If you ever needed proof that Google has changed in a big way over the past three years, just go to the company’s own “about” page.There, Google has a list of 10 “core principles” that “guide our actions.”
The second principle: “It’s best to do one thing really, really well.”
“We do search,” it says.
“With one of the world’s largest research groups focused exclusively on solving search problems, we know what we do well and how we could do it better. Through continued iteration on difficult problems, we’ve been able to solve complex issues and provide continuous improvements to a service that already makes finding information a fast and seamless experience for millions of people. Our dedication to improving search helps us apply what we’ve learned to new products, like Gmail and Google Maps. Our hope is to bring the power of search to previously unexplored areas and to help people access and use even more of the ever-expanding information in their lives.”
These days, Google does a lot more than one thing.
It’s fighting big, powerful competitors on three major fronts – against Microsoft/Bing in search, Facebook in social, and Apple in mobile.
Google is also building self-driving cars and computer-powered glasses. Google is working on not one, but two operating systems. It is spending hundreds of millions of dollars loading YouTube with original content. It owns Motorola Mobility. It has a Web browser. And wind farms.
In a speech last fall, new Google CEO Larry Page said that Google is no longer just a search company. He said its mission is “driving technology forward.”
He said he wants Google to invent wild thing that will help humanity, get them adopted by users, profit, and then use the corporate structure to keep inventing new things.
The page with Google’s core principles on it also reads:
“We first wrote these “10 things” several years ago. From time to time, we revisit this list to see if it still holds true. We hope that it does – and you can hold us to that.”
Will shareholders, employees, and users actually hold Google to its old principles?
If Google can, as Page hopes, invent new technologies that people use on a daily basis, it’ll be fine, and worrywarts like us will be laughed at for our short-sightedness.
But if Google over-extends itself too much, look out.
The biggest threat right now is Google’s merger with Motorola, which might compress Google’s magical margins by adding a costs-heavy loser in the gadget-making industry.
If that goes poorly, or the fight with Facebook ends in a loss, or if Bing takes big strides in search marketshare, the company will end up where Microsoft is today.
That is to say it will be nicely profitable, still growing, but sold by Wall Street investors for its worsening margins, loathed by Silicon Valley dreamers for its empire-building, and ignored by users for the poor quality of its products.