Success has a thousand fathers, and failure is an orphan — unless you can somehow spin an adoption tale into the mix. That seems to be what Marissa Mayer is trying to do. In a recent interview, Marissa Mayer tries to take credit for both Google's Gmail email service, as well as AdSense, the immensely profitable system which places Google-sold ads on blogs and other independent websites based on their content. Her claim over AdSense? She didn't kill the product outright, despite her fears that it would be "creepy." But she also reveals that Paul Buchheit, the Googler who burdened the company with "don't be evil" as an unsheddable corporate motto, is the true inventer of a system that matched ads to a Web page's content — whether that content is a blog post, an email message, or anything else.
Mayer's admission also destroys another myth spun by Google PR: That Susan Wojcicki deserves credit for AdSense, the current name for Google's content-matching system. In July, I exposed that as a lie by pointing out that AdSense was a product acquired by Google, not something Wojcicki came up with in a brainstorm. Google ur-spokesman David Krane, at the time, countered that by telling CNBC that Wojcicki "directed and invented" Google's in-house version of AdSense, which launched after the real AdSense but before Google acquired the company that made it.
Now we know the full truth: Paul Buchheit invented what Google now calls AdSense — not Wojcicki, and certainly not Mayer, who can only claim that she didn't try harder to stop it. Of course, it's convenient, politically, for Krane and others to credit Wojcicki. She is, after all, Google cofounder Sergey Brin's sister-in-law.