In February 1998, a small Pasadena company named GoTo started auctioning placement in search results they bought from other providers. Six months later, they claimed to have more than a thousand paying customers. According to GoTo, you didn't need fancy algorithms to determine relevance, just the invisible hand of the free market. Any company bidding for placement at the top of the results must be a good match for the term being searched. At Google, we found that concept ridiculous. Bidding-based ranking was clearly inferior to results based on an algorithm. Bidding was driven by imprecise humans. Humans bad. Math good. We knew about GoTo, but we discounted their "non-technological" approach. That proved to be unwise. We gave them a head start, and for the next four years we would fight them for supremacy in the online advertising market.
Jeff couldn't wait to engage the challenges at Google. He showed up weeks before his official start date, before he'd even left the other company, and wrote code without being on the payroll because he "wanted to hit the ground running."
on jeff dean. classic. it's not just a job! it's beyond regular distinctions of work and non-work! (at least if you join early enough)
Had NewsHound been a disruptive technology that changed its industry, Larry and Sergey would have wanted not just the code but the Google-caliber engineers behind it. That way, Google would own their future breakthrough ideas as well as the ones they'd already developed. Larry and Sergey didn't like renting intelligence when they could buy it. There are only so many really smart people in the world. Why not collect them all?
"The most important thing to consider," I began, "is that our own internal research shows our competitors are beginning to approach Google's level of quality. In a world where all search engines are equal, we'll need to rely on branding to differentiate us from everyone else."
The room grew quiet.
I looked around nervously. Had I said something wrong? Yes. Not just wrong, but heretical to engineers who believed anything could be improved through iterative application of intelligence. Larry made my apostasy clear.
"If we can't win on quality," he said quietly, "we shouldn't win at all." In his view, winning by marketing alone would be deceitful, because it would mean people had been tricked into using an inferior service against their own best interests. It would be nobler to take arms against our sea of troubles and by opposing, end them.
it's funny cus larry is right
Perhaps because they viewed the world through a polarizing filter of "ideal" and "suboptimal" (or "good" and "evil," if you will) and were so confident about which position they occupied in this binary system, our founders displayed a fondness for hyperbolic vilification of those who disagreed with them. In almost every meeting, they would unleash a one-word imprecation to sum up any and all who stood in the way of their master plans.
"Bastards!" Sergey would mutter if a competitor signed a client we were pursuing.
"Bastards!" Larry would exclaim when a blogger raised concerns about user privacy.
"Bastards!" they would say about the press, the politicians, or the befuddled users who couldn't grasp the obvious superiority of the technology behind Google's products.
It was a little intimidating until you got used to it, but it wasn't long before "bastards" became corporate nomenclature for any individual or institution that didn't see things the Google way. Ratings services undercounted our traffic? Bastards! Hard-drive vendors refused to cut deals below wholesale cost? Bastards! It became so prevalent that someone proposed that Sergey's five-word acceptance speech for an online award should be "The Webbys are for bastards."
About the time Ian Marsden's first Doodle ran, Karen hired an intern to help with updating the website. The intern, Dennis Hwang, was majoring in art and computer science and had helped with graphics for the gator-gone-wild horror flick Lake Placid ("You'll never know what bit you"). During his interview Dennis mentioned that on his last job he had volunteered to work thirty-hour weekend shifts without pay. That got our attention. And he could draw. Over the next year, we gave Dennis responsibility for decorating the logo and we stopped using contractors. Why pay for milk when you own a cow?
[...] To prove that Google wasn't composed entirely of metal and wiring attached to positronic brains, I suggested we collect photos of moms from our coworkers and arrange them around the old poem spelling out "What Mother Means to Me." Straight out of the Hallmark emotional-manipulation handbook. We were so inundated with fan mail I became verklempt.
"Your mothers must be so proud," a user told us. "I want my son to work at Google."
We received more letters of praise when we did the same thing the following year, but we also received pointed questions about why there weren't any African-American moms depicted. We answered that not all staff members were represented—but it was the last time our mothers put in an appearance.
"Do you know what our greatest corporate expense is?" Sergey asked at TGIF. The assembled Googlers looked up from their laptops. Everyone wanted the chance to be right in front of others.
"Health insurance!" shouted an engineer. "Salaries!" "Servers!" "Taxes!"
"Electricity!" "Charlie's grocery bills!" rejoined others.
"No," said Sergey, shaking his head solemnly. "Opportunity cost."
fuck u too
Google didn't acknowledge outside firms that served the company—not even for client references. As the company grew in size and stature, suppliers begged for permission to announce their ties to us, often offering steep discounts if they could just display Google's logo on their client lists. Almost always we said no. We spent valuable time evaluating vendors. Why spare our competitors the same hardship by tipping them off that we had found a company worthy of our business? It would be far better if our competition made its own choices, and, perhaps, chose badly.
what a dumb fucking way to advance an ecosystem. the stupidity of incessant competition over collaboration. deliberately ensuring that competitors duplicate your work simply because you want to win
When Karen took a vacation, we ordered a thousand plastic playground balls and filled her cube with them. They were still being thrown from office to office and rolling around under desks a year later.