A few days ago Google announced it was splitting off into a holding company, called Alphabet, and sub sections for search, advertising, R&D, etc. Everyone has an opinion about it but the day I am qualified to give Google business advice is the day I retire to my own private island.
What I am qualified to address is the fuss about Google not being able to buy Alphabet.com from BMW as if it somehow a branding catastrophe. You see, I think this notion off matching a domain name to your brand name has been becoming increasingly arbitrary. If you can get a domain name that matches your brand, good for you, but domain names came about when we used the web differently and were intended to help us go to the home page of specific websites; we no longer use the internet that way. Those who don’t recognise the way we use the web has (and continues to) change, haven’t been paying attention. Mobile & tablet use overtaking desktop is perhaps the most obvious shift but there’s also social media, the rise of the connected consumer and many more ways our behaviour is changing. In light of this, the fuss about Google not buying Alphabet.com is really starting to feel a little quaint, at best, as we charge forward onto the next phase of human-computer interaction.
Recently we’ve been moving closer to voice activated search, wearables, the internet of things… basically variations of ubiquitous computing & context-aware push-content that comes to the user.
People stopped typing domain names into browsers in the mid 2000s and started typing them into Google (or whichever search engine was the default page in your new browser window), waiting for the result to load and then clicking the link. It drove me mad to see this happen, but that’s user behaviour for you. For over 10 years internet users have searched for things or clicked a shared link instead of typing in a URL, So much so that the address bar in most browsers now doubles up as a search box, too. Recently internet users have been embracing voice activated search, wearables, the internet of things… basically variations of ubiquitous computing & context-aware push-content that comes to the user.
As more people come online using different devices, they are increasingly opting for voice systems like Google’s Voice Search, Siri & Cortana instead of typing in requests by hand. Voice search is not the only future of search, but is one of the many ways we will get our content from the ubiquitous internet and bypass domain names.
Even if you ignore the changing way people use the internet (which would be madness), you still have to admit that Alphabet.com sends a very different brand message to Google Alphabet. One says big company who will spend bazillions buying a special domain name because erm, they can, and the other says imaginative & perfectly serviceable solution to a problem.
If you wonder why people stopped typing in URLs into their browsers, let this Radio 1 DJ explain where it all went Pete Tong.