Larry Page's Google Rules the Digital World

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- For the last several years analysts have busied themselves looking for the next Steve Jobs, the next Bill Gates.

But Google ( GOOG) CEO Larry Page already puts both of those tech legends to shame.

As Gandalf says near the end of Lord of the Rings, "Now come the days of the king." The name of the king is Larry Page.

Gates' Microsoft ( MSFT) defined the look and feel of PC computing. Jobs' Apple ( AAPL) has defined the look and feel of its successor, device computing. Page's Google is defining the look and feel of the global Internet. Which niche do you think is biggest?

Microsoft built a campus, and Apple is building what looks like a spaceship. Google has had the Googleplex for so long a movie has been made about it: The Internship. (They made the movie in Atlanta, by the way -- no Googleplexes were harmed.)

When Bill Gates was 40 he had just released Windows 95. When Steve Jobs was 40 he was still in exile at NeXT and Pixar. At age 40, Page is worth about $25 billion, and his days as Google CEO are just beginning.

The power of Larry Page dwarfs anything Gates or Jobs ever dreamt of. Do you think the National Security Agency could have launched Operation Prism without Google's cooperation? Would the World Wide Web Consortium have added digital rights management to the Web's standards over Google's opposition?

This is another way of saying that Page's Google is different from that of Eric Schmidt, his predecessor and mentor. Schmidt's Google had the motto "Don't be evil." Page's Google appears to operate with a motto of "Don't be stupid." Page's company is all grown-up, beyond the garden of good and evil. If it serves Google, it's good. If it doesn't, it's competition.

The Alliance for Affordable Internet, which hopes to bring data streams to everyone in the world, in part by changing regulatory policies, is powered by Google. The effort to protect privacy by making mugshots harder to find online is driven by Google.

When Google sneezes, the business world catches cold.

Google's decision to create a network of ad partners turned the ad business upside down. Its decision to sunset the ability to edit its AdSense protocolturned it upside down again. Combined, they represent Google taking control of that industry -- all of it.

In recent months Google has begun using encryption by default, it has changed its algorithm to encompass semantic search, and it has incorporated results from its Google+ social network directly into results. It has also, quietly, begun "scraping" more of its own content onto search results -- its own ads for movies, weather and sports data from its own system -- to keep people on Google.com longer.

In short, Larry Page's Google is doing just what Bill Gates' Microsoft did, and just what Steve Jobs' Apple did, seizing software niches others created. You may call that service; competitors will call it theft.

But Google now has enough lawyers, lobbyists and PR people to push back against any attack that it has succumbed to evil. And, in fact, it's just doing what other businesses do, and have done, when they seized market advantages -- it's capitalizing on them.

Google does not yet control all of the world, but Page can point to these small failures as evidence against any antitrust attack. Facebook ( FB) remains the dominant social network, and Apple has been gaining share in mobile.

But Google now has big shares of both these industries, and by creating apps around its Chrome browser, then tying the browser directly into Windows 8, it will grab more desktop share as well.

Anything that any other business can do in technology today, Google can also do, and it can use the dominance of its search engine to grab a big share of that business. While the digerati have been focused on Google Glass, pushed by Google co-founder Sergey Brin, Page has been quietly taking over the digital world.

When will people notice? And how will governments react?

At the time of publication, Blankenhorn owned shares of YHOO and AAPL.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.

Dana Blankenhorn has been a business journalist since 1978, and a tech reporter since 1982. His specialty has been getting to the future ahead of the crowd, then leaving before success arrived. That meant covering the Internet in 1985, e-commerce in 1994, the Internet of Things in 2005, open source in 2005 and, since 2010, renewable energy. He has written for every medium from newspapers and magazines to Web sites, from books to blogs. He still seeks tomorrow from his Craftsman home in Atlanta.

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