Larry Page Gives An “Update” After His First Year As CEO

Google CEO Larry Page has posted an update about how his first year as Google’s CEO has been. Google is more focused, uses Google+ as a way to unite its various services into a “beautifully simple experience,” is making search better by integrating social data and actions, admits it makes mistakes on trust but tries to fix these quickly and much more, including the “toothbrush test” for determining if a product becomes essential.

It’s not actually Page’s first year, as he was Google’s CEO before Eric Schmidt had that role from 2001 through 2011. Page resumed the role last year, on April 4.

Getting Focused

The letter starts out discussion how Google has focused by eliminating many products:

I began by reorganizing the management team around our core products to improve responsibility and accountability across Google.  I also kicked off a big clean-up.  Google has so many opportunities that, unless we make some hard choices, we end up spreading ourselves too thin and don’t have the impact we want. So we have closed or combined over 30 products, including projects like Knol and Sidewiki. In addition, we gave many of our products, such as Google Search, a visual refresh, and they now have a cleaner, more consistent, and beautiful look.

Google+ As Simply Beautiful Glue

It goes on to use the “beautifully simple experience” language we’ve been hearing from Google since around the launch of Google+ last year, in fact making Google+ itself the glue or paint that creates that experience:

Creating a simpler, more intuitive experience across Google has been another important focus. I have always believed that technology should do the hard work—discovery, organization, communication—so users can do what makes them happiest: living and loving, not messing with annoying computers! That means making our products work together seamlessly….

It’s still early days, and we have a long way to go. But these are tremendously important changes, and with over 120 Google+ integrations to date (including Google Search, YouTube and Android), we are on the right track. Well over 100 million users are active on Google+, and we’re seeing a positive impact across the Web, with Google users being able to recommend search results and videos they like—a goal we’ve had ever since we started the company.

Google+ As Vital To Next Generation Search

The update moves to address “Next-generation search,” positioning Google+ as key to moving ahead, but that there’s plenty of work to be done:

Google+ helps solve this problem for us because it enables Google to understand people and their connections. So when I search for Ben Smith, I get the real Ben Smith (for me), right there in my search box, complete with his picture. Previously, the search box would just have had the series of letters I had typed, with no real understanding that I was looking for a unique person. This is a huge and important change, and there’s a ton more work to do.  But this kind of next-generation search in which Google understands real-world entities—things, not strings—will help improve our results in exciting new ways. It’s about building genuine knowledge into our search engine.

See also these articles from us for some background on how Search Plus Your World and Google+ are important to Google Search:

Search = Actions

It goes on to address search in terms of “actions,” something that Bing actually pushed as part of its “Decision Engine” campaign back when it launched in 2009. Providing direct answers and task completion within Google opens it up to accusations of favoring itself (despite this being what Bing also tries to do, even if the promise still outweighs the reality). Page seems to be repositioning this as what a search engine should do:

In the early days of Google you would type in a query, we’d return ten blue links, and you would move on fairly happily. Today you want more. If you search for “weather san francisco”, chances are you want… the weather in San Francisco right there on the results page, not another click or two away. So that’s what we now provide. In fact, before you’ve even finished typing “weather” into the search box we give you the weather because we’ve learned that’s most likely what you’re looking for.

Truly great search is all about turning your needs into actions in the blink of an eye. There is a huge amount of data in the world that isn’t publicly available today.  Showing it in our results involves deep partnerships across different industries in many countries. It’s very similar to the work we did to get Google Maps off the ground.

Android Still Open

Android gets a big call-out, with lots of praise but also stressing that it will remain open:

Fast forward to today. Android is on fire, and the pace of mobile innovation has never been greater. Over 850,000 devices are activated daily through a network of 55 manufacturers and more than 300 carriers. Android is a tremendous example of the power of partnership, and it just gets better with each version. The latest update, Ice Cream Sandwich, has a beautiful interface that adapts to the form of the device.  Whether it’s on a phone or tablet, the software works seamlessly….

It’s important to reiterate that openness and investment by many hardware partners have contributed to Android’s success. So we look forward to working with all of them in the future to deliver outstanding user experiences. Android was built as an open ecosystem, and we have no plans to change that.

