I'm sure you have heard of Google's AdWords, and you may have also heard that this product is what fuels the Google empire. To be specific, as of this writing, AdWords is currently 16 years old, and in the most recent year alone, it generated well over $60B in revenue.
Yes, that's B as in billions.
What I'm guessing most of you don't know, however, is just how this industry‐defining product came to be. And especially how close this product came to never happening at all.
The year was 2000, and the hardest part about the AdWords project was simply getting an agreement to work on it. The core idea had support from Larry Page, but the idea immediately encountered some pretty strong resistance from both the ad sales team and the engineering team.
Jane Manning was a young engineering manager asked to serve as product manager for this effort to try to get it off the dime.
The new sales team, under Omid Kordestani, was off to a strong start selling keywords to large brands and placing the results at the top of the search results. These results were highlighted as an ad but still very prominent—much in the style that had been done in search results at other companies, including at Netscape where Omid came from. Sales was nervous that this idea of a self‐service advertising platform would diminish the value of what the sales team was trying to sell (known as cannibalization).
And the engineers, who had been working so hard to provide highly relevant ...