nothing ever changes
Has it really been 10 years since the dot.com boom, when people wandered around proclaiming that "the internet changes everything"? How many lame-ass business models (shipping kitty-litter UPS, for instance) died the death in the following crash? And so soon we forget.
I'm going to tell you google's secret now; It's google. They were there early, made the right moves, were lucky, and got big. Now they have a virtually unassailable monopoly position. Google's magic is having been google for 10 years. It's not what they do now, it's what they did way back then. You cannot learn anything by watching what google does now that will help you be google. Google's magic came from decisions they made when they were just another company.
They are like Microsoft, and like IBM before that for those of you old enough to remember when IBM was a growth company. They are like GM, which was once preeminant, and is now a shambling zombie of its former self. Another company, even a well funded company like microsoft, can't knock google out now, after it's established itself. Google is no longer at risk from anyone but google. The game is theirs to lose now. There is no longer any magic in google's management or culture. Now that they're big, pretty much any corporate culture will keep them big. Any decision that is not breathtakingly bone-headed will make them money.
And yet, even giants stumble. Their luck runs out, or the world passes them by. IBM is still huge and profitable, but their original bread-and-butter business of mainframes is today just a niche, and IBM is just another service company, grinding it out against EDS and HP and all those Indian outsourcing firms. Microsoft is huge and profitable, and still owns the desktop, but the desktop is becoming just a niche. In services, in the cloud, Microsoft is nothing special. In search, they are getting slowly crushed (by google). Washington Mutual bank, a hundred years old and until recently the biggest bank in the US, let laziness and greed overwhelm common sense (a breathtakingly bone-headed decision), and now all that's left are the lawsuits.
Success comes from doing absolutely everything right when you are in growth mode. Not one leader in a thousand knows what that means and can implement it. Fewer yet can write down the plan and execute it. Most companies get big by luck.