With its 13th birthday fast approaching, Google’s going through a patch of mid-life anxiety. That’s right – famously hip and spritely Google, whose employees scoot around the Googleplex
, play ping-pong at will, and unwind after a hectic day with an on-site massage.
In January 2011, the company switched CEOs
, putting co-founder Larry Page back in charge, in an apparent effort to keep the company lithe and edgy. Now, amid the social media boom
(or bubble), Google is playing venture capitalis
t, investing $583 million in the first half of 2011 to hand-pick and nurture startups like HomeAway
, a vacation rental site, and Pittpatt
, a facial recognition software company. And in a direct challenge to Facebook, Google has just launched Google+
, on the premise that “friend” doesn’t quite cover all your online relationships.
The vultures aren’t circling just yet. Valued somewhere in the neighborhood of $200 billion, Google’s still worth about three times as much as Facebook. That puts it in an exclusive club with the likes of CitiGroup, Microsoft, and Proctor & Gamble. But when Facebook goes public in early 2012, the game will most definitely change. Doug Edwards, author of I’m Feeling Lucky, was there at the beginning.