Google wants to wipe away disease and fill the roads with self-driving cars. Here’s the product that will allow them to do that.
The image above is arguably the most recognizable page on the internet. Take a nice long look at it. Commit it to memory. Because there’s a good chance your kids will never see it.
By the year 2023, Google will most likely feel like a very different company. It’s outward-facing projects will probably focus on finding solutions to intractable problems, like transportation and health care. From the outside, 2023 Google will be an aspiration enterprise with a utopian vision. But in all likelihood, one decade from now the true beating heart of Google will have very little to do with its high-profile moonshots.
None of that is to suggest that Google is going away anytime soon. The company, which essentially invented modern online advertising, is poised to take home $39 billion in ad revenue this year — roughly one-third of all online ad dollars — and is as powerful, profitable, and healthy as ever. Just last week, it announced Calico, its latest side project, which aims to eradicate disease and extend human life expectancy — not exactly the sort of project you’d propose if you weren’t planning on hanging around for the next few decades.
Currently, Google is a large, complicated entity, with projects ranging from self-driving cars to the most basic email. The common thread? All of its programs, big or small, are subsidized in some way by search and keyword ads. Whatever the future holds, the next wildly ambitious iteration of Google — you could call it “moonshot” Google — will operate in the same way, only this time subsidized by its most valuable, virtually untapped asset: maps.
One of the earliest investors in the space, Google has thrown considerable money and unprecedented manpower into developing the most precise, detailed, and intelligent set of maps in human history. Powered by fleets of always-roving, camera-equipped Google vehicles, a wealth of census data and live traffic data, and its very own satellite imagery, Google has effectively — to borrow from The Atlantic’s Alexis Madrigal — recreated a web crawler for the physical world.That’s really what Google Maps is: a reimagined, highly contextual, and personal version of Google that, instead of indexing the web, indexes your surrounding environment at a given time. Think of it this way: Every input into Google Maps’ search bar is still a search, but instead of a website, the result is a physical destination. “What search is for the web, maps are for mobile,” Waze CEO Noam Bardin told a conference last April, just months before his company was acquired by Google, for nearly $1 billion....MUCH MORE