Larry Page's Year as Google CEO: A Look Back

Rebecca Greenfield
April 4, 2012
Larry Page's Year as Google CEO: A Look Back

Google hasn't had the best year since Larry Page took over as CEO one year ago today. Throughout the last 365, the company has made moves to piss off loyal fans from what some (including us) attribute to a shift in focus from the former search giant, which used to care more about innovation than competition. The company's starting to look more like a Yahoo-type player, than a dominating force. (By the way, Yahoo laid off thousands of people this morning, so they're probably not the best model.) 

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Even though he sounds quite optimistic in this interview with Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Page understands that his company faces problems. In his homage to Page's first year,  Wired's Steven Levy explains, "When I asked him last September (in one of the very rare opportunities for reporters to pose questions to him on the record) what he thought was Google’s threat, the answer was out of his mouth even before I finished the query," writes Levy. "'Google,' he said. Page lives in horror of the company blogged down by inertia, timidity or the sluggishness of bureaucracy." Though the company has done some internal reorganization, which Levy explains in more detail, from a user perspective, this fear hasn't helped much. 

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Looking back at Google's year in the news, the company made lots of headlines for both the good (exciting product launches; inspiring Google Doodle campaigns) and the bad (product backlash; privacy scandal). The following list certainly doesn't include every press release Google put out this year, but it represents the company's biggest, most-talked about events of the last 365 days:

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  • April 4, 2011: Larry Page's first day as CEO of Google
  • April 22, 2011: Android phones join the scary crop of phones that track user location
  • May 10, 2011: Google launches cloud music service in Beta
  • May 20, 2011: The company abandons its newspaper archiving project
  • June 9, 2011: Beginning a year of many entertaining Google Doodles, searchers get this very cool interactive Les Paul doodle
  • June 14, 2011: Google updates Search with prettier tiled image results and instant search
  • June 23, 2011: FTC slaps Google with Anti-Trust probe subpoenas 
  • June 28, 2011: Google launches "Facebook clone" Google+
  • July 12, 2011: Google+ Hits 10 million users, continues steady but suspect growth throughout the year.  
  • July 20, 2011: Google kills off the beloved experiment hub, Google Labs
  • July 29, 2011: Google launches Kayak competitor, Hotel Finder 
  • August 15, 2011: Google buys up Motorola, later uses it for patent wars and maybe to create its own tablet. 
  • September 8, 2011: Google buys Zagat
  • September 19, 2011: Google introduces Google Wallet, a service that's later discovered to have lots of security holes
  • October 20, 2011: The New Gmail design arrives, backlash follows
  • October 25, 2011: Google kills the beloved Google Reader, backlash follows
  • November 3, 2011: A developer discovers Android phones spy on users with Carrier IQ application
  • November 16, 2011: A few days after the iTunes Match launch, the official Google Music cloud service arrives in a surprise, the company offers cloud storage for free
  • December 8: The company unveils an "awesome", Flipboard-y news reader app, Google Currents
  • January 3, 2012: The search giant punishes itself for violating its own link-buying policies by downgrading Chrome's Google ranking.
  • January 10, 2012: Google revamps search to make it social, integrates Google+, leaves out other more popular networks, backlash follows.
  • January 13, 2012: FTC folds Google's new social search into its anti-trust investigations
  • January 13, 2012: Google gets involved in third scandal of 2012, this time doing some fraudulent business in Kenya.
  • January 24, 2012: Google launches a new privacy policy, will now track user e-mails, backlash follows 
  • January 30, 2012: President Obama holds a fireside chat-esque Google+ Hangout to little fanfare
  • February 3, 2012: Europe rejects Google's controversial new privacy policies
  • February 17, 2012: Google gets called out for tracking iPhone users
  • March 6, 2012: Google launches iTunes equivalent, Play 
  • April 2, 2012: Google tries to keep itself ahead in the mobile payments war, buying mobile payment tech company TXVia
  • April 3, 2012: Android is now on 50 percent of all smartphones, continues to dominate Apple. 
  • April 4, 2012: Happy anniversary, Page! 

As you can see, it's not all horrible: Android still dominates and we got some fun doodles to play with. But we've seen a lot of product death, backlash and disappointment in year one of Page. And, perhaps more important than the things gone wrong, Google didn't launch anything inspiring -- nothing as life changing as Chrome or Gmail, at least. Perhaps Page's interior moves need a bit longer to have far-reaching effects? Or, maybe Page's just having some freshman growing pains issues? In any case, there's always year two.