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Sunday, December 31, 2006

Google Is "A Very Different Model"

In 2004, before Google’s IPO and shortly after Gmail arrived with a big splash, the Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin were interviewed by Playboy, expressing some of their core philosophies (which I think aren’t altruistic philosophies, or mere publicity spin, but sound business decisions further shaped in the wake of the dotcom bust). Their remarks – albeit only two years old – create an interesting juxtaposition with the Google-related discussions of today. Back then, it was “those portals” vs “us”:

On Showing Your Own Content Above Other Content

PLAYBOY: Portals attempt to create what they call sticky content to keep a user as long as possible.

PAGE: That’s the problem. Most portals show their own content above content elsewhere on the web. We feel that’s a conflict of interest, analogous to taking money for search results. Their search engine doesn’t necessarily provide the best results; it provides the portal’s results. Google conscientiously tries to stay away from that. We want to get you out of Google and to the right place as fast as possible. It’s a very different model.

Today, Google for many searches shows their own content above that of competition, providing “Google’s best products” but not the best products per se.

On Diversification of Services

BRIN: Ironically, toward the end of the 1990s most of the portals started as search engines. (...) They diversified and didn’t take searching as seriously as they should have. Searching was viewed as just another service, one of 100 different services. With 100 services, they assumed they would be 100 times as successful. But they learned that not all services are created equal. Finding information is much more important to most people than horoscopes, stock quotes or a whole range of other things – which all have merit, but searching is substantially more important.

Today, Google offers a way to get horoscopes through gadgets available for the Google personalized homepage, and they also have a site focusing on stocks. However, while Google has dozens of new services, I do not see them lose focus on search.

On Having a Chinese Presence

PLAYBOY: Have you ever agreed to conditions set by the Chinese government?

BRIN: No, and China never demanded such things. However, other search engines have established local presences there and, as a price of doing so, offer severely restricted information. We have no sales team in China. Regardless, many Chinese Internet users rely on Google. To be fair to China, it never made any explicit demands regarding censoring material. That’s not to say I’m happy about the policies of other portals that have established a presence there.

Today, Google does have a local presence in China, and they do censor their Chinese search results. They’re not happy about it, though they did find it to be a compromise worth making.

Will Google still try to be “a very different model” in 2007?


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