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Steven Levy, a senior editor at Wired, spent a lot of time at Google researching his new book, “In the Plex”. He also spent a lot of time with the new CEO Larry Page.
Mr Levy says Google is now in the hands of “a true corporate radical”.
In an article for Wired, “Larry Page Wants to Return Google to Its Startup Roots” he reports that Mr Page has said many times, that he has always “wanted to change the world”.
He sees the historic technology boom as a chance to realise such ambitions and sees those who fail to do so as shamelessly squandering the opportunity. To Page, the only true failure is not attempting the audacious.
So what will Mr Page’s audacious ideas entail? That’s not clear yet. Whatever it is, he’ll be taking about 25 000 staff, tens of thousands of shareholders, and hundreds of millions of users on the ride with him.
Will this distract Google? Will it take its eye off the ball?
Google occupies a tremendously important position within the global economy, its ability to continue doing what it does best, affects huge volumes of global commerce and many millions of businesses.
My concern about the “corporate radical” Mr Page is that improving search and contextual advertising is not very glamorous, it certainly doesn’t change the world but it’s hugely important to all Internet users.
Will it be important enough for Mr Page’s ambitions? It doesn’t look like it, he’s shown interest in everything from space flight to nuclear reactors.
I’m sure that he has an imaginary Wikipedia page from the future in his mind, and it doesn’t include something like this:
“Larry Page resumed the CEO position on 1 April 2011, where he spent the rest of his years honing his Page Rank algorithm, incrementally improving the search experience for internet users … searching for skateboarding cats and cheap coupons.”
My concern is that the road to hell is paved with good intentions and I’d rather not be in the same vehicle as Mr Page. Owing to Google’s dominance, however, we are all sitting in the passenger seat.
Shouldn’t Mr Page “change the world” somewhere else? After all, Bill Gates does it through his foundation, not through Microsoft.
I’d advise Mr Page to head up Google Foundation and leave the mundane work of improving search to those that are comfortable with more modest ambitions.
Otherwise, expect more self-driving cars, neighborhood nuclear power stations, and whatever else Mr Page thinks is a world changer.
Or maybe there’s not too much to worry about?
Mr Levy writes that Google staff have figured out ways of dealing with Mr Pages’ “nuttier instincts”.
Googlers have learned that the best way to counter some of his more problematic idiosyncrasies is not by having a frank discussion but through misdirection. For instance, Wesley Chan, a top product manager has learned that instead of arguing his case with Page, a better strategy is “giving him shiny objects to play with.”
If you want Google to remain Google, please send your shiny objects to: Larry Page, Googleplex, Santa Clara, CA 94043, USA.