Brin, Page and Schmidt, the trio that runs Google, are the cover boys of this week's Time Magazine. Asking questions like "Can we Trust Google With our Secrets" and publishing a general Q&A with the threesome turns up some interesting tidbits of information, including a claim by the founders that porn makes up a tiny percentage of their overall search numbers.

The article includes some interesting insight. For example, the decision not to run ads on Google's image search results because the estimated $80 million that it would produce in revenue each year isn't "worth it." It also includes a fair share of snipey criticism, including the claim that Schmidt was brought in "to provide adult supervision" and claims that it's having difficulty monetizing it's newly diversified offerings.

From the article:

Google's decision to launch a censored website in China was so jarring. (See "Google Under the Gun," TIME, Feb. 13, 2006.) Doing a totalitarian government's bidding in blocking the truth in order to make a few extra bucks is practically the definition of evil. Google acknowledges that it's in a tough situation but says it ultimately has to obey local laws. "There's a subtext to 'Don't be evil,' and that is 'Don't be illegal,'" says Vint Cerf, an Internet founding father who now serves as "chief Internet evangelist" at Google. "Overall, having Google there is better than not having Google there." But at what cost? Can Brin and Page live with the idea that Chinese Netizens can't access anything other than the official line on, say, the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre and that Google is part of the cover-up?

There's another big question that makes Brin and Page squirm: Does Google have a master plan? To outsiders, it sometimes seems as if the company is investing everywhere, trying to be everything, often giving its products away. A few of the newer pursuits: a proposal to provide free wireless Internet service for San Francisco; an online video store selling TV shows and NBA games; a classified-advertising site; a project to scan every book ever published and make the texts searchable; a free desktop package loaded with software; free instant messaging and online voice communication; a $1 billion investment in America Online. (AOL, like this magazine, is owned by Time Warner.) In the past year or so, Google Inc. has doubled in size to about 6,000 employees to handle all the new work. Even the bullish Rashtchy acknowledges that "Google is a black box for most people."

Google is known for being outside of the usual when it comes to even the oddest of tech firms. It's odd hiring practices (currently filling 100 positions a week) have included stunts like running a billboard that read "(first 10-digit prime found in consecutive digits of e).com." Those who headed to the now shut down were presented with yet another complex math problem before being invited to interview with Google. Google also includes all employees on a 70/20/10 plan designed to split work hours between mainstream projects (70% of the time), their own search related projects (20% of the time) and outstanding ideas (10% of the time.)

Overall, the article gives an interesting look at the inevitable public relations crash that will have to follow Google's amazing success. Consumers, and the media have an amazing propensity for placing companies on lofty pedestals before taking a nice swipe at the base to watch them come crashing down. That may or may not be what the upcoming year holds for Google, but it's certainly interesting to keep tabs on what people are saying.

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February 13, 2006

Jennifer Laycock is the Editor of Search Engine Guide, the Social Media Faculty Chair for MarketMotive and offers small business social media strategy & consulting. Jennifer enjoys the challenge of finding unique and creative ways to connect with consumers without spending a fortune in marketing dollars. Though she now prefers to work with small businesses, Jennifer’s clients have included companies like Verizon, American Greetings and Highlights for Children.

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