Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Google's Bing Attack Has Larry Page Written All Over It

Please see this disclosure related to me and Google.

While he won’t officially take over as CEO of Google until April, the recent full-frontal slapfest on Microsoft’s Bing search engine for shoplifting results from the search giant was so Larry Page in tone and temperament that it brought back memories from many years ago when I covered Google more closely.

Like the time in 2004 when he railed on the investment banking system as Google considered its IPO. Or, a meeting in 2005 when Page aggressively argued minutiae about the size of Google’s index size after Yahoo claimed its data trove was bigger.

And my ears are still ringing from a Googleplex lunch we had in the midst of his ire over a 2005 story on CNET that chronicled a lot of personal information about CEO Eric Schmidt, trying to show how much data was easily available on Google.

Page thought it best to be on the offensive and attack the report as a privacy violation, while I took the position that it was accurate and fair game and you don’t argue with the press and win.

It’s unlikely Page remembers any of this, but I do because I kept notes as part of my ongoing assessment of his characteristics as an Internet leader.

In fact, after our first interview in 2001, my notes on the encounter had this one line underlined and in all caps:

LARRY PAGE=BILL GATES.

It was not meant as an insult, but I can tell you I never wrote such a note about Page’s co-founder, the jokey and affable Sergey Brin.

Even then, Gates had a fearsome reputation as a manically competitive exec, a cutting manner to those not as smart as he clearly is and a reputation as a very tough and often eviscerating boss. (And all that was also my experience whenever I was interviewing him.)

While much wonkier, friendlier and more of a sensitive new-aged male, Page, it seemed to me, had the exact same obvious drive and aggression as Gates.

I stopped covering Google as closely years later–for personal reasons (see disclosure above)–and, thus, largely fell out of regular touch with Page.

But in reading the tough quotes and later blog post by Amit Singhal–quite possibly the sweetest dude at Google–accusing Bing of cheating, it felt like he was channeling Page’s very clear and nerdily indignant voice again.

In a nutshell: We have data to prove Microsoft’s stealing. Look at our detailed proof from our complex sting. We are outraged by this violation of geek code. Don’t you lay people get it?!?

I would wager that we’re about to see a lot more of this pugnacious, in-your-face tone from Google under Page’s leadership, which could have far-reaching implications for the company.

While I have no idea if it was his decision to let loose the dogs of algo-war on Microsoft, many with knowledge of how Google manages its public persona observed to me this week that this was just the kind of popping off that the outgoing Schmidt often tried to mitigate and soften.

But such bravado will play well with Google’s elite and pampered engineering corps in Silicon Valley.

And, in any case, PR considerations have never really been the point for Page, who cares not for how it might come off in the media (which he largely disdains anyway).

Which is to say like a temper tantrum of a very smart and very gifted child, who is probably largely right, but should not be quite so exercised given the level of violation.

No matter, since Page likely still lives and breathes data and algorithms and the Spock-like application of information.

It’s the rest of us who are illogical.


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I’m a giant vat of creative juices.

— David Pogue on why he’s joining Yahoo