It's Google vs. the World, Part XXXVI
There's no end to the search giant's ambitions--or the public's appetite for its stock.
By Adam Lashinsky

(FORTUNE Magazine) – Author and blogger John Battelle knows about as much as any outsider about what happens at Google and its search site. So when a reader of his blog pointed out to Battelle something he hadn't noticed--that Google had quietly added an ingenious new way to search for airplane flights (type "San Francisco to Detroit" into the Google search bar, and you'll see for yourself)--only the online version of shouting was a sufficient response. "Will ... Someone ... Please ... Tell ... Them ... To ... STOP ROLLING OUT NEW FEATURES!" he wrote.

Imagine how the competition feels.

Each new day for Google seems to bring a clever new feature, a promising new business opportunity, and a potent new threat to any company that stands in its way. An application to provide free Wi-Fi service in San Francisco scares the phone and cable companies. A plan to provide a forum for free classified ads, called Google Base, aims at eBay and Craigslist. The country's biggest book publishers have objected (litigiously) to Google's scheme to scan and index books under copyright.

And consider what Google's doing with the business it already has, mainly text ads that run next to its web search listings. Third-quarter revenues doubled, to $1.6 billion, while earnings grew sevenfold to $381 million. As for its shares, offered in August 2004, to the public at $85: They're worth more than $350. (Yes, we are the magazine that asked, last December, "Is Google Worth $165 a Share?")

Will anything stop Google? Hubris, perhaps, is its only weakness. Legal experts think Google has overstepped with its Google Print project. An "opt in" scheme would be so much more polite than asking copyright holders to opt out. Until then, expect more features, more superlatives in describing them, and--dare we say it now?--an even higher stock price.