Two words: Larry Page. In his short tenure as CEO, the reclusive, socially awkward cofounder has proven to be bold, unpredictable, unapologetic, and—so far—brilliant. Page reorganized Google's executive team, empowering rising stars such as YouTube's Salar Kamangar and Android's Andy Rubin. He killed 28 underperforming projects. Google+, the search company's answer to Facebook, garnered tens of millions of users in a few months' time. Then, he paid $12.5 billion for Motorola Mobility, giving Google access to a trove of patents and raising the possibility of more direct competition with Apple. "There are basically no companies that have good slow decisions," Page told customers at Google's Zeitgeist conference in September. "There are only companies that have good fast decisions."
Meanwhile, even in a tough economy, Google's traditional ad business continues to produce—it's averaging about 30% growth this year, even while its bets on the future, such as YouTube, look increasingly promising.
12,500,000,000 Google powered 12.5 billion of 19.5 billion total searches in the U.S. in August 2011, according to comScore. Google's dominant position in search is the platform that lets it aggressively target mobile, social, local, and other new frontiers.
A version of this article appeared in the November 2011 issue of Fast Company magazine.