Google celebrated its 17th birthday on September 27, which is awkward because the company continues to exist in name only, with the company formerly known as Google now being called Alphabet and Temporary Holding Company Number Two re-christened Google.
In the meantime, Alphabet has posted its code of conduct, from which Google’s old motto “Don’t be evil” is conspicuously missing.
Alphabet’s code of conduct instead entreats employees to “do the right thing – follow the law, act honorably, and treat each other with respect.”
Several paragraphs follow about avoiding conflict of interest, staying onside financially, and obeying laws regarding insider trading and accepting bribes.
You would think that “follow the law” would go without saying at any company, but maybe it does merit an explicit mention in these days of VW and FIFA.
The only words that resembles the old provocative “Don’t be evil” creed in the new code of conduct are “act honorably, and treat each other with respect,” which aren’t elaborated on for the remainder of the document.
The old code of conduct, by contrast, went into some detail to explain both the philosophical and practical meaning of “Don’t be evil.”
While “Don’t be evil” still begins the Google code of conduct on a separate page, we’re not sure how impactful it will be, given that Google’s parent company is now Alphabet.
Sergei Brin and Larry Page are Alphabet’s president and CEO, while Sundar Pichai becomes CEO of Google.
Alphabet comprises Google Fiber, Life Sciences, Calico, Google Capital, Nest, drone telecommunications company X, city-wide WI-fi projects and self-driving cars.
Google now sits as a subsidiary under the Alphabet umbrella, still responsible for Search, Ads, YouTube, Android, Maps and Apps, which therefore still adhere to the “Don’t be evil” rule, along with the more obscure “We like cats, but we’re a dog company” ethos.
For companies that take their commitment to ethics a little further than cutesy slogans, there is B Corp Certification, recently adopted by Hootsuite, which offers a solid metric for companies wanting to show the world that they adhere to a higher standard of social and environmental practice, as well as transparency and accountability.
B Corp certified companies also include Warby Parker, Etsy and Ben & Jerry’s.
Larry Page and Sergei Brin developed their real-time search engine while PhD students at Stanford University in 1997. For a brief moment, it looked like they might call their search engine “Back Rub”. Ultimately, though, they settled on Google.
The world is collectively relieved the pair never moved forward under the “Back-Rub” banner, obviously. Already, the phrase “I’m going to Google you” or “I just Googled myself” is freaky enough. We can only imagine how much worse things might be if the verb of choice for looking things up on-line had become “Back-Rub” instead.
Even though “Don’t be evil” still led the company’s code of conduct when Google went public in 2004, the company quietly dropped its status from “motto” to “mantra” in 2009, an apparent concession to corporate rebranding.
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