Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
(AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, file) Fretting about Facebook may seem like overkill, given Google’s dominance of the Internet’s lucrative search and advertising market. But CEO Larry Page realized Facebook has been carving out a competitive advantage that could be leveraged to topple Google.
Facebook obsession guides Google CEO’s 1st year on job
Social network » In its nine months, Google Plus pulls in more than 100M users.
First Published Apr 03 2012 05:51 pm • Last Updated Apr 04 2012 12:11 am

San Francisco • Google co-founder Larry Page has a Facebook fixation.

When he replaced his mentor Eric Schmidt as Google’s CEO last April, Page insisted that the company had to be more aggressive about countering the threat posed by Facebook’s ever-growing popularity.

At a glance

Google versus Facebook

Annual revenue » Google, $38 billion; Facebook, $3.7 billion.

Advertising revenue » Google, $36.5 billion; Facebook, $3.2 billion.

Annual net income » Google, $9.7 billion; Facebook, $668 million.

Social networking users » Facebook, 845 million; Google, more than 100 million.

Employees » Google, 32,500; Facebook, 3,200.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

Page responded with a social networking crusade that is still reshaping Google Inc. as he marks his one-year anniversary as chief executive on Wednesday.

The Facebook obsession has already led to Google’s creation of its own social network, Google Plus, and inspired changes in Google’s privacy practices and Internet search results. Those changes have raised questions about whether the Internet’s most powerful company has forsaken its "Don’t Be Evil" motto in its zeal to protect its online advertising empire.

"Facebook awoke Google to its shortcomings in the social aspect of the Internet. It wasn’t something that could be ignored," said Steven Levy, whose book "In The Plex" provided an inside look at Google’s origins and evolution over 14 years.

Fretting about Facebook may seem like overkill, given Google’s dominance of the Internet’s lucrative search and advertising market. Last year, Google’s sold $36.5 billion in advertising — 10 times more than Facebook’s $3.2 billion.

But Page realized Facebook has been carving out a competitive advantage that could be leveraged to topple Google.

Since its 2004 inception, Facebook has been stockpiling valuable information about people’s social circles and interests. The volume of insightful data pouring into Facebook has mushroomed along with its service’s popularity. That has provided Facebook with the means to target ads more precisely and deliver content tied to a user’s hobbies and tastes.

Google couldn’t use most of that data to refine its search engine and other products, which is why it developed its own social network.

Since its debut nine months ago, Google Plus has attracted more than 100 million users. Although it lags Facebook’s 845 million, the number is far greater than Facebook’s tally at that stage in its history.

story continues below
story continues below

But Google Plus hasn’t proven it can hold users’ attention. Visitors have been spending an average of just a few minutes per month on Google Plus compared with six to seven hours on Facebook, according to the research firm comScore Inc.

Nevertheless, Google Plus and other social networking features introduced since Page took over allow the company to learn more about its users’ lives, just as Facebook has done for years on its online hangout. Now, Google can try to use some of that knowledge to sell more ads, the source of virtually all its revenue.

Facebook’s threat figures to become even greater after the company emerges from an initial public offering of stock, likely to be completed next month. The IPO is expected to raise $5 billion and generate free publicity that could attract even more traffic to Facebook. The IPO will likely eclipse Google’s 2004 stock market debut as the biggest for a U.S. Internet company.

Google said Page was too busy for interviews about his past year as CEO, a role he reclaimed after surrendering the helm to Schmidt in 2001. Page had been CEO during the company’s first three years, but early investors demanded a more experienced leader.

Schmidt, now Google’s executive chairman, last year described his failure to mount a more serious challenge to Facebook as one of his biggest blunders.

When he took over as CEO, Page quickly made his top priority clear by moving Google’s executive offices into the same building as the team working on Google Plus.

Page also tied a portion of employee bonuses to the success of Google Plus and eliminated what he considered to be unnecessary distractions by closing more than 20 of the company’s less popular services, including an initiative to digitize health records.

"Larry is driven by his paranoia about Facebook. Clearly, these are two companies at war with each other," said Ken Auletta, who got to know Page while writing his book about the company, "Googled: The End of the World As We Know It."

Page already has plenty of other challenges to confront as he enters the second year of his reign.

Google is also grappling with broad regulatory investigations in the U.S. and Europe into its business and privacy practices. Its Android operating system for smartphones and tablet computers is clashing with Apple Inc. in the increasingly important mobile computing market. And it is close to completing its biggest acquisition ever — a $12.5 billion purchase of cellphone and tablet computer maker Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc., pending approval from the Chinese government after winning clearances elsewhere.

Page also is trying to win over Wall Street.

Next Page >

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment

About Reader Comments

Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.