MOUNTAIN VIEW, California: Bucking the market, Google's worldwide ad revenues continued to rise in Q4 2008, up 15% to $5.5 billion (€4.23bn; £3.98bn). Despite which profits plunged by 68% to $382 million – the search titan's first ever quarterly decline.

Ceo Eric Schmidt played down the profits freefall: "Google performed well in the fourth quarter," he claimed, "despite an increasingly difficult economic environment. Search query growth was strong, revenues were up in most verticals, and we successfully contained costs.

"It's unclear how long the global downturn will last, but our focus remains on the long term, and we'll continue to invest in Google's core search and ads business as well as in strategic growth areas such as display, mobile, and enterprise." 

But the year ahead, conceded Schmidt, was "uncharted territory".

  • Meantime, Google continues its drive to diversify beyond advertising as a prime revenue source, and is thought to be poised to launch Gdrive, a new service enabling users to store the entire contents of their hard drives on the internet. 

    The company, however, refused to comment on its plans.

    Gdrive, when launched, would enable any device with an internet connection to perform the tasks of a PC. A free service, it would be an extension of Google's current online data storage product that links with its Gmail email offering. 

    Gdrive is said to be sufficiently powerful to boot-up programs and, potentially, a Google operating system. But privacy campaigners have already expressed concern that so much commercial and private data would be available online.

  • Data sourced from multiple origins; additional content by WARC staff