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The Man Who Killed Google Search

๐ŸŒˆ Abstract

The article tells the story of how Google Search declined due to the influence of growth-focused management, led by Prabhakar Raghavan, over the search team led by Ben Gomes. It details the internal conflicts and power struggles that led to the degradation of Google Search quality in pursuit of revenue growth.

๐Ÿ™‹ Q&A

[01] The Decline of Google Search

1. What were the key factors that contributed to the decline of Google Search?

  • The ads and finance teams at Google, led by Prabhakar Raghavan, pushed for aggressive growth targets that conflicted with the search team's focus on maintaining search quality.
  • Raghavan, who previously led search at Yahoo during its decline, was appointed to lead Google Search, replacing Ben Gomes who had built the foundation of modern search engines.
  • The article suggests that Raghavan and other growth-focused managers prioritized revenue over user experience, leading to changes that degraded the quality of search results.

2. How did the "code yellow" incident highlight the tensions between the search and ads teams?

  • The "code yellow" incident was triggered by concerns from the ads team about slowing search revenue growth.
  • This led to a debate between the search and ads teams, with the search team resisting pressure to optimize for engagement metrics rather than user experience.
  • Ben Gomes, the head of search, expressed concerns that Google was becoming too focused on growth at the expense of its principles.

3. What was the impact of the March 2019 core search update?

  • The March 2019 core search update was expected to be a major improvement, but instead it appeared to roll back changes and led to an increase in traffic to previously suppressed, low-quality sites.
  • The article suggests this was likely Google's response to the "code yellow" incident, where they prioritized revenue growth over search quality.

[02] The Rise of Prabhakar Raghavan

1. What was Prabhakar Raghavan's background prior to joining Google?

  • Raghavan previously led search at Yahoo during a period of decline, where Yahoo's search market share dropped significantly and the company ultimately licensed its search engine to Microsoft.
  • The article portrays Raghavan as a "management consultant wearing an engineer costume" who prioritized growth over product quality.

2. How did Raghavan's appointment as head of Google Search impact the direction of the product?

  • After Raghavan took over Google Search, the article suggests the quality of search results declined, with an increase in spammy, search engine optimized content.
  • The article argues that Raghavan, as a manager focused on growth, worked to oust Ben Gomes, who was dedicated to maintaining the quality and principles of Google Search.

3. How does the article characterize Raghavan's leadership and its impact on Google Search?

  • The article portrays Raghavan as a "rot master" and a prime example of the "growth-at-all-costs mindset" that has dominated the tech industry.
  • It argues that Raghavan's prioritization of revenue growth over user experience has led to the degradation of Google Search, making it less reliable and transparent.
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