Google entered 2008, the tenth anniversary of its founding, with trumpets blaring and triumphant flags flapping in the breeze:

  • Month-by-month its share of the search market was growing at well over 15 percent annually, reaching nearly 60 percent early in the year.

  • Its financial position was like a fortress, with $14.2 billion in cash, $17.3 billion in assets, and only $2.4 billion in current liabilities.

  • In the four years after going public, sales revenues had rocketed from $3.2 billion to $16.6 billion. Net income had increased even more, going from $399 million in 2004 to $5.3 billion at the end of 2007.

  • Google now had a workforce of nearly 20,000 compared to 3,000 four years earlier.

  • The company was acquiring new businesses such as YouTube and pioneering products in all sorts of fields, including the storing of medical records and other information online.

Even so, there were signs that the Google phenomenon had reached a new phase, and that perhaps expectations for "the search engine that could" had become overblown.

Google was beginning to scare people with its unbelievable reach into privacy, property rights, and human rights. Its competitors were feeling the hot breath of Google on their necks in dozens of Internet and wireless realms. The company was accused of wanting to dominate all forms of advertising, concerns that scuttled a proposed advertising partnership with Yahoo!. BusinessWeek posed the question, "Is Google too powerful?," and Wired magazine ...

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