I'm convinced that there's a goateed version of Google
We saw the sinister sibling at work yesterday, ultimately apologizing to Sohu
Sohu had good reason to be suspicious, as Google's version included some of the same erroneous entries as Sohu's original search engine tool. The application is a popular way to cut corners in inputting non-phonetic ideograms, but now it seems as if Google -- the evil twin of Google, that is -- was cutting corners, too.
In an idyllic world, one could hope that it was the wholesome Google that was stepping in to cover for its naughtier brother with the apology. After all, there was really no other way out of this after the company was caught red-handed.
But there's been a bit too much mopping up lately. Whether we're talking about tussles with governments, organizations, or media giants, Google has been the butt of too many accusations lately. Has Google gone evil, or is this the price of fame in an envious world?
Big G explains it all
Would Google be making so many enemies if it had never gone public three summers ago? I don't think so. With daily gyrations and quarterly earnings reports, we see how quickly Google is growing in paid search compared to older rivals like Yahoo!
Then we have the company's $145 billion market cap -- complete with $11.2 billion in cash and short-term marketable securities -- just dangling there like a pinata. If you're shaking your family tree to see if you have any relatives that were early Google hires to hit up for a loan, just imagine what the drooling must be like for companies like Viacom
A private Google would still be popular. AdWords and the publisher-empowering AdSense online advertising products were alive and well before the lucky got in at $85 a stub. Yahoo! had even given a nod to Google's search engine superiority by coming in as an early investor and a search providing partner.
Things were so much easier before Google became GOOG. You can't short a private company. You don't have to step on an imperfect scale every three months to get weighed. Everyone loves privately held Chick-fil-A, even if it doesn't open on Sundays.
The upside of upticks
I'm not suggesting that Google pull off a mammoth privatization deal. Google has also enjoyed the fruits of being a prolific, freely trading company.
• After going public in the third quarter of 2004, Google credited profit-generating traffic spikes to its site during the quarter to the publicity and public awareness of its IPO.
• A buoyant share price has made it easier to pick out key executives from rival companies like Microsoft
• Google generates a ton of free cash flow, yet its ability to tap the equity market allows it to load up the vault for any bigger cash-based acquisitions down the road.
This doesn't mean we should look the other way when Google takes a chainsaw to the creative properties of others. I've typically sided with Google on some of these intellectual capital counterfeiting matters -- arguing that being manipulated by Google's popular sites creates more brand recognition for the media conglomerates being wronged on YouTube or the newspapers that want out of the Google News feeds -- but I understand their right to sue, anyway.
Google can't point to its girth to explain all of its indiscretions. The Sohu flap happened, even though Google is a distant second in search to Baidu.com
Still, I don't think that Google is evil. It's so big now that awkward steps will crush the small fry from time to time. Ambitious expectations will find it moving in too haphazardly, perhaps unaware that it's no longer as nimble as it used to be.
Daily dissection under the publicly traded microscope can do that to a company, even if it ultimately leads to breaking into a costume shop just so it can swipe a bearded goatee.
Yahoo! is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor newsletter pick. Microsoft is an Inside Value recommendation, and Baidu.com is a Rule Breakers selection. They're all public, but you can make your best decision in private by sampling any or all of the three newsletters with a free 30-day trial subscription.
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz is a huge fan of Google, and it would be his home page if it weren't for Fool.com taking up that piece of real estate. He does not own shares in any of the stocks in this story. Rick is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.
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