15 September, 2023
Internet giant Google was founded 25 years ago this month with a clear purpose: to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. To mark its 25th Birthday, CEO Sundar Pichai has published a blog post which sets out his reflections on the last quarter century and explores the journey Google – and technology more broadly – has been on along the way.
In the fast-paced world of tech, Google stands as a beacon of innovation and influence. Its revolutionary tools solved problems we didn’t even know we had. From putting a universe of knowledge at the world’s fingertips with its first simple search engine, to revolutionising navigation with Google Maps, transcending language barriers with Google Translate, and pioneering the development of AI, Google has made the world more accessible and connected. Its impact on society cannot be understated. Sundar Pichai celebrates the way Google has continued to respond to the changing needs of society over the last 25 years, and attributes its successes to a focus on its mission.
But a company with as wide a remit and scope of influence as Google is bound to have stumbled along the way. While the blog celebrates the achievements, and sets out some of the challenges of the future (posing questions such as ‘Will AI be helpful to people and benefit society, or could it lead to harm in any way?’) there is little reflection on these missteps, or acknowledgment of the ways in which it may not have always delivered on its mission to improve people’s lives for the better. Being a purpose-driven company means more than just basking in the glory of success; it means owning up to and learning from your mistakes. And as the blog is published in the same week that the US Justice Department opens its anti-trust trial, which alleges that Google maintained its monopoly on search through illegal means, this absence is particularly pointed.
So, as we wish Google a happy 25th birthday and marvel at all it has achieved in the last 25 years, we also hope it doubles down on its reflexive thinking – making the most of the way a purpose provides a company with a frame against which to do this.
By Lucy Bell