Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.
-- From "One Art" by Elizabeth Bishop, in honor of the 24th annual National Poetry Month.

Come on, Google (NASDAQ:GOOG)! You can do a lot worse!

I was hoping for a really bad showing from the search giant last night. This recession, too, shall pass -- and it would have been sweet to see Google's shares swoon on the heels of short-term pains while the long-term future remained as bright as ever. Instead, Google pulled out a surprisingly healthy first quarter. Thanks a lot, dude.

Okay, so I shouldn't really complain that a company I own and respect is doing well. Net revenue (gross sales minus traffic acquisition costs) came in at $4.07 billion, up from $3.7 billion a year ago. GAAP earnings jumped 9% year over year to $4.49 per diluted share. And free cash flows more than doubled to a cool $2 billion.

Paid clicks ticked up 3% over last quarter and 17% over the year-ago period. Higher volume and lower revenue in an auction-style system like AdWords make me think that the model is still working and driving new traffic to Google, but advertisers are scaling back their marketing budgets. I don't know how long this downturn will last, but I can say with certainty that it will end.

However, net revenue came in lower than last quarter's $4.2 billion, and that has never happened to Google before. I see parallels -- albeit on a much larger scale -- to the bump in the road that Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) saw two years ago. Under all-out assault from Blockbuster's (NYSE:BBI) Total Access program, Netflix saw its first sequential subscriber shrinkage, and the stock fell like a wounded swan. But the business was still fundamentally healthy; Blockbuster couldn't afford to keep the pressure on, and Netflix returned to healthy growth. Few businesses -- or stocks -- have looked as good in recent memory.

Google's temporary nemesis is a weak economy rather than rivals like Yahoo! (NASDAQ:YHOO)Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), or Interactive Corp's (NASDAQ:IACI) Ask.com. This company is chasing paid clicks, not subscribers (well, and sort-of subscribers to some degree). But like Netflix, Google will laugh off this speed bump in years to come.

And we happy shareholders will laugh all the way to the bank.

Further Foolishness:

Google is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers pick. Netflix is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation. Microsoft is a Motley Fool Inside Value selection. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund owns shares in Netflix and Google, but he holds no other position in any of the companies discussed here. You can check out Anders' holdings or a concise bio if you like. The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.