Field Notes From The GooglePlex


On a day when most normal people would head to the beach, yours truly decided to head down to the sprawling GooglePlex, in Mountain View. This past Friday driving down Highway 101, you could feel that it would be the kind of day when the mercury would rise to record levels. Still, the prospect of getting a five-hour briefing from one of the more interesting technology companies was too alluring to pass up.
Most of the briefings were meant to be on background, but observations are for public consumption. Enduring the heat, and leaving the comfort of my double-screen deluxe digs, the biggest thing that was on my mind was – is there a method to the madness that is Google (GOOG)?

You can read about a company, you can chat with executives, and you can talk as much as you want with the analysts, but in the end it boils down to spending time, experiencing and observing company executives in their natural habitat. Similar visits to Yahoo (YHOO) (and other Silicon Valley giants) have helped form opinions about those companies.

So what mysteries did GooglePlex behold? Would it be a tightly scripted, public relations exercise, where one would have to read between the lines? Or would be it be a candid chat that would answer some of the tougher questions?

The inner cynic inside me screamed – dude, you are going to get lot of spin. As I walked towards Building 43, my initial thoughts focused on the sheer size and scope of the company, and what it must be doing to the chefs who dream up dazzling dishes for the Googlers! Not to mention the links in the chain of command!

Before the daydreaming got out of control, I ran into Chris De Bona, the open source evangelist at Google. A quick hello, a cup of black coffee, and soon I was chatting with Matt Cutts, one of Google’s software gurus

“When we were small, it was helpful to be very secretive, and it got into the corporate culture,” said Cutts, in response to my observation about this newfound openness (not that there is anything wrong with it) at a company he has worked for nearly six years. “I think we are talking more about our products now.”

Cutts explained some of the recent work Google has done in search, and its future plans. Cutts also pointed out that as the web grows in size and scope, Google is growing its infrastructure – both software and hardware – and growing with the web, improving its search results, making the crawl process faster. “In 2003, we used to crawl the web once a month, and now we update everything in two to three days,” he said. Some day, perhaps it will be hours, and then minutes.

(I wonder if we could come up with what could be an equivalent of Moore’s Law of Search, that could quantify the size of the web index, and how it correlates to bandwidth, storage and processing cycles.)

A nagging question, perhaps a tad too simplistic, I wanted an answer for — the impact of AJAX on search results. AJAX seems just the kind of thing that could outfox the crawlers. Cutts did agree that the AJAX was making life tougher for crawlers, and it was one of the areas Google was devoting a lot of its attention and time. “We are spending a lot of time on doing better analysis of JavaScript,” he said.

Cutts left me pondering about the importance of search to Google, and how it was still the brains behind the entire show. Following him were folks spearheading the Google WiFi division, Google Talk, Google Finance and Google Checkout. Their thoughts would surely find their way into posts on those topics, but it was head of Google Checkout, Benjamin Ling who brought home the real truth about Google – it is all about advertising and always has been.

He explained that if you spend $1,000 on the Google ad network, Google Checkout would process $10,000 worth of transactions for free. The more you spend on ads, the more transaction fee savings you get. “It will hyper accelerate our system,” he said. And with a twinkle in his eye, he said, “We make all our money on advertising.” Just like GMail that creates ad-inventory, and so will other little features that may or may not find mass adoption.

Five hours later, as I walked out of GooglePlex, I am more convinced than ever before – its all about search and advertising. Rest is just that … rest!


Philipp Lenssen

“In 2003, we used to crawl the web
once a month, and now we update
everything in two to three days.”

Matt Cutts says:
“Just to be clear, I don’t think I said that the entire index is updated every 2-3 days, but if I did then I misspoke. It’s true that when an event happens on the web, our index can often pick it up in 1-2 days, and usually even faster. But a typical page in Google’s main web index is updated every 2-3 weeks or faster; it’s not the case that the entire main web index is updated every 2-3 days.”

Amit Agarwal

..what is the translation? Better late than never.

Om – did you shoot any pictures inside Googleplex ? How about sharing them here.


“daar aye, daroost aye”

what is the translation?
This is all i could come up with.

“box of pain , sorrow as far as the eye can see”

Sounds like a kwisatz haderach kinda thing.

Om Malik

harvital, as they say back in delhi… daar aye, daroost aye…

actually if you read my previous posts on google, you know i have been saying just that for nearly two years,

Harvitpal Arora

Congrats Om, you finaly figured it out!
Anyone with a head would have told you this realisation you have reached well over a year ago.
Dude get it right!


5,900,000 Pages when you GOOGLE “””OM Malik”’
Om, you are the GOD!!!! Maybe Jangl should have named their new product ”Om”

Mobile Reviewer

“He explained that if you spend $1,000 on the Google ad network, Google Checkout would process $10,000 worth” – seems like a marketing to attract sellers from paypal.


How does Google’s inability to execute on any except for search and gmail impact your view of the company? Search is an amazing cash cow. But if they are going to “dominate computing” and truly “organize the world’s information” the execution needs to improve by an order of magnitude.

Christian J. Koch

I was just going to comment on the google links to yahoo least use google finance after an awesome article about them! cmon!


Then is it a valid corollary that Google will prefer that we GTalk via GMail browser window rather than the standalone GTalk client? Related to the previous post, did you get their reaction?

Om Malik


I agree, it is an interesting company to observe and see. i will be following up with more information later.

Om Malik


sorry about that. it is a word press plugin that picks up google and links it to the finance page. i have tried to fix it. sorry again.

mark evans

can’t wait for future googleplex installments. it is one of the most fascinating companies these days.

Michael Katcher

Any chance you could change the way you link in your posts? I don’t think we need 15 links to Google’s Yahoo! Finance page.


Yes, it is about advertising, but that incentive (1000 for 10K in free processing) is a great deal for SMBs too. Because anywhere else on the web, they are paying for listing/advertising and for the processing.

A really simple, effective carrot to increase lock-in.

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