Monday, April 3, 2006
Marissa Mayer Interviewed
German Spiegel reprints an interview with Google’s Marissa Mayer
by Galore. Some key points:
- There are many factors why Google is the most successful search engine in the world, but results relevance is the key. “Is the most relevant result for my search query really on top?”
- She doesn’t call egogoogling “narcissistic searching” but “vanity googling”.
- Marissa doesn’t use competitor’s search engines unless to see what new features they might have.
- Asked about an Ask Jeeves feature which allows you to narrow a search by clustered topics, Marissa answers: “Do you want to know what I really think of this? It’s interesting, but not really useful.” She adds that the majority of users don’t really want to narrow their search, they want an instant answer, and that for those users Google gives the fastest results.
- Asked if Marissa sees nothing wrong with Google, she says that when she was interviewed for the job at Google, Craig Silverstein asked her for 3 things that she dislikes about Google... but she only came up with 2. Craig on the other hand could list a 1,000 things, Marissa says, but she also says that today she’s like him, able to find lots of things that can be improved with Google.
- According to Spiegel, Galore asks her about a “rich getting richer” kind of unfairness of the PageRank algorithm. Marissa cites blogs and their quick widespread linking as an example of how people can get to the top relatively quickly.
- Marissa says Google is spending a great deal of their time battling spammy link farms. She says naturally, Google’s algorithms analyze whether or not all links are from the same site. She also admits that there’s no defense against Googlebombing, as the linking network can be very widespread. “It’s enormously difficult to differentiate between an act of manipulation and a relevant result; for example, when a company introduced a new product with a fantasy name.”
- Marissa explains the 70/20/10 approach which Google uses to focus on core business and side products. 70% of all energy flows into search and advertising, 20% in related areas, and 10% are reserved for crazy ideas (Orkut being one of those 10% ideas). She says Gmail, Google Print, and Google Earth are “satellite” products as well even though public perception doesn’t see them as such. Marissa says, “Nobody ever writes about how we constantly improve our ranking system!”
- Asked about privacy, Marissa says it’s natural that more and more of our data ends up online, simply because the online world is getting more and more important. She says people shouldn’t be paranoid – she installed Google Desktop, willing to live with the consequences – but that of course it’s everyone’s choice whether or not to use those kind of products and services.
- She says the Google Books scanning project started out with her and Larry Page sitting together; Larry used the scanner, and she flipped the pages of a book to the rhythm of a metronome. They managed to get through a 300-page thick book in little over 35 minutes.
- Marissa emphasizes that Google Books is also aiming to conserve books for the future. She says when she was a kid, she found a grammar book in her grandparents’ basement. The book was published in 1896 and Marissa started to wonder whatever happened to all the other school books of that time – and how many were destroyed by now.
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