, but I think a great deal of people lack that sense — a perspective that has been cultivated through its spokespersons’ crafted statements which imply a sense of a smaller startup.1

This image is only one component of the cracks showing in these growing pains. What happened this week was due in part to the sheer quantity of updates announced over the course of the keynote presentation, each of which has been (and will continue to be) analyzed and critiqued. Google’s bigger vision is coming into its own, but the company is in an awkward phase of its realization of just how big they are. The commentary that you read this week has reflected that.

  1. Releases with titles like “Mo’ screens, mo’ goodness”, or the very practice of releasing most news as blog posts. ↥︎