Google Repositions For Battling Facebook

Not a word about social media appears in Google's announced rearrangement of the top three executives at the company, but people are already asking whether the rearrangement will help the search engine better compete with Facebook.

Not a word about social media appears in Google’s announced rearrangement of the top three executives at the company, but people are already asking whether the moves will help the search engine better compete with Facebook.

Cofounder Larry Page is taking the Chief Executive Officer responsibility from Eric Schmidt, who becomes Executive chairman, in order to make the company more nimble in the face of competition. Google’s rumored social media product had gotten mired in conflict during 2010 as the company reportedly had trouble reaching consensus on how to move forward with the product. During this same time, Facebook charged full speed ahead with its email product, to which users have been gaining access in a phased rollout.

Google’s management reshuffle first became public in yesterday’s earnings announcement, starting in the third paragraph and outstaging the hard numbers that effectively got buried further down in the release. Allow us to excerpt this for you here:

Google has also announced plans to streamline decision making and create clearer lines of responsibility and accountability at the top of the company.

  • Starting from April 4, Larry Page, Google Co-Founder, will take charge of Google’s day-to-day operations as Chief Executive Officer.
  • Sergey Brin, Google Co-Founder, will devote his energy to strategic projects, in particular working on new products.
  • Eric Schmidt will assume the role of Executive Chairman, focusing externally on deals, partnerships, customers and broader business relationships, government outreach and technology thought leadership–all of which are increasingly important given Google’s global reach. Internally, he will continue to act as an advisor to Larry and Sergey.

Commenting on these changes, Eric said: “We’ve been talking about how best to simplify our management structure and speed up decision making for a long time. By clarifying our individual roles we’ll create clearer responsibility and accountability at the top of the company. In my clear opinion, Larry is ready to lead and I’m excited about working with both him and Sergey for a long time to come.”

Larry said: “Eric has clearly done an outstanding job leading Google for the last decade. The results speak for themselves. There is no other CEO in the world that could have kept such headstrong founders so deeply involved and still run the business so brilliantly. Eric is a tremendous leader and I have learned innumerable lessons from him. His advice and efforts will be invaluable to me as I start in this new role. Google still has such incredible opportunity–we are only at the beginning and I can’t wait to get started.”

Right when this announcement came out yesterday, Schmidt posted a blog entry about the management change, and also tweeted “Day-to-day adult supervision no longer needed!” This attempt at humor alludes to Google’s effort to return to more of a startup environment.

Of course Schmidt denied that the management change was a reaction to competitors in an interview with Alexei Oreskovic, but that type of response is fairly standard for executives who’ve gone through media training by public relations experts, who consistently advise against discussing any competition. The rationale for this: any company considered a rival today could always become a business partner in the future.

Google now has about $29 billion in annual revenue and ranks as the top search engine, which has made it a lot less agile than what it was like when Stanford alumni Larry Page and Sergey Brin started the company 13 years ago. Whether a simple rearrangement of the top three executives will enable much change remains to be seen.

Readers, do you agree with the argument that Google’s management shuffle will position the company to better compete with Facebook?