One day after Google’s reorganisation under the umbrella brand Alphabet, you have to dig through three pages of internet search results just to find a single reference to an alphabet of any other kind – and when you do, you find Alphabet, a fleet-car services company owned by German auto giant BMW.
The Google rebrand surprised BMW, according to Agence France-Presse, and is particularly awkward because the companies are competing with each other in the area of car automation, and on Monday BMW announced the purchase of HERE, a Google Maps competitor, from Nokia for $3.1bn, according to AFP.
BMW’s alphabet.com page – Google’s Alphabet is at abc.xyz – was down for most of Tuesday under an enormous traffic load. But when it came back up, it carried the message that “the possibility of any trademark infringement is currently under review”.
BMW is not the only loser in the Alphabet stakes. Erwin Wagenhofer’s groundbreaking documentary Alphabet, a damning indictment of modern education, has also been vanquished from the front pages of search results.
And Google’s rebranding came as a surprise to Babu Choudhury, the owner of Alphabet Lounge, a bar on 7th Street in Alphabet City, a district on the east side of Manhattan.
“Ha! I didn’t know that,” said Choudhury. “I don’t know why they changed it. Why would they change their name from Google to Alphabet? This is my name. This is Alphabet Lounge.”
He had no hard feelings, however. “Would I invite Google to come in and hang out? Absolutely! Why not?”
Alphabet Energy, a California company which turns waste heat into electricity, also took Google’s name change in good humour.
Dr Matthew Scullin, the founder of Alphabet Energy, said he thought he was being pranked when he first heard of Google’s change. “It was a little bit of a shock,” he said.
He thinks his company will probably not be damaged by the page-ranking issue – “unless Google plans to get into thermo-electics, which is our field. We’re the leading brand. Our customers recognise our brand.”
He has no plans to change the company name any time soon. “I’m obviously biased, but it’s a great name. I’m glad they also figured it out.” He said they had joked about changing his company’s name to Google Energy – “but no serious plans”.
Alphabet Energy was founded in 2009, while Scullin was doing his PhD at Berkeley, so they were by no means the group with the earliest claim (that honour seemed to go to Sesame Street).
Lucas Lepola, director of Alphabet Bags, a UK accessories brand, said that at the moment it was hard to say whether there would be a long-term negative effect of Google’s annexation of the word.
“I mean, hopefully not,” he said. “It had crossed my mind.” He said that lots of people come to them direct rather than through Google. “So it remains to be seen.”
Lepola was philosophical about Google’s use of the word. “It’s not something we invented; that would have been weird,” he said. “It’s a good word to use.”
Google has not entirely cornered their market, though. If you go to abc.wtf – rather than the domain Alphabet have chosen – you will find yourself sneakily redirected to Microsoft’s competing search engine Bing.
This article was written by Nicky Woolf, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 11th August 2015 20.19 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010