Big Bets & The Toothbrush Test

The letter goes back to focus, this time talking about “bets” that have passed what Page calls the “toothbrush test” to become product that get used each day. Gmail, YouTube and the Chrome browser all get named. And for those worried about Android not making money like the iPhone does, Page addresses that, too:

Geople rightly ask how we’ll make money from these big bets. We understand the need to balance our short- and longer-term needs because our revenue is the engine that funds all our innovation. But over time, our emerging high-usage products will likely generate significant new revenue streams for Google as well as for our partners, just as search does today. For example, we’re seeing a hugely positive revenue impact from mobile advertising, which grew to a run rate of over $2.5 billion by the third quarter of 2011—two and a half times more than at the same point in 2010. Our goal is long-term growth in revenue and absolute profit—so we invest aggressively in future innovation while tightly managing our short-term costs.

Trust, Making & Correcting Mistakes

The letter then turns to “Love & Trust, where the “Don’t Be Evil” motto never gets mentioned — perhaps intentionally? Instead, the section talks about the trust users place in Google and the challenges in fulfilling that as a big company:

We have always wanted Google to be a company that is deserving of great love. But we recognize this is an ambitious goal because most large companies are not well-loved, or even seemingly set up with that in mind. We’re lucky to have a very direct relationship with our users, which creates a strong incentive for us to do the right thing. For every magic moment we create—like the ability to drop a photo into Google and search by image—we have a very happy user.  And when our products don’t work or we make mistakes, it’s easy for users to go elsewhere because our competition is only a click away….

All that said, we recognize that we don’t get everything right—and that the changes we make, like our recent visual refresh, can initially upset some users (even if they later come to love them). But we don’t operate in a static industry, and technology changes so fast that we need to innovate and iterate. Of course, when we do make mistakes we try to fix them as quickly as possible and, if necessary, change the way we do things to prevent problems from arising again. And we work hard to explain what we are doing—and why—because with size comes responsibility.

See also our posts today: Survey: Nearly 80% Trust Google As Much Or More Than A Year Ago and Make Love, Not Evil — The New Google Motto?

Google Still Has Challenges For Talent

There’s a short section that talks about employees, with perhaps the biggest take-away a need to emphasis that Google still has challenges, something that may appeal to talent people looking for more than just a good workplace and a nice paycheck:

Most important of all, however, we believe that work should be challenging. People are more motivated and have more fun when they work on important projects. Take Google Translate, which we started eight years ago and now enables anyone to translate text in an instant between any two of 64 languages—including Hindi, Arabic and Chinese. That’s actually 4032 different pairs of languages you can translate! In fact, by combining it with our voice recognition technology, we’ve turned mobile phones into pocket translators for millions of users globally. When you work on projects of this magnitude, it’s impossible not to wake up excited about work; the chance to make a difference is the greatest motivation anyone can have.

The letter concludes with more of the same — that Google’s a big vision company not afraid to have “a healthy disregard for the impossible.”

Today the opportunities are greater than ever. Things we used to think were magic, we now take for granted: the ability to get a map instantly, to find information quickly and easily, to choose any video from millions on YouTube rather than just a few TV channels. People are buying more devices and using them more because technology is playing an increasingly important role in our lives. I believe that by producing innovative technology products that touch people deeply, we will enable you to do truly amazing things that change the world.  t’s a very exciting time to be at Google, and I take the responsibility I have to all of you very seriously.

Missing? Chrome OS

I may come back and do a closer read of the letter. Most notable to me is that there was no mention of Chrome OS or Chromebooks, another big bet Google has made. Aside from that Page, seems to be formalizing many statements that have been made over the past year or so to defend some of Google’s actions. There’s plenty of fodder for it to refer to in fighting off anti-trust accusations (we do actions because actions are search) or that Google+ is an unnecessary distraction (it’s vital to improving search).

Related Articles

Related Topics: Channel: Industry | Features & Analysis | Google: Business Issues | Top News


About The Author: is Founding Editor of Marketing Land. He’s a widely cited authority on search marketing and internet marketing issues, who has covered the space since 1996. Danny also serves as Chief Content Officer for Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He has a personal blog called Daggle (and keeps his disclosures page there). He can be found on Facebook, Google + and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan.

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    You can definitely tell Google+ has been a big focus for the company this past year.

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