Google is hard to figure out. Over the last few years Google has consistently topped several ‘best employer’ surveys globally to the extent that its number one billing is now taken for granted. The company’s carefully assembled university campus like environment lava lamps, massage chairs, free gourmet food courts has been the subject of saturation media coverage. But despite its much-lionized and benign corporate credo ‘Do No Evil’, and a self-projected work culture that would appear to border on bohemian anarchism, Google gives media and technology giants from Redmond to New York to Minato sleepless nights. For the conspiracy theorists, Google’s takeover of the world is imminent.
The campus is a hi-tech hot bed or a play school is hard to figure out, for first time visitors to 1600, Amphitheatre Parkway Mount View California, if. There are red, green, yellow, purple and orange colored soft toys scattered around on a red couch placed on a distractingly multi-colored carpet.
A two-seater plane is suspended mid air and a toy T-Rex close by seems to be hunting a toy flamingo. It’s almost unimaginable that the cutting edge technological innovation half the world seems to fear can be born in an atmosphere of such puerility.
For everyone they are inquisitive about Google’s hidden intent. Many of the areas they experiment in, is to do it merely to learn more.
It doesn’t mean Google want to enter that business space and want to remain focused on core. The company spends just about 2% of its time and resources on its non-core businesses: What happens with a certain amount of scale Google’s massive market cap and what have you is that there is a sense that Google wants to get into everything. Internally, Google is very clearly focused on the core. Competitors and other IT experts may presume that Google is indulging in many more businesses without realizing their resource constraints in a lot of these areas. People often mistake Google’s learning process for a desire for market dominance. They are over estimating the power of Google.
Google style, sticker-in-the-wall moral grandstanding (‘You can make money without doing evil’ goes the gospel) co-exist with creating shareholder value and profit maximization? That is at a time when US companies are characterized by their near total servility to the concept of shareholder value and the need to keep the Stake or Stock holders happy. After all, Google is sitting on an ocean of user information and database, and what is to say that when the company is overwhelmed by profitability pressures, it won’t resist the temptation of selling it?
At the end of the day, there is a notion, that like every big company, Google’s growth will come from different areas but the presumption that they will trade off user interest for being a profitable company is one they will not go for.
Google operates with a simple premise that what is good for the consumers is eventually good for its partners and advertisers: They increased profits last year, but did that with lesser ads per page. Google could do that because they made a concerted choice that by increasing the quality of ads and the quality of the information, presumably the advertisers would want to pay more for that. They simply followed it is about using some science to understand what is good for the user. Google does it pretty obsessively and usually advertiser interests are aligned.
To do justice to its lofty principles, Google encourages pretty open and vigorous debates about what is evil and what is not. The level of Google debates is such that anybody can punch in anywhere.
Google’s decision to become subject to selective government censorship in China in order to enter the country raged a furious debate for more than two years. Google’s government approved operation in China shuts out information that the country deems politically sensitive such as the accounts of the Tiananmen Square protests.
Google doing well or doing evil by the Chinese users concluded a debate that nearly 15% of the Chinese users weren’t getting any information which is worse than getting information that would sometimes be censored. Google felt one way to expedite the information access to the Chinese economy was to be present and be engaged. There’s not a clear answer all the time. But Google feels good about the integrity of the process used.