As consumers experience the modern day phenomenon of hyper-connectivity, tech companies are being scrutinized for the incredible monopolies they are building. In August this year, Google was accused by an academic writing for a Google-sponsored Think Tank of having such a monopoly, and he was subsequently fired after he aired this criticism. While we enjoy, and perhaps sometimes dislike, having thousands of virtual friends while we share our opinion and habits with servers in data centers the size of small villages, the tech giants behind our new addiction are becoming rich to the nth degree. As you know from some of our other shows, tech companies stand tall as some of the wealthiest companies in the world. Critics tell us we need to harness their power lest they gain too much control over the populace. Today we’ll examine tech power, in this episode of The Infographics Show, If Google was a country.
Let’s first have a look at how Google Incorporated got off the ground. If you visit Google’s company site and hit their history tab, the first thing you’ll see are two young men that barely look past their teen years sitting in a messy office full of computer parts. Those two men are Larry Page and Sergey Brin. Brin was a student at Stanford University and Page was on his way to becoming a grad student there. Working from their dorm rooms, they came up with an idea of how to categorize pages on the World Wide Web. It was their first search engine and it was called Backrub. Thankfully they soon had some sense and changed the name to Google. The name was a play on the word “Goo-gol”, which is the number one followed by 100 zeroes. What it really signified is that Google was intended to deliver reams of information. Google’s one and only intention before it branched out into such things as self-driving cars and futuristic glasses was “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” Their idea was a success and soon Silicon Valley’s venture capitalists were throwing money at the pair. The company grew at a rapid pace and soon had to move to a much bigger headquarters which they named the “Googleplex”, located in Mountain View, California. Today Google is much more than just a search engine. It offers a multitude of web-based products, advertising services, communication and publishing tools, tools for developers; it guides us around the world with its mapping products, as well as giving us operating systems – notably Android – web apps, email, a ton of hardware, self-driving tech, as well as owning the website you are currently watching. This is why Google, or its parent company, Alphabet, has a valuation of 676 billion dollars. Only Apple can beat that, with a valuation of over 800 billion. Let’s now try and put that into perspective.
If Google was a country and its net worth was compared to a country’s nominal GDP, Google would be the 19th largest economy in the world after The Netherlands, and just beating Switzerland. Basically, if you wanted to buy Google, you’d need the entire Swiss GDP and a bit more. If we look at revenue alone, Google earned about 90.2 billion dollars last year. That would still make Google a pretty big country, putting it in 65th place in the world in terms of GDP. That would be just below Ukraine and just above Slovakia. In 2016, Fortune magazine listed Alphabet as the world’s 8th most profitable company. In total it netted 16.3 billion dollars. This puts Google the country about the same as the world’s 115th richest country in terms of GDP, which is Bosnia and Herzegovina. But that country has 3.5 million people to share its GDP with; Google only has 72,053 employees it must support. This would make Google the 14th smallest country in the world, with a population slightly less than the country Dominica. The GDP of Dominica is 525.4 million dollars. What we are saying is that if Google was a country, it should be almost utopian with that amount of cash.
So, where does all the money go? Does Google embrace an equitable spread of wealth? It would only be right to call the Chief Executive of Google a kind of king, as companies are generally not run like democracies. The staff don’t control matters. The CEO does, but he or she can’t do very much without the board’s consent. We could call the board the advisers to the king. So, our King is called Sundar Pichai, an Indian American man that married into the Google family. As always, these days, the king is controlled by many people and some invisible hands that orchestrate matters behind the scenes. The other big players behind the scenes in the Google country are Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of the Board of Directors; Sergey Brin as President, and Larry Page as CEO of Alphabet. We could say that Pichai is a smaller player than the others, but as we said there are always powerful behind-the-scenes players in any government or monarchy. But do these guys share the wealth with the average Joe in the Google country?
First of all, we should know that a lot of money goes into future developments and acquisitions. In fact, it’s said that Google has been buying about one company a week since 2010. One of Google’s most famous and costly acquisitions was YouTube, which cost Google a whopping 1.65 billion dollars back in 2006. It’s thought that YouTube is now worth more than 70 billion dollars, so Google the country got a lot richer. The leaders of country Google have also made some bad moves, which includes buying Motorola for $12 billion, and then selling it for $3 billion two years later.
So, the biggest wages at Google go to the big players, but not the two founders, who each receive just one dollar a year! But don’t feel too bad for them just yet. These guys discovered the country and then left it to other people to run it. They don’t get salaries, but they are very wealthy because they get money from stocks. According to Forbes, Page is worth 45.1 billion dollars, making him insanely more wealthy than Google the country’s average worker. Brin is worth almost the same with 43.4 billion dollars, and what’s a couple of billion to these two. They even have private planes that have runways in NASA, where no other planes are allowed to land.
The king of Google, Sundai Pichar, is said to have earned a total compensation of 200 million dollars in 2017. Eric Schmidt is said to earn more than 120 million a year and former business officer Omid Kordestani was pulling in over 130 million a year before he went over to Twitter.
So yes, Google is an oligarchy but its top staff do ok too. Pay scale sites say that directors of engineering receive 571,000 dollars a year, much more than the average American with an advanced degree, which is around 70,000 dollars a year. A director of Product Management at Google will get about 409,000 dollars a year, and a Senior Research Scientist will receive more than 300,000 dollars a year. But these are the top positions. What about your average programmer? According to Glassdoor, they get in the region of 120,000 dollars a year, but that can go up quickly as you rise in the engineering ranks. Accounts managers get around 80,000 dollars, higher than the US national average of 60,000 for that job – according to Glassdoor. The same website says Google’s cleaners get around 50,000 dollars a year, which seems very high. In all, Google UK said the average wage throughout the whole company was around 206,000 dollars a year. This means wages in Google the country are much better than any country’s average wage. Maybe that’s what you’d expect from a small country with massive wealth. Workers also receive full benefits at Google, dogs run around on the office floor, snacks are everywhere, there are gyms, massage, and amazing death benefits for those left behind if you die on the job.
Sounds like heaven, but when Business Insider asked what it was like working in country Google, some of the replies were less than positive. “All those perks and benefits are an illusion. They keep you at work and they help you to be more productive. I’ve never met anybody at Google who actually [took] time off on weekends or went on vacations,” said one person. Another complaint was lack of diversity, which follows the tech initiative to seemingly go after young white men. “They hire the same person over and over again,” said one person. Google was recently investigated by the US labor office for gender discrimination, but then later was famously accused by an employee of forcing the diversity issue too much. If Google really was a country, 75 percent of the population would be male; there’d only be about 2 percent of African-Americans, 4 percent Hispanic, and about a third of the population – based on US staff – would be Asian. That would mean that our country would be made up of mostly young white men, many of whom would be nerds, according to Business Insider.
In conclusion, if Google was a country, its citizens would no doubt live in comfort and be well-off. There would be no poverty, but people would do little else but work. Even though they would be taken care of, in essence they’d be slaves for a few men at the top of the Google food chain. Google the country might be like living in ancient Sparta, if you just switch fighting for programming.
So, would you want to live in Google the country? Let us know in the comments!