Back in April, it emerged that Larry Page and Sergey Brin had not attended a single Google town hall in 2019. A new report today revealed that the co-founders made an appearance at the weekly company meeting last month.
According to CNET, Alphabet CEO Larry Page and Alphabet president Sergey Brin were present at the May 30th TGIF. Before that Thursday company-wide, the two had not attended a town hall since late 2018.
The pair answered questions about the company’s Cloud strategy, but that’s the extent of what emerged from the meeting. Google confirmed the co-founders’ presence, but did not specify further. According to CNET, their town hall return was fondly received with memes:
Even though Page and Brin have taken background roles, their shadows still loom large for Googlers. “People still have this old time fondness for them,” said one of the people. “They’re like Ben and Jerry.”
The co-founders’ appearance at the May 30 meeting also inspired some employees to create memes on the company’s internal “Memegen” tool.
Their absence comes amid various internal controversies in the past year ranging from sexual harassment to military projects and returning to China, as well as a reported tightening of Google’s open culture. For example, TGIF recordings are no longer saved in perpetuity and now removed after several weeks.
For Google, town halls are an opportunity for rank-and-file employees to question senior leadership directly. That usually wide-ranging Q&A comes after presentations about new features and other company matters. Despite the name, they are now hosted on Thursdays to allow employees around the world to participate.
Historically, one — if not both — of the founders would attend to field questions, with the near six month absence described as the “longest attendance lapse in company history.”
Google argues that Page and Brin’s absences are expected given that their roles in Alphabet are now focussed on long-term projects.