"He Always Wants It Bigger" And Other Things You Should Know About Larry Page

Larry Page

Farhad Manjoo has a profile in Fast Company of Larry Page, Google‘s co-founder who recently took over as CEO.

What’s he like? How will his style impact the web’s most important company as it navigates treacherous waters?

Here’s a few things we learned:

  • Even though Page didn’t order Google’s sting operation of Bing copying its search results, it “exhibit(s) all the hallmarks of the new CEO’s approach to business. It was a creative solution to a sticky problem, it was rooted in data, it was ambitious — and it was prankish to boot.”
  • Google is moving away from its “let’s hire lots of really smart people and let them do whatever they want” management model. They want to be more like Android, where a bunch of really smart guys do what one really smart guy wants. (In the case of Android, it’s Andy Rubin.)
  • Brian Kennish, a Google engineer from 2003 to late 2010 says: “this system worked really well until the company reached about 10,000 workers. After that, things started to break down.”
  • The goal of Chrome isn’t so much to gain marketshare but to spur other browser makers to innovate. With Microsoft putting IE6 out of its misery and releasing the well-regarded IE9, that seems to be a success. (Chrome’s 10% marketshare is nothing to sneeze at, though.)
  • We already knew it, but data dominates everything at Google.
  • An anecdote that highlights Page’s focus on data: Google sales boss Nikesh Arora says he told Page “I’d gotten back from nine cities in 12 days — Munich, Copenhagen, Davos, Zurich, New Delhi, Bombay, London, San Francisco. There’s a silence for five seconds. And then he’s like, ‘That’s only eight.’ “
  • A corollary of this data focus is that Page gets lots of respect from Googlers for easily admitting he’s wrong when proved wrong with data. 
  • Google realises its maniacal focus on data can be a drawback in creating “wow” products like Apple. They’re trying to square that circle by adding data later into the design process.  Matias Duarte, who designed the well-regarded user interface on WebOS and now works on Android says: “We don’t design by committee; we don’t design by focus group… But we do verify everything we’re trying to do with our design with stringent, large-scale user testing.”
  • A good point: one thing that Google has going for it in the design area is its whimsy, as shown by its Google doodles and April’s Fools pranks.
  • On Google’s inability to make social software: “Jamie Zawinski, one of the legends of the free-software movement, once famously quipped that the most important question for anyone writing social software should be, How will this software get my users laid?”
  • Google advertises on Bing! They have the top paid keyword for “search engine.”
  • Google’s secret: “When people come to Larry with ideas, he always wants it bigger,” says one ex-Googler.

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