Susan Wojcicki's big lie

Susan Wojcicki, an early Google employee and sister-in-law to founder Sergey Brin, is a liar. In a puff-piece profile of Wojcicki and her Menlo Park house, whose garage served as Google's first office, a USA Today reporter lazily transcribes the claim that Wojcicki invented AdSense. AdSense, of course, is the system that places Google ads on other websites, and generates billions of dollars in revenue for Google. But Wojcicki didn't invent it.

To be fair, Wojcicki might have proposed the idea of serving up Google's keyword-linked ads on other websites, targeting not search queries but the contents of the page. "I love taking an idea ... to a prototype and then to a product that millions of people use," Wojcicki told USA Today.

But here's where Wojcicki got caught in a lie. AdSense was not a prototype that Wojcicki developed. Instead, AdSense was the name of a product launched by Applied Semantics, a Santa Monica, Calif. startup, in October 2002. Google launched an AdSense copycat in March 2003, and then acquired Applied Semantics, and with it the AdSense name, one month later. How convenient.

Why would Wojcicki make such a bald-faced, easily detected lie? And why would a Gannett reporter not bother to factcheck the statement? Those are mysteries to me. But to be fair, Wojcicki's not the only faker on the Googleplex. I've met what seems like dozens of Google employees who say they came up with AdSense. Next time you meet Wojcicki or any other Googler who takes credit for AdSense, do them a favor and call them what they are: "Liar."

(Photo by Jack Gruber for USA Today)