Google Dusts Off the Failed Google+ Playbook To Fight ChatGPT
Friday March 10, 2023. 02:00 PM , from Slashdot
Ars Technica's Ron Amadeo likens it to the company's failed Google+ playbook from 2011. To combat Facebook's rising popularity, then-Google CEO Larry Page directed employees to build social features into everything. YouTube comments were tied to Google+, Gmail addresses required a Google+ account, Google Search had '+1' buttons, and a 'real name' policy was instituted, among other things. 'That forced integration strategy was an abject failure, and after a few years of Google's social panic, all of Google+'s integrations were removed, and the service was eventually shut down,' writes Amadeo. An anonymous reader shares an excerpt from Amadeo's report: We wrote last month that Google's ChatGPT panic seemed a lot like its response to Google+, and several employees relayed that same sentiment to Bloomberg. Just like with G+, the report added that 'current and former employees say at least some Googlers' ratings and reviews will likely be influenced by their ability to integrate generative AI into their work.'
AI is one of the few areas of Google that CEO Sundar Pichai is really invested in, with the CEO saying the technology would be 'more profound than fire or electricity.' Google was, for years, a leader in AI with voice recognition features like the Google Assistant, speech synthesis features like Google Duplex, and mastering the game of Go. Those features debuted years ago, though, and a fear of rolling out imperfect products has meant Google locks a lot of technology away in a lab somewhere. In a 2021 New York Times article that was critical of Pichai's management style, 'A common critique among current and former executives is that Mr. Pichai's slow deliberations often feel like a way to play it safe and arrive at a 'no.'' Despite many seeing Pichai as the source of Google's reluctance, the Bloomberg report says the CEO is now taking a more hands-on approach to product development, saying, 'The effort has Pichai reliving his days as a product manager, as he's taken to weighing in directly on the details of product features, a task that would usually fall far below his pay grade, according to one former employee.'
As for exactly what these forced AI integrations will look like, the report cites a recent YouTube feature that would let people virtually swap outfits. In Alphabet's Q4 2022 (PDF) earnings call, Pichai said the company was 'working to bring large language models to Gmail and Docs,' so expect to be able to click a few buttons soon and have those apps generate blocks of text. The Bloomberg article quotes one Google employee as saying, 'We're throwing spaghetti at the wall, but it's not even close to what's needed to transform the company and be competitive.'
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