The latest in Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) wave of bite-sized acquisitions is reMail. The company makes a popular application for Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone that allows a user to scour various email accounts more effectively than the smartphone's native functionality.

reMail founder and CEO Gabor Cselle had this to say, "Gmail is where my obsession with email started as an engineering intern back in 2004, and I'm thrilled to be coming back to a place with so many familiar faces."

Wait a minute? This guy worked for Google -- and they let him get away?

Of ants and answers
Last week, Google's acquisition was social-search upstart Aardvark. It was another small deal, reportedly in the $50 million range.

Social search is still in its nascent stages. The success of Yahoo! (NASDAQ:YHOO) Answers proves that there is room for human responses to certain queries. Aardvark simply filters the potential respondents.

This should be a perfect fit for Google, especially as it tries to position Google Buzz as a Gmail-based social platform. Who are the folks behind Aardvark, anyway?

"Aardvark (formerly Mechanical Zoo) is a social search engine, founded by a group of former Google employees," according to TechCrunch's CrunchBase e-startup database.

So this has been a month of former interns and employees coming back as prodigal geeks to Google. I can dig it. However, I still have a bigger point to make.

Home tweet home
Twitter CEO Evan Williams is another ex-Googler.

You know Twitter, right? This is the company that Google was rumored to have been in buyout talks with last year, presumably in the $1 billion range.

Williams was heading up Pyra Labs, the company behind Blogger.com, when Google acquired the blogging site in 2003. Williams stuck around the Googleplex for a year, but the entrepreneurial bug bites hard. He left Big G, and was a Twitter co-founder two years later.

Oh, if only ...

It's a small world for Big G after all
There seem to be a lot of companies being run by "former Google employees" these days. Just as there's never a shortage of blue chips run by ex-execs from General Electric (NYSE:GE), it seems as if the world's leading search engine is a great farm-clubs system for the rest of the online space.

  • AOL (NYSE:AOL) is now run by former ad chief Tim Armstrong.
  • Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg was once Google's VP of global sales.
  • Four Googlers went on to launch FriendFeed, ultimately cashing out to Facebook.
  • Kai-fu Lee -- the Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) exec who Google swiped to spearhead its operations in China -- stepped down this past September. He is launching a venture capital fund, no doubt capitalizing the next wave of companies that Google will buy or regret not buying.

Wouldn't it be great if Google had kept these executives? Imagine if Twitter was birthed inside the company. It's probably a safe bet that whatever Google was paying the folks behind Aardvark, reMail, and AppJet -- a company run by ex-Googlers that Big G snapped up two months ago -- is less than it ultimately had to pay to bring them back, for now.

Obviously there are a lot of great minds cooking up great products at Big G. It can't catch 'em all. However, I keep thinking about a company like 3M (NYSE:MMM), where engineers are encouraged to create great things -- like Post-It Notes -- internally.

Is Google so good at what it does that it repels some of its sharpest minds to create greatness on their own?

The question is rhetorical, but I have a bigger point to make.

Stock option repricing revisited
It's been 13 months since Google sent shockwaves through its "do no evil" core. In a move to reprice its employee stock options -- since 85% of them were underwater at the time -- it was willing to let shareholders take a $460 million hit for the sake of its hires.

"The program is intended to help us motivate, but also retain our employees," explained CFO Patrick Pichette during the conference call.

Was it worth it? Is it working? An astute reader will point out that most of these defections -- except for Armstrong's move to AOL -- happened before the options were marked down.

Give it time, though. The prodigal geek's return takes a couple of years to come full circle.

In the meantime, Google may want to rethink its retention practices. There's something wrong when the message it sends to bright hires is that there is more money to be made in leaving Google and starting up a company that Big G may acquire than in sticking around for the sake of a vesting schedule.

Google loves to eat its own cooking, especially when it's takeout.

What do you think of Google's recent wave of buying former Googler startups? Share your thoughts in the comments box below.

3M and Microsoft are Motley Fool Inside Value recommendations. Google is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers pick. Apple is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation. Motley Fool Options has recommended a diagonal call position on Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services, free for 30 days.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz still uses Google a lot in his daily life. He does not own shares in any of the companies in this story. He 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.