Head of Google Search demands urgency as growth slows

Prabhakar Raghavan, the head of Google Search, expects his team to move more quickly and in different directions as part of a new “cost” and “operating reality.”

That’s according to audio of Raghavan speaking during a Google all-hands meeting, obtained and reported on first by CNBC.

A new reality. Google has been cutting costs and staff over the past year. Raghavan painted a fairly bleak outlook of Google – essentially saying that the “good old days” are long gone:

  • “I think we can agree that things are not like they were 15-20 years ago, things have changed.”
  • “It’s not like life is going to be hunky-dory, forever.”
  • “What that means is our growth in this new operating reality has to be hard earned.”

Challenges. Google is under attack on many fronts. Some of those Raghavan highlighted:

  • More competition: Raghavan didn’t name any specific competitors, but OpenAI, Microsoft, Meta and many other companies are all competing hard with Google to win the AI arms race.
  • Costs: Google is “spending a ton more on machines” due to generative AI.
  • Slowing growth: The number of new devices coming into the world “is not what it used to be.”
  • Regulation: Google is “navigating a regulatory environment unlike anything we’ve seen before,” such as the European Union’s Digital Markets Act.
  • Internal bureaucracy: “The number of agreements and approvals it takes to bring a good idea to market — that’s not the Google way. That’s not the way we should be functioning.”

Go faster. Raghavan told his team to “meet this moment” and “act with urgency,” adding:

  • “It won’t be easy. But these are the moments and the history of industries that will define us.”
  • “If there’s a clear and present market reality, we need to twitch faster, like the athletes twitch faster.”
  • “There is something to be learned from that faster-twitch, shorter wavelength execution.”

Twitch, or twitchiness, refers to an athlete’s ability to quickly or explosively move their body in different directions during high-intensity or physical sports.

Why we care. Google Search has received much criticism in recent years – with a great deal of it coming under Raghavan’s leadership. Many believe we are seeing the inevitable enshittification of Google, where Google puts profit above everything, including its users. Fittingly, Raghavan referred to Google’s advertising business as “the envy of the world.”

Velocity and focus. In response to the leaked audio of the all-hands meeting, a Google spokesperson told CNBC:

About Raghavan. He is a senior vice president at Google, responsible for Google Search, Ads and many other Google products. Raghavan was promoted to his position in June 2020. Prior to joining Google, he was at Yahoo from 2005 to 2012, a period during which Google ascended and Yahoo declined rapidly.

  • There is an article making the rounds today, mainly about Raghavan, The Man Who Killed Google Search. The article makes several fair points but also tries to paint Raghavan as the sole villain responsible for the downfall of Yahoo Search and now Google Search. It also discusses the code yellow we reported on last fall.

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