Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL) is one of the world's most important consumer technology companies. Its search engine is so popular that it's become a verb. Its mobile operating system is the leading choice of smartphone buyers around the world. Its labs are hard at work on the bleeding edge of technology, from wearable computing to self-driving cars. Google's mission, in its own words, is "to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful."
The case for Google
Google is universally recognized as one of the best and most desirable places to work. It received the highest employee score among the 25 Best Companies in America. Glassdoor ranks Google sixth on its 50 Best Places to Work list for 2013, while Fortune ranks it first overall, as does LinkedIn on its list of the most in-demand employers around the world.
Google's forward-thinking "20% time" policy allows all employees to spend a fifth of their time working on projects of personal interest, which has led to a number of great new services, like Gmail, Google News, and AdSense. This policy is now becoming widely copied throughout the tech industry.
Google's HR department, called People Operations, or POPS, is perhaps the most data-driven in the world. Its discoveries have led to the creation of one of the best maternity-leave policies of any American corporation, in addition to offering free gourmet food, laundry facilities, and plush commuting shuttles, among other notable Google perks. Thanks to POPS' data, the company implemented a 10% salary increase for all Google employees in 2010. POPS also strives to get Googlers to contribute to their 401(k)s, eat healthier, and socialize more with their fellow employees.
Brand strategy firm Interbrand ranks Google the fourth most valuable brand in the world. Since its first ranking in 2005, Google's brand value has grown eight times greater. Google dominates its markets, holding a 67% market share in search engines, a 54% market share in U.S. smartphone operating systems, and a 68% market share in smartphones worldwide.
Google also maintains a very high level of popular acclaim with consumers. An ABC News poll conducted in the spring of 2012 showed Google earning an 82% favorability rating, well ahead of smartphone rival Apple's 74%. This mirrors the American Customer Satisfaction Index's latest benchmarks, which also found that Google had an 82 out of 100 satisfaction rating. The company's Google Plus social site also ranked well ahead of larger rival Facebook, 78 to 61.
Google has made the Internet more accessible to billions of people, and its research programs offer the possibility of transforming tomorrow's technology experience as well. Google is also a pioneer in efficient data centers (among other green initiatives), which has helped it reduce its carbon footprint per million dollars of revenue by 10% a year since 2009. Google has also committed over $1 billion to renewable energy projects. Google also maintains google.org as its main philanthropic arm. In 2011, its Google Gives Back program gave over $100 million to a number of causes, which included science, technology, engineering, and math education; girls' education and technological empowerment in the developing world; and the fight against slavery and human trafficking.
Risks to consider
Of course, no company is perfect, and even one as renowned as Google has its shortcomings. Google's well-known "don't be evil" motto has become a rallying cry for critics on multiple occasions, including its censoring of search results in China (a policy since abandoned), its purportedly preferential treatment of Google-sourced search results over external companies, and its increasingly demanding grabs at user data through more permissive privacy policies. Google has also been the target of antitrust suits in the United States (now settled), regulatory pressure from the European Union, and charges of tax evasion through complicated offshore tax shelters.
Foolish bottom line
Few companies have wrought such a profound change on the world in such a short time as Google, which has done so while managing to substantially grow its bottom line, expand its business in exciting new directions, and do better by its employees than nearly any other company in the world.
Fool contributor Alex Planes has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Apple, Facebook, Google, and LinkedIn. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Facebook, Google, and LinkedIn. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.