Ten Ways CEO Larry Page Has Changed Google in the Last Year

April 4th is Larry Page's one year anniversary as Google CEO; consider how profoundly his leadership has transformed Google in just one year.

  1. From Unconventional to Conventional: In Google's 2004 Founder's IPO letter, Mr. Page started by saying: "Google is not a conventional company. We do not intend to become one." Eight years later, most all of Mr. Page's management changes in the last year have been to adopt more conventional business practices: focusing the company via Google+ integration and eliminating non-core or underperforming units; ending management by committee and instituting top-down management hierarchy and control; using advertising to strengthen the brand; and increasing lobbying and political contributions to influence Government policy.
  2. From Google to Google+: Google used to be all about search; see Google's "Our Philosophy: Ten Things We Know to Be True; 2. It's best to do one thing really, really well. We do search." Under Mr. Page's leadership, the last year has been all about the +/plus, doing everything else really well by integrating all of Google's many dozens of products and services seamlessly together and then leveraging their growth via Google's dominant search and search advertising business. In effect, Mr. Page has effectively and tacitly changed Google's mission from "organizing the world's information" to integrating all of Google into "a single unified beautiful product across everything."
  3. From User-Centric to Google+Centric: Google used to be all about the user; see Google's "Our Philosophy: Ten Things We Know to Be True; 1. Focus on the User and all else will follow… we take great care to ensure that they will ultimately serve you, rather than our own internal goal or bottom line." Under Mr. Page, in order to promote Google+ success, Google instituted a new privacy policy with no consumer opt-out choice, over the strong objections of the EU, FTC, State AGs, Congress, and most all privacy groups. Google also was caught surreptitiously bypassing users' privacy protection choices on Apple's Safari browser in order to secretly track users on Apple's platform for the purposes of promoting Google+ advertising, per the WSJ.
  4. From Proactive to Reactive: Google had been characterized as the ultimate in proactive companies, routinely forcing competitors to react to Google by invading new markets in every direction with new free beta products and services. However, Mr. Page's first year has been characterized by the opposite -- reaction: Google+ product and privacy policy integration to catch up to Facebook in social; acquisition of Motorola's 17,000 patents to defend Android against patent infringement lawsuits and to try to integrate hardware and software as seamlessly as Apple does; and hiring twelve new lobbying firms to: defend against the FTC's Google antitrust investigation; defeat SOPA/PIPA anti-piracy legislation; and handle the fall-out from Google's $500m DOJ criminal forfeiture penalty for knowingly promoting illegal prescription drug sales.
  5. From Engineering-Driven to Advertising-Driven: Former Googler James Whitaker's blog entitled "Why I Left Google," may be the single best public chronicle of how Google has changed as a company culture under Mr. Page's leadership. In a January talk with Google employees, Mr. Page reportedly said about Google+: "This is the path we are headed down -- a single unified, beautiful, product across everything. If you don't get that, then you should probably work somewhere else," per a Google source who attended the talk.
  6. From No Management to More Traditional Management: Former CEO Eric Schmidt confessed to GigaOm: "At Google, we give the impression of not managing the company, because we don't really. It sort of has its own borg-like quality, if you will. It sort of just moves forward." in stark contrast, Mr. Page instituted big management changes upon taking the helm in order to make Google more focused, streamlined, and faster to make decisions, like many other corporations.
  7. From High-Margin to Lower-Margin: Mr. Page's acquisition of 80 year-old Motorola, with $13b revenues and 19,000 employees will cut Google's revenue growth and profit margin by about a third.
  8. From Open to Closed Leadership: Possibly the most observable change is from a Kardashian-esque celebrity-tech-CEO in Mr. Schmidt, who diligently fed and cared for the Googlerati, to a reclusive CEO in Mr. Page, who has become known as one of the least-publicly-accessible CEOs to the media, shareholders, customers and government.
  9. From Earned Media to Paid Advertising: Arguably no other company in history has better used earned-media (free publicity) than Google to quickly build a top world brand via near constant releases of new beta products and privileged insider access to friendly tech media and book authors. Before Mr. Page became CEO, Google advertised little. Now according to the WSJ, Google has quadrupled its advertising to relatively as much as big advertisers Apple and Microsoft.
  10. From PR Teflon to Velcro: Google has gone from the uber-darling of the old and new media -- that could do no wrong and always enjoyed the benefit of the doubt -- to just another big corporation, which is measured less by its words, and more by its deeds and its highly public track record